The Mumsnet racketeers

23 December 2013

2:59 PM

23 December 2013

2:59 PM

The other day Mumsnet asked whether I would talk to its audience about my Spectator pieces (here and here) on the universities’ plans to authorise the segregation of men and women on campuses.

Why not? I thought. Mumsnet has a large and interesting audience. More than five million people visit each month, and politicians beg to go on to a site that is a successful online publisher, rather than some cowboy outfit. As the Financial Times said in a profile of Mumsnet’s CEO Justine Roberts, ‘It is owned by the founders,  staff and a “couple of mates” – and so any pressure to make more money comes from within. Recently it has turned a profit – “a small one” – from advertising, sponsorship, market research, events and publishing – but Roberts evidently feels it can do better.’

OK, I said to Rowan Davies of Mumsnet, How should we go about this?

‘If at all possible, we’d like to do it next Wednesday (18th) at lunchtime,’ she replied. ‘The chats usually last an hour, with a half-hour or so beforehand to set up and get everything ready. We ask guests to come in to our offices in Kentish Town so that our editorial and tech staff can be on hand to help with any glitches.’

So that was 90 minutes’ work and about an hour’s journey time there and back.

‘What’s the fee?’ I asked.

Now all modern writers have to deal with publishers asking them to work for nothing. Arianna Huffington became fabulously rich on the backs of unpaid writers. If you want to take your novel to a book festival today, more often than not you are expected to work for free. Commissioning editors don’t quite put it that bluntly. They say they are giving writers valuable ‘exposure’, and that is recompense enough.


I thought I had heard it all. But Mumsnet offered a glimpse of a future in which writers, readers and any notion of honest journalism will be hammered even further.  Ms Davies replied:

‘Webchats are actually something Mumsnet often charges for, because they’re such an effective way of promoting things; they tend to get many thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of page views.  In other circumstances (as we were thinking here) we do them on a no-cost basis (on either side) because it’s an issue our audience is interested in, and people who want to campaign on something or drum up interest see it as an opportunity to get their message out.’

I’m sorry, Mumsnet charges writers and actors or their publishers and producers for the privilege of providing content for its website? I shouldn’t have been shocked. The logical next step after asking writers to write for nothing because they get valuable ‘exposure’ is to demand that they pay for their valuable exposure.

For a handful, the gamble of working for nothing or paying for the right to write may pay off. They could be the one in a 1,000 who becomes a superstar. Inevitably, the majority of those taking the risk will be the children of rich parents. Not all, I accept. You can work in a fulltime job and write in your spare time, as many novelists do, and newspapers don’t just recruit from the moneyed classes. But when I look at the young people starting out in journalism around me, they are overwhelmingly from the upper class or upper-middle class. Only they can take out loans for university and post-graduate degrees, and then work for years for little of nothing. I doubt that my younger self could afford to be a journalist today.

Readers suffer because British writing is no longer a meritocracy but becoming a vast system of vanity publishing. Editors are not nurturing talent, but looking for passengers who can pay their own way. As Julie Burchill says, ‘once rich daddies bought their daughters ponies now they buy them newspaper columns’. For all the babble about ‘diversity’, an ever-narrower class of people dominates journalism, broadcasting, drama and publishing.

Justine Roberts told me that she saw no ethical difficulties in breaking down the old barriers between advertising and editorial because she told her readers when she was charging for space. ‘These are known as sponsored web chats and sponsor is usually a corporate’. [My italics]

I have to say that when I visited her site it was not immediately clear to me what features Mumsnet was puffing because writers or publishers had paid Roberts to puff. Even if Mumsnet openly admitted that it was promoting a film or book, not because they thought it was worthwhile, but because Roberts had been paid to promote it, a deeper problem would remain. If it gives prominence to people who can afford to work for nothing or to pay for space, it will deny prominence to those who cannot. If others follow suit, and I am sure they will, writing in Britain will become a self-indulgent racket run by and for the wealthy.

There are many ways to react. The Hollywood scriptwriter Harlan Ellison’s response (above) to a film company that said he should sell his work for nothing because ‘everybody else is just, y’know, doing it for nothing’, is famous.

I said: Well everybody else may be an asshole, but I’m not. By what right would you call me and ask me to work for nothing? Do you get a pay check?

Well, yes.

I says: Does you boss get a pay check? Do you pay the telecine guy? Do you pay the cameraman? Do you pay the cutters? Do you pay the teamsters when they schlep your stuff on the trucks? … Would you go to a gas station and ask to give you free gas? Would you go to the doctor and have him take out your spleen for nothing? How dare you, call me and want me to work for nothing!

I prefer to say that I was going to paint the bathroom/ do the weekly shop/ sweep up the leaves in the garden. ‘Tell you what, you come round to my home and paint my bathroom/ do my weekly shop/ sweep up the leaves in my garden for nothing and I’ll work for you for nothing.’

I appreciate that this is easy to say but hard to do but more people must make a stand against publishers who aren’t so much cheapskates as ‘noskates’, if journalism and publishing are to remain open to all . Writers need to say that they are impoverishing our culture in every sense of that word, and to refuse to play the game.

For the record, I did not go on Mumsnet, and I will refuse to go on Mumsnet until it starts to treat its writers and readers fairly.

UPDATE: Mumsnet Talk has replied here.

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Show comments
  • CassandraBird

    Do working class mothers read Mumsnet? No, I didn’t think so…

  • James Jones

    I understand that it is almost impossible to get into Airline flying as a pilot today unless you “Pay to Fly” for some initial period.

    In the aviation industry, in addition to barring those without the ready cash, there are potential safety implications as instead of the selection process looking for “the right stuff” it now looks for “the right bank balance”. These are not necessarily co-incident.

  • ahermit

    In the music business they call this “pay to play”… it’s exploitative and insulting and those who fall for it are not only hurting themselves they are helping to poison the market for other performers as well.

    Just say no…

  • Amanda Craig

    Well said Nick! As you say, asking writers to write for nothing is only one step away from asking us to pay to contribute. Shame on Mumsnet. Though come to think of it, a couple of friends of mine were also asked to blog for a well-known publication for nothing, It’s name? The Spectator.

  • solidisme

    This is so true. But Nick, having started work in a world where journalists would expect to be paid, we are dinosaurs. Most journalists under 35, and certainly under 30, know that getting paid is a rarity, except for business journalism.

    We hear so much about having a brand. You need, writers are constantly told, to promote your brand on Facebook, on Twitter, on your blog, on Pinterest, etc. etc.

    Also, in the online world being the first, not the best reported, is what matters. The clicks are what matter. So the skills a journalist brings to the party are not necessarily valued (see the excellent now that we are just “content providers”.

    I believe website editors have formed the view that far from writers offering them a service, they are offering writers the chance to build their brand. You know that little box at the bottom where you say what you’re the author of or where your column is? That’s screen space that could be a banner ad. And instead they’re giving it to you to promote your brand. So really, you should be paying them!
    Of course, if you’re already a big brand like Nigella, or Stephen Fry, or Kim Kardashian, that would be something else again. Then they would pay you.

  • Swanky

    Good on ya, Nick! Atta boy!

  • dirtyw33ker

    I agree strongly with every word – there is however the important issue of a lack of revenue in journalism in general. The likes of mumsnet asking for free product is a direct result of dying revenue caused mainly by the internet.

  • katese11

    It’s the way the web is going…so many bloggers charge you to guest post on their blogs because it’s promoting your own site. But if you write professionally, there seems to be something wrong with having to pay to supply content to someone. Isn’t it enough that they get free content without charging you to write it?? (This isn’t for adverts btw…it’s for a post about something relevant to their blog, just with a backlink in it)

  • Catherine Rogan

    I work for a small charity advising parents on their employment rights at work. We offered to do a Q and A for them for free. They came back and told us that they would charge us £2,500 at their “not for profit” rates. We respectfully declined. It’s a great shame as lots of people do go to forums like Mumsnet for advice and we see a lot of people giving incorrect advice to each other, but there’s no way we could justify paying that amount of money.

    • simonecas

      I think this feels so wrong, especially because of the ethos of the site. I had similar experience with a magazine wanting payment to advertise a charity event, and even if it was a commercial publication, I was stunned as it was a small charity and I was volunteering my time.

  • davidseven

    Given the toxic views displayed and shared by the uber fascists on mumsnet, I would count yourself lucky to have escaped with your dangly bits still attached after a visit if you had taken them up on their enticing ‘offer’.

  • global city

    Yes….and this new class is so hideously white…. certain rare exceptions aside!

    I have said that the meme of multiculturalism will only come to a crashing halt when the Guardian lives up to it’s own community standards and starts employing ‘new residents’ for a third of the cost of Polly and the gals. The volte face will hurt your eyes!

  • Jill Pennington

    Brilliant. Well done, pity more writers don’t say no to freebies.

  • Cyclefree

    Good for you Nick.

  • glurk

    Why is it ‘The Arts’, usually individuals who are foolish enough to do stuff because its there to be done are frequently expected to work for peanuts or for nothing, whatever their level of skill, unless they are lucky enough to be an appendage to someone else’s balance sheet. We can publish now for nothing on the internet if we damned well want to, why would we want to pay a site like Mumsnet to contribute to their site whose comment pages are 90% banalities? Forget it…pay me to read it instead!

  • Cornelius Bonkers

    Well obviously; are you a boy scout? The strong oppresseth the weak whenever they can – always have always will. Get over it

    • headgirlblues

      I think the general idea is that we try and evolve past all that by creating balance. Not everyone who employs people is so unenlightened.

      • Cornelius Bonkers

        Mmmm, “enlightened” eh? OK! But firstly, evolution is not a process which can be applied to human beings and identified scientifically; unless it’s some non-Darwinian version which proposes an entirely different kind of process. Oppression comes in many shapes and sizes. Obviously there are exceptions to every rule unless it’s a truly scientific one; but the term “non-oppressive society” is an oxymoron. Without it the weak would rule and would we then be enlightened? Sorry HGB, you can’t have it both ways. Enlightenment only comes with an exercise of power OVER the weak.

        • headgirlblues

          Thanks, CB – thought I see science as a journey rather than a destination. Who is to be arbiter of what is deemed weak or strong? Those charged with governance now (globally) have power, but are so weakened by corruption that it is proving ruinous both economically and environmentally. Yes, we’ve been here before, but the question of scale arises. The requirement for excessive power comes from a weakness of character, not strength.

          • Cornelius Bonkers

            Yes HGB, in one sense science is a journey – of discovery. But one can only discover what is already there, i.e., in accord with the laws of physics – natural motion is all there is in the universe, all else is a consequence. As to the weak/strong question I agree, these are cultural categories. BUT the motivation for the exercise of power is I think beside the point. The fact one is an arse..le makes no difference to the further fact that a person is strong in terms of the effects of their actions. Supposedly bad people do good things and vice versa. A truly inclusive society would end up being unable to criticise a dustman or a Bulgarian immigrant for claiming the right to perform heart operations…How would you like that? A healthy society is one which its members engage in a struggle to be heard – to become strong…

        • headgirlblues

          The Keekorok troop of baboons in East Africa lost their alpha leaders in an terrible poisoning accident. Not given to sharing their bounty, they had stolen tb infected meat from a dump and consumed it with obvious consequences. The remaining beta males, females and babies carried on, nonetheless and the beta males taught ingenue males the new rules of the troop – essentially, peace not war – and after twenty years, they continue to flourish above their neighbours. This is no cute analogy – look them up.

          Oppression is not a given – it’s a taken, and if the bloody baboons can sort that out, we certainly could. I leave you draw tour own conclusions as to how.

          • Cornelius Bonkers

            HGB, I’m no apologist for misogyny, alpha males and analogues of them elsewhere in the animal kingdom. My point is that strength doesn’t necessarily equal oppression. When I say “the strong oppresseth the weak” it means it’s the job of the weak to become strong or they’ve no chance. The dependency the weak have now fallen into will get them less than nothing from those who now hold all the cards and have, largely through the pitiful benefits system, bought-off their autonomy as political actors. Oh and those baboons, well, they’re baboons…! We all want to make love not war, but until cooperation becomes a universal value I’m not hopeful that we imperfect/violent humans can “sort it out” as your leaderless baboons did

  • Claire Bullows

    Lemme get this straight,you want to be paid to advertise yourself and you think it wrong that people pay for advertisement? O…k… then, just so we’re clear.

    Get over yourself!

    • sheenaghpugh

      Here’s the clue: Mumsnet asked HIM to contribute. So it wasn’t him advertising, it was them wanting something – but not wanting to pay for his time and effort. How hard is that to understand?

      • Claire Bullows

        He would have been advertising himself! It wasn’t contributing it was an hour of talking about himself. Are you saying that he gets absolutely nothing out of it? Is it going to be anonymous with none of his work mentioned? No of course it’s not!

        As a business myself I would LOVE that opportunity!

        • sheenaghpugh

          So Mumsnet asked him to advertise his articles purely out of the goodness of their heart? They got nothing out of it themselves? of course it was content! And that hour they wanted him to spend was an hour when he could have been writing. Tell you what, next time you want a plumber, tell him you won’t pay him money, you’ll just give him lots of publicity for his work!

  • Scooby

    As long as ‘sponsored content’ is clearly labelled as such, then I don’t see it as a problem. It’s no different to having an ‘advertorial’ in a magazine. I don’t read Mumsnet, so I don’t know to what extent the is transparency with their readers.

    In the magazine world, publishers follow guidelines from the PPA on clearly labelling sponsored pages that look normal editorial pages. Perhaps it’s time for this to happen with professional digital publishing.

    This thread has gone off on a tangent on how it’s increasingly only the independently wealthy or well off who can embark on a creative career. I totally agree. The Spectator used to have a food blog called Scoff – does Nick know that the writers weren’t paid? Similarly over at the Word of Mouth food blog at the Guardian, I know that in the past writers have been told they would have to write for nothing as there was simply no budget.

    The publishing business model is totally screwed, indeed.

  • selinasays

    Mumsnet has other irregular financial arrangements. It took a fee from a PR company promoting a supplement to run a trial in which product was given free to mumsnetters and the results of the trial were published
    Ben Goldacre tweeted .

    Pleased to see this utter bullshit has been ignored so far: interesting use of Mumsnet brand and “research” – once Goldacre had questioned use of the brand mumsnet had the press release taken down and tweeted denials to Goldacre but I don’t think it returned the fee it was paid by the PR. Correct me if I am wrong.

  • Tigger123456

    The British “film industry” has been operating schemes like this for a decade at least, inviting newly graduated film makers and others “the chance to gain experience and add to their CV” for a fee.

  • lynne wallis

    A great piece with an important message for publishers and editors, but none of will change unless writers start to say no to non or low payment. I thought payment on publication bad enough – I told one editor that I’d have to go to Tescos and offer to go back and pay as and when I used the goods – but this is something else.

    • Swanky

      They probably reduced your fee for saying ‘Tescos’ instead of Tesco. Why people insist on doing that, I’ve no idea. My m-in-law call Walmart ‘Walmarts’, which makes no sense, and The Back Eddy restaurant (we know what an eddy is, don’t we?) she calls ‘Back Eddie’s’, as if it’s a person.

  • Kevin T

    It’s reasonable to expect people with things to sell to do promotional activities for free – launches, signings, interviews, etc, and an appearance at a literary festival could be seen as promotion. When it comes to a website asking a columnist to be part of a debate they’re organising, I’d side with you. That is doing something for them, not for yourself. Perhaps there’s a thin line but you’re right to stand your ground.

  • Sanjoy Banerjee

    This is an important debate that we need to have in as public a way as possible. I set up a magazine earlier this year that aimed to provide a platform for new writers with a broad left of centre perspective ( We were recently accused of the wilful depression of wages, in spite of the fact that we had declared we were in “proof of concept” and welcome suggestions on how to establish an equitable funding model. For me, the key is how to operate a successful socialist model that in a capitalist free-market environment. There was a terrific piece that appeared in Harper’s by Erik Reece called “The End of Illth” with the subtitle “in search of an economy that won’t kill us”. He focuses on mining, but the principle is not dissimilar. But nor is publishing alone in the “pay for content” debate. Music and images also suffer the same exploitation. For me, the key is to establish norms and legal protections. If the political will for the later is not there, then it is incumbent on writers, artists etc. to do this for themselves. In terms of my own magazine, I am not eager to rush into bed with donors or sponsors that compromise our ethics. Instead, a magazine that is owned by private subscribers (shareholders) with a limit on the size of any shareholding is the option I am currently looking at. However, we are still some way from establishing the more basic criteria of “concept” that we can generate enough interest. Power to your elbow, Nick. I’ve been an admirer for a long time.

    • Baron

      In the Harper article you call ‘a terrific piece’ Eric Reese says: “The financial crisis of 2008 had a long gestation period that can be
      traced back to 1783, when Alexander Hamilton persuaded Continental Army
      soldiers, desperate for cash, to sell their war bonds to his speculating
      friends at one-thirtieth of their value”.

      For Baron, Reece doesn’t go back long enough to trace the gestation of the 2008 crisis. It was back in China in the 9th century paper money first appeared offering huge potential for speculation, wealth hoarding ….

      The model he suggests, not unlike his identifying a discounted bong sale as the root of the recent near financial meltdown, only confirms the left still suffers from the delusion of the kind that brought misery, pain and often death to that part of the world that embraced the Marx inspired school of thoughtt.

      • Sanjoy Banerjee

        I take your point but Reece rightly points out that free-market models which are lionised in our economic culture are detrimental to human existence in ways we are inured to and accept as inevitable. Reece is an environmental journalist, rather than an economist and I wouldn’t necessarily look to him for economic solutions. But neither I am particularly impressed by those that the market ideologues of the right prescribe either. Good debate. Merry Xmas!

        • John Kinory

          Then he shouldn’t be writing about economics, a subject he appears to know eff all about, should he?

        • Kennybhoy

          “…and I wouldn’t necessarily look to him for economic solutions.”

          Then why quote him in this context?

          • Sanjoy Banerjee

            As above, he is pointing out that we should not accept the existing free market model as necessarily the only way of doing things. I understand that The Spectator may not be the most receptive arena for this suggestion, but there you have it!

      • John Kinory

        Why not ca. 800 BC, when the earliest equivalent of metal coins appeared? Or 3000 BC, when humans used shells as barter tokens? The idea that the crisis of 2008 can be traced back to 1783 is beyond daft.

        • Baron

          Quite, John, beyond daft sums it up neatly.

      • Kennybhoy


  • jamesthecritic

    You are living up to the jewish stereotype here mr Cohen.

    Also, why are you writing for the spectator when you are a lefty?

    Could it be that writing for a left wing publication on this subject would make you come across as money grabbing and selfish and would therefore make you sound like a hypocrite and spoil your saintly good guy image?

    • John Kinory

      Racist git.

    • Kennybhoy


    • Swanky

      You are living up to the jewish stereotype here mr Cohen.
      What, that he wants to enjoy the fruits of his labour? Nothing especially Jewish about that, is there? Besides that, ethnicity or religion has nothing whatsoever to do with the article, and shame on you for bringing it up.

    • Mr Grumpy

      You are what Kennybhoy says. And Nick Cohen isn’t Jewish, in any case.

  • Mike Barnes

    An internship at a national broadsheet newspaper probably looks outstanding on your CV and introduces you to all the right people. If you manage to take advantage of the opportunity it could lead to a huge amount of money throughout your life. You could argue that they should therefore be paying the newspaper for the privilege of working for them!

    Obviously apprentices in the past have greatly benefited from their training, but at least the principle of earning something for their work was there. They were paid buttons, but knew it was leading somewhere.

    It’s worrying that in the future, even minimum wage jobs with absolutely no career progression will be asking for ‘work experience’ and telling their potential staff they must do an apprenticeship in folding t-shirts or cooking chips. And the staff will have no choice because 20% of young people are unemployed and if they don’t want do it, somebody else will.

    In the old days you could get into journalism as a basic entry level job (Hugh Muir wrote about how he did it in the Guardian last week). Now you’ll probably need an unpaid internship. In the future you may well need to pay your employer for your first journalism job.

  • The Hobo Prep

    “For the record, I did not go on Mumsnet, and I will refuse to go on Mumsnet until it starts to treat its writers and readers fairly”

    Heck, I might even write for Mumsnet – for free – if there are some lonely Mums out there looking for some Hobo Prep Love.

  • John Kinory

    It would be nice if you knew that Harlan Ellison is a novelist.

  • Poorer Richard

    This is an issue which will eventually force some auditable regulatory standards, in the way that magazines and newspapers are required to share circulation numbers with potential advertisers. Mumsnet, and many, many others, are really advertising venues. Advertising is regulated in publications and it will have to be regulated and come under standards/circulation scrutiny online as well, in order to provide transparent, equal access to all approved advertisers who will know what exactly they are paying for. I hope it happens soon.

  • Ajourney

    India Knight, who has written a very ordinary column for the Sunday Times for years, is the step-daughter of Andrew Knight, former Chairman and director of News International. Does this help?

    • John Kinory

      Very ordinary? She is one of the thickest hacks in the country, against a very strong field.

      • Ronovitch

        Agreed. Knight’s columns are embarrassingly bad: no research, no wit, no originality, no good writing, just dull platitudes which look as though they’ve been knocked out before Saturday lunch. It’s so, so obvious that an influential ‘Mr Big’ family member got her the column, and is making sure she keeps it for as long as possible, no matter how stupid the paper looks.

        • Fergus Pickering

          But that’s no NEW for Chrissake. It was ever thus. really.

  • iaindale

    They wanted to charge me £5k to do a webchat with one of our authors once. I told them where they could stick it.

    • Rockin Ron

      Yes, you can afford to do that now Iain, but it may have been different if you did not already have a profile.

      • iaindale

        You think any publisher can afford to pay them £5k. You’re living in an unreal world. Think how many books you’d have to sell to recoup it.

        • Rockin Ron

          I suppose if the publisher manages to shift lots of books then a £5k outlay from the marketing budget is worth it. It is a shop window and you have to pay to be in that window. Whether you think it is worth it or not depends on your assessment of what you would gain from it, such as additional sales for example.

          • Swanky

            Well, obviously it wasn’t worth it! People have to calculate self-interest in accordance with what is likely, rather than what is merely possible.

  • Ron Graves

    This work for free attitude is everywhere. I write what is, by some standards, a relatively modest blog, but I write well and this has seen me being asked to write for other blogs. not as a guest blogger, which would have been fine, but simply as a provider of free content.

    For personal reasons, at the time I couldn’t have accepted payment anyway, but the offer would have been appreciated, and I would have happily written.

    On a different note, I think this is the first time I’ve ever agreed with anything Julie Burchill has said, and one need look no further than the Guardian for evidence of its accuracy (sons too).

    • John Kinory

      Julie Burchill is right far more often than not. She dares to speak the truth that frightens the Islingtonian metro-airhead chatterers.

  • Hebridean Forager

    Bravo. I challenged the exclusivity of Mumsnet some years back (internet access). Although smart phones may have broadened its audience there is still a £ issue. I offered my cookery book for review (2009) and was asked for payment.I declined the opportunity. The children who would really benefit form reading it, probably can’t afford to buy it anyway.

  • trafigura

    … and Justine Roberts is married to Ian Katz, journalist and Newsnight editor.

    • Colonel Mustard

      Lefties creating power for themselves to coerce others.

  • Lesley Abdela

    I agree with you 100 percent Nik. I have had similar battles with others who want me to write and speak for free. At one point I even found myself (irrationally) feeling embarrassed to ask for a fee – not any more. We all have to pay our bills. Thanks for writing this article.

  • nick

    Hi Nick, provoking piece for me – however, there are gaps in your knowledge of what has been happening in the publishing world and why we have arrived at this free content model for the vast majority of journalists/consumers:

    Online and traditional publishing has gone through incredible disruption over last 10 years; print is dying, cost of publishing digital content is almost zero (blogs/twitter/tumblr), content is ubiquitous/commodotised, digital banner advertising is declining everywhere except Facebook, brands are becoming publishers and creating their own content (Nike, Pepsi, Volvo) etc. consumers won’t pay for content.

    What this means is… the traditional income which pays for journalists is already declining in double digits and new business/revenue models need to be explored by all:

    A great example is Guido Fawkes / Paul Staines – he started out offering an edgy but very niche news format in 2006. Their attempts at monetisation via traditional advertising were not as successful as they would have hoped/lead to believe. Despite meteoric growth, Guido Fawkes audience numbers were not big enough to make meaningful money from banner advertising, and, the content and comments were too risky for brand sponsorship.

    So… despite Guido Fawkes being the up and coming publishing brand in politics, very little in the way of reliable income was coming.

    Guido Fawkes ploughed on, he knew he was on to something great and kept writing content, growing his audience and establishing a very powerful brand. Remember when Guido Fawkes killed Damian McBride!? A lowly blogger took one of the biggest scalps in government!

    That day, for me at least, Guido Fawkes established itself as a powerhouse in mainstream political content – and became a relevant publication for the entire nation.

    Fast forward to today, Guido Fawkes and team now generating multiple incomes, e.g. writing for The Star, Sky News etc. probably less than 10% of their income is being generated by traditional advertising.

    The business lesson here is Guido Fawkes blog was the vehicle to establish and grow their brand, it was never the main revenue generator – and now the team behind it have used the blog as a platform for their credentials to maximise the new significant revenue opportunities available to them.

    Spectator coffee house is taking exactly the same strategy as Guido Fawkes, and has been consistently growing its audience numbers on this blog (as Fraser pops now and again to tell us) for years using great free content.

    One difference is spectator is creating free content to build the brand BUT for the purpose of up selling subscriptions to this audience as their main income. I don’t know the numbers but I’d say it’s working extremely well from observation of progress – possibly the best execution of this strategy I have seen in UK publishing. Congratulations to the team.

    In conclusion, for you, the content creator role in this ecosystem is to play along with the new strategies being used by publishers (I think Spectator is going to go from strength-to-strength) or branch out and attempt a Guido Fawkes and build your own brand across the free content marketing channels of Mumsnet, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube etc. and when you are a leading brand in your specialist area, major publishers will pay you £250k a year to write for them.

    Take a step back and you’ll see Spectator Coffee House is already a very niche instance of the Huffington Post model (1m monthly UV’s), but specialising in right thinking political content not mainstream news.

    Both great places to be (working for spectator or your own brand), but decide how much risk/time investment you are willing to put in.

    • John Kinory

      ‘edgy’ … ‘growing his audience’ … straight from the Great Book of Cliches and Trendy Slogans.

  • Eddie

    This article is spot-on! We are back to the 18th century here with writers needing a private income.
    However, the publishing industry has always been corrupt – with cronyism and nepotism rife.
    That’s how many books get published while better writers have to self-publish (lots of dreadful books, esp autobiographies and religious. spiritual stuff gets self-published esp with cheaper companies and e-book platforms, but there is real quality there too – 4 of my top 10 books of this year were self-published). Lots of niche books that get published by women’s publishers, for example, are awful; ditto with other tomes that tick boxes.
    Also, when you see a writer praising another to the skies on the back of a book, do some research – usually, the writers are friends and give each other’s novels rave reviews and/or they share an agent or publisher or belong to the same committees.
    And the BBC is even worse – a real little clique, which only gives breaks to writers from the theatre, actors who hobby-write, producers who do the same, and those who write on BBC-friendly themes (race, gender, kitchen sinky stuff). Add to that the suspicion many writers have that a spec script sent in might have its ideas stolen (there is NO copyright on ideas!).
    Local papers and magazines don’t usually pay fees either to writers. That’s why I no longer write for them.
    The BBC and book festivals expect writers to turn up for no fee and no travel expenses.
    As Philip Hensher mentioned recently, he was asked to do a foreword to a book – for nothing!
    But that is the way it is. All a writer can do is boycott those who don’t pay – and then they’ll get less stuff published. Not fair, but life isn’t fair. Tough.
    Me – I just remember names and faces, for future reference, of those who hinder and those who help (and are fair).

  • JezSullivan

    Try doing photography, you ll be constantly asked to work for free.

    • kyalami

      Indeed and with the same excuse “You’ll get visibility”.

  • The Hobo Prep

    Most degrees are useless, in the sense that you can learn the same thing online or in a library with a buck fifty in late charges – just like Will Hunting said. The remarkable thing about your country is that polytechnics are considered to be Low In The Pantheon Of Your Colleges – Oxbridge being at the top – and yet these are the very institutions that focus upon Teaching A Useful Skill, not just bare knowledge, which, as Will Hunting said, cost a buck fifty. In This Small World Of Today You Need To Make Things, Not Write Silly Things On The Internet.

    Something you guys have forgotten over there.

    • dashwoodstole

      Oxbridge teaches you a lot more than ‘bare knowledge’ that you could learn off the internet, and of course the prestige doesn’t hurt when you go out into the real world. While Oxbridge shouldn’t have the stranglehold it does in public life in this country, saying ‘it doesn’t teach you how to make things’ is not a valid, or even relevant, criticism.

      • Veronica Mai Hughes

        Dear Hobo prep,
        Would you seriously want to be operated upon by someone who had learned about surgery online? Would you actually feel happy going to the top of a 30-storey skyscraper in an elevator designed by someone who had figured out how to make elevators at the library with a buck fifty in late charges? Can you put your hand on your heart a swear you would drive every day across a suspension bridge built by an autodidact civil engineer?
        If so, you and a few other fools, but nobody sensible.
        Only someone who does NOT have a good degree from a good university would be ignorant of the wealth of analytical skills one acquires through detailed study and testing of the basic information found in books. Reading books constitutes the starting point of a degree, not the whole accomplishment.

        • alabenn

          What is the difference, seemingly they hardly get any head to head tuition now.
          A surgeon is basically a mechanic and should be treated as such, he needs to understand the consequences of what he is doing and how best to do it, all this airy fairy crap about calling and ascribing a near godlike status in the minds of some has held back the good practice that should be the hallmark of any profession.
          The more cerebral among them can do the research a much better way than letting them all practice their own pet theories.
          As to someone who has learned online, it would be preferable to have a good surgeon self taught than a bad one no matter how he acquired his skill, surely only a closed mind would disagree.

          • John Kinory

            Actually, anyone who is well-informed would disagree with this soapbox rant. A surgeon is not a ‘mechanic’. A patient is not a car. Even at the most basic technical level, individual people and the medical conditions they exhibit, vary by many orders of magnitude more than individual cars and their mechanical or electrical faults. People are vastly more complex than cars, and this becomes a difference in quality between the problems of people and those of cars, not just one of quantity. And in addition, people have psychological responses to what you would probably regard as ‘mechanical’ diseases, which surgeons know are in reality a combination of physiological and psychological interactions.
            You cannot have a ‘self-taught’ surgeon. Surgery is learned in part by observation, by discussion and by supervised and critiqued clinical experience.

            • Trisha Macnair

              Exactly. Medicine is the ultimate applied art, drawing on a wealth of medical science and applying that knowledge in the uniquely individual situation that every patient presents. Text books and test results can guide us, but it is the weighing up of a myriad of different factors which helps to draw conclusions. And even those are rarely black and white or set in stone. Many diagnoses are little more than informed guesswork especially when working with the complexities of illness that the frail elderly present with. Patients and their family seek certainties but but mostly we can only talk in likelihoods and diagnoses often wax and wane as we constantly reassess the situation and the effect of therapies. So like any art, medical skills are honed by years of ongoing learning, treating more and more patients and endless discussion of cases with colleagues. This is true of any speciality. We are all very aware of the dangers of single-handed practitioners and the idea that a surgeon might train like a mechanic simply by studying manuals shows zero understanding of the nature of human health and illness. That’s why we revere the knowledge and understanding of older doctors. Newly qualified juniors or exam honed Registrars may have sharpened their factual knowledge but they have yet to develop their real understanding of those weird things called human beings

        • The Hobo Prep

          You’re proving the point made. All of those degrees are degrees Teaching A Useful Skill, which In Days Of Yore were taught on the job in those professions – i.e. medicine, law, engineering. This is actually consistent with what Tech institutions have been doing since the early 19th Century (see RPI), and yes, other institutions too. But learning content for the sake of it is not going to get little Suzy or Timmy a job. On another related point, the fact that you guys worship Oxbridge so much speaks to the vast amount of inbred like behavior there. That aint a good thing, is it?

          • John Kinory

            It proves no such thing. First of all, obviously you are not a Brit and know little about this country. Polyechnics? What polytechnics? How many do you think still exist?
            Many if not most teaching hospitals are now part of a university, including Oxford, thus there is synergy between teaching, research and clinical practice. There are departments of medicine and engineering (of all stripes) at most universities, including the top ones (yes, including Oxford and Cambridge, but also Imperial, UCL, etc etc etc). If you imagine that what they do is limited to theoretical studies of Medieval poetry, you have a seriously bizarre view of what goes on in them; one based purely on your imagination. Few of us here ‘worship’ Oxbridge: that too, is only a product of your imagination.

            • The Hobo Prep

              Which again proves my point. I don’t really know how many techs you still have there, but in the rest of the English and non-English speaking world they exist and provide a useful function – just like RPI did (and which was used as a model for you) – training and teaching people in useful skills and professions. Early in the medical, legal and other professions, candidates learned on the job, with supplemental classes at such institutions, yes, co-ordinated with hospitals and inns/practitioners. They sure didn’t waste their time on learning about mediaeval poetry like modern universities do – letting anyone with a pulse in.

              By the way, even the tribesmen of the Wilds of Borneo know about your so called “elite rankings” and your duopoly of Oxford and Cambridge – and see it for what it is – Veblen Goods within your culture that the rest of the world doesn’t really care about except to use as an example of societal inbreeding.

              • John Kinory

                Oh, dear. Total reading comprehension failure.

              • Fergus Pickering

                Learning about medieval poetry? I wish. Frankly I think Education is what tells you about what isn’t of any use. Education is what makes you a cultured person (like myself) and not an unlettered oaf. Learning stuff that will get you a job is training. You are right about that. Most of it can be done on the job

                • John Kinory

                  Wrong, Fergus. You can’t learn to be a physicist or a professor of medieval history ‘on the job’. And going back to surgery, you can’t learn biochemistry or neurology etc ‘on the job’.

                • Fergus Pickering

                  Of course you can’t. Too right. I was defending education. I don’t know hat Professorships have got to do with it. You don’t learn something in order to be a professor. And mdecine is a training. What else is it? And of course surgeons learn on te job. That’s why the older ones are better.and do the difficult stuff. God surgeons, as opposed to average ones, have dexterity and cool heads.

                • John Kinory

                  1. Of course you can learn something in order to be a professor (of X). It’s a profession, and many people set out to have a purely academic career.
                  2. You are confusing training with continuing professional development.

  • Rockin Ron

    You missed a really good opportunity by turning down Mumsnet. Never mind the money, think of what other doors Mumsnet exposure would have led to – appearances on radio, TV as a critic or reviewer. That would have set you up to be able to demand large payments in future.
    You should have played the long game to gain. Now, other options will close any you and your opinions will be heard by fewer people.

    • Eddie

      I see your point. But there is such a thing as sheer exploitation – and many website like the odious silly bullying mob of Mumsnet know that. They could easily pay a token fee and travel. That would be decent and honest.
      If they were a charity, maybe not – but what these irritating gobby women are is just an exploitative set-up that aims to get off with not paying people and grabbing the money themselves instead. Maybe these yummy mummys have learnt a trick for the slaves who make their ridiculous clothes in Third World Sweatshops eh?
      I hope you work for nothing then – after all, why don’t we expect teachers, police officers, politicians, publishers, doctors, lawyers to work for nothing?

      • Rockin Ron

        I agree with all your points Eddie. It is exploitation by Mumsnet. My point was how to deal with the situation as it is rather than decrying this state of affairs. The way to deal with it, I think, is to use the publicity provided by Mumsnet as springboard for further opportunities that will pay.
        The comparison of a journalist with other professions is not vaild. They are all professionals. Journalism is a trade not a profession. It is more like being a carpenter. No one needs a carpenter, it is choice we make when we use one and at an agreed rate. If the carpenter is willing to do it for nothing in the hope of securing more lucrative work, that is up to them.

        • Eddie

          I agree with that. If one is self-employed in any field, one has to make such judgement calls.
          However, I no longer write for free for anyone; I once did on the presumption (being the old school bloke I am) that a favour got a favour returned at some point in the future. However, a crapppy local magazine I wrote for then wanted to charge to do a small favour for me, after I had provided them with free copy.
          I work for money, not for air.
          Charities are an exception. But oh so many exploitative publications almost pretend they are charities to get writers providing them copy for free – and these are profit-making enterprises. Not on.

          • Tzctplus –

            Charities shouldn’t be an exception. Their staff get paid….

        • John Kinory

          The distinction you are making between what is a profession and what isn’t, is spurious, arbitrary and irrelevant.
          How do you define a ‘profession’? Carpenters learn how to be carpenters. So do teachers. So do electricians. So do lawyers. So do car mechanics. It’s perfectly possible to go through life without ‘needing’ a lawyer. But if your built-in wardrobe collapses, you certainly ‘need’ a carpenter to come and fix it for you. And no carpenter would do it for free.

    • ADW

      All well and good, but if you’re not going to ask Mumsnet to pay, who exactly is going to pay you and at what point? How much “exposure” do you think is needed before you can actually expect to get paid?

  • Tim Almond

    Racketeers? They’re offering you a platform for your opinions for free, and you can take it or leave it.

    And what’s an “Advertisement Feature” in a newspaper other than a paid ad disguised to look like a feature?

    You express yourself well, but you’re providing an opinion, and one that dozens of other people, maybe thousands have expressed on Twitter or on blogs. I’ll agree that you probably express it better than many of those, but what’s the value of that?

    • qued

      The value is that people will enjoy reading it. Which means that many more people will read it. And when enough people read something, the publisher gets paid, regardless of whether the writer gets paid. You seriously didn’t know all that?

    • Eddie

      On that basis, everyone should do interviews on TV and radio for nothing – because they are all promoting themselves non?
      I look forward to the BBC abolishing all salaries and fees for all journalists and presenters soon then.
      At the same time, it could claim back money from those who have created lucrative careers on the back of BBC promotion (starting with Jamie Oliver and Stephen Fry, who can be first on a list of many thousands).

  • BoiledCabbage

    Solution: Get a corporate sponsor. e.g Barclays. So your Mumsnet webchat would sound roughly like this:-

    Why not? I thought.Barclays Mumsnet has a large and interesting audience. More than Barclays five million people visit each month, and Barclays politicians beg to go on to a site that is a Barclays successful online publisher, rather than some cowboy Barclays outfit.

  • Northeus

    I read the Guardian but only as a source of entertainment, not for it’s “news”. The opportunities to ridicule the stupid are just too delicious. But if I had to pay for that claptrap I wouldn’t. But there is a paradox at play. If they did produce worthwhile journalism, nobody would read it. Even Teh Grauniad occasionally, by accident of odds, produces something readable now and then, but you can always guarantee it will be the piece with the least comments below.

    The problem being that good journalism is not easily digested and requires an attention span exceeding that of a gerbil. Moreover, if the business model is based on repeat visits and advertising hits, then it actually makes more business sense to produce lightweight, immature and lazy content. And when the margins are so slim, and mediocrity is so easily found, why would you pay for journalists? Narcissistic ranters eager for any exposure will always spill their bilge for free. Why not capitalise on stupidity? It obviously works.

    On a different note, I will not pay for news media vessels with poor business ethics either. I will stop stealing Telegraph content (by going behind the pay-wall) when the Telegraph credits journalists properly, rather than rehashing other people’s work and slapping the name of their favourite tea-boy on it; A favoured tactic of the Daily Mail too. Why should these thieves make money from us?

    I will pay for quality when and if I find it. I pay for a Spiked-online subscription because the people behind it deserve to do well and I want that kind of thinking
    promoted. I will pay for City AM too if that goes paywall. As with everything else, you get what you pay for. There are plenty of good writers out there on independent websites who churn out more news and quality research in a month than the mainstream media can muster in a year. But good journalism depends on you taking the time to read it – and sticking your hand in your wallet once in a while. If you want good journalism to survive, then you will have to seek it out and pay for it.

    Journalism is an essential part of democracy and freedom. It is the tool by which we notionally hold our rulers to account. A big part of why we have such lamentable politics is because of our lamentable media, and that is as much yours and my fault for reading it. If you lap up the bilge that is served to you on a
    plate, you get the government (and the journalists) you deserve.

    • John Kinory

      Indeed. The Guardian stopped being a serious newspaper decades ago. It’s hilarious when the clique that runs Wikipedia declares it to be a ‘reputable source’ of facts, including political ones (!).

      • Colonel Mustard

        Wiki seems to be ‘edited’ on behalf of the collective left and the Labour party these days. The revisionism in its historical pieces is blatantly political.

        • Kevin T

          So true. Harriet Harman’s page being the perfect example. Its self-appointed, “impartial” editors refuse to allow any mention of the controversy over her involvement with paedophile rights groups whilst at the National Council for Civil Liberties, despite it being factual and having been in the national press.

        • Kennybhoy

          Indeed. And Google’s algorithm makes it the first port of call for those searching for information online. Scary.

      • Tzctplus –

        Who has uncovered the Snowden documents, facing even threats of prosecution from the PM itself?

        I think the Guardian has earned some respect that should be accorded even by those that don’t agree with their politics.

  • Northeus

    I’m afraid “writers” will have to get used to the idea of working for nothing. Opinions are like ass-holes; – everybody has one, and thanks to the internet, they are not in short supply. Moreover, opinionated harpies are two a penny. I’m certainly not going to part with money for steam of consciousness claptrap based on crappy NGO reports. Show me something worth paying for and I might, but I shall not hold my breath. Supply dictates price. It’s a buyers markets and there’s bugger all out there worth paying for. If you’re presenting work based on your own original research and have the capacity to think, then that is worth paying for, but that represents a minuscule proportion of self-proclaimed writers. Whenever I see “freelance writer” on a CV, I just assume “long term unemployed”.

  • Gavin Griffiths

    One of the main issues is that even sites with large traffic volumes don’t really make any money. Huffington Post is an exception. When you say vanity publishing it really is just that. Consumers hardly click on any advertising links these days and the rates advertisers pay per 1000 eyeballs is tiny. So it isn’t just the relationship with publisher and writer that’s broke, its the publishing model that’s broke. It’s readers who don’t want to pay and in reality most publishers can’t pay. I’m an ex magazine publisher and I saw the ad rates fall off a cliff, then i saw the news stand sales dry up. I truly wish there was a new model that paid writers, and whilst a few have managed to create their own “brands” the future looks very bleak for most creatives trying to make a living out of the written word. The only salvation is that most free content is a river of crap and eventually people will pay for quality well researched articles.

    • LolKatzen

      Online subscriptions can’t make it up? I’ve got several, hoping to support journalism. Some people use Incognito windows and stuff to get unlimited reading at sites like the New York Times, but that’s sleazy.

  • anyfool

    If there is any good journalists left they are doing a splendid job of keeping it secret, television and newspapers have now become so incestuous that most stories in both parts sing the same song with barely a flicker of dissent between the two.
    This is as you say, they all come from the same school of thought somewhere to the left of Karl Marx, they care not where and how money is made as they spout the socialist mantra of ” its not fair “.
    These three words are now the most dangerous words in the West, it is used to create envy and spite and all of your crowd use it for want of a counter argument against people keeping more for their hard work where it has now become standard group think that anyone earning a decent average wage can have an upfront 30% plus snatched from his pay packet, he is then turned over and shafted for myriad others taxes and money extracting schemes each and everyone pushed upon people with the aid of your lot.
    It is used in conjunction with the word racist to prevent debate on immigration.
    It is used to try to prevent any unaffordable cut that needs to be made in the public sector or in the bloated benefits burden.
    I have yet to hear from the MSM any hard story gutting the creatures in the Labour party for this shambles and disaster they have wrought on the country,
    That will mostly be down to the BBC who control 70% of the media news outlets, so you all trot along like little boys spouting their approved line.
    When the likes of that dreadful creature at Mumsnet see`s this craven weakness, she skewers you because she can, its not fair ,innit.

    • Liberty

      At my children’s school they banned the expression ‘its not fair’.

      • anyfool

        Its a pity the head teacher cannot make the blowhards at Westminster do likewise, it is a stock answer for the unthinking, the BBC and Guardian types qualify for this trait easily, but the Labour Party takes this to a new level, it is their only reply to everything.

      • Baron

        Here is someone who fits the category of good, unsoiled journalist, Russell Taylor, he appears on a website that doesn’t have many followers, the piece below attracted just two comments (if you want to get a better feel for Russell Taylor, scan the site backwards).

        Baron’s certain the guy would go down well given a chance on a site with more established reader base.

    • Tzctplus –

      what a joke: the privileged are imposing a work for nothing system which benefits them, but according to you this is somehow a leftist conspiracy. But I suppose you think Blair and his mates are Socialists, that would colour your comment.
      And somehow you drag immigration into this, lets just say that if people talking about immigration controls are at times called racist it is because they use the racist’s tools: stereotyping and assertions that don’t stand serious informed scrutiny.

      • anyfool

        what a joke: the privileged are imposing a work for nothing system.

        It is only they who can afford this type of thing, try thinking in the real world, try thinking that even down to council level the young of the councillors are favoured over the others.
        You say
        people talking about immigration controls are at times called racist it is because they use the racist’s tools:
        you people just cannot help yourselves, racists tools mean any word or action people like you use to shut down dissent against your pathetic view that non whites need some guilt ridden white dipstick to speak for them, that is racist.

  • Mark Steven Conway

    It’s not only writers. Young graduates are more and more being forced to gain their first work experience through low or unpaid internships. Those who have to support themselves often cannot afford to live solely on the travel and lunch money, or if they are lucky the bare minimum wage which is the most many corporations, political parties, and NGO’s offer for three to six months of an internship. Thus like the writing fraternity, the scions of the upper middle classes continue to dominate many prestigious British organisations and those who are more self reliant are left on the sidelines. You just have to look at the example of our political parties to see the proof.

    • Eddie

      Indeed – but it was ever thus. I was unemployed for a year after graduating in 1991, and so were many others. In those days of course no more than 15% of people my age had degrees, and they marked much harder too. These days, almost 50% have degrees and masters degrees, mostly 2.1s and above – a degree means nothing any more.
      Thus, it is those with rich backgrounds and contacts who can add things such as round the world trips, working with mummy for 3 months ever summer at the BBC or in her publishers office, etc etc etc, who get their CVs to stand out. Not fair, but then it never has been, Sadly, we have moved away from an elite education system where the bright from poor families could differentiate themselves with a grammar school and university education.
      These days, everyone’s got a degree at least. My cat has three. One in eating studies; another in the technology of tummy washing, and a third in making smells. And he’s still unemployed (but that’s because he is at present deeply focused on following a course in sleeping-it-off studies from the university of catnip Christmas…

      • Rob Bradshaw

        Very true, although I think Grammar Schools are equally harmful to our young generation as Private Schools and should finally be totally abolished.

        • Eddie

          Couldn’t disagree more. Social mobility has plummeted since the (often privately educated) Labour education ministers and those who have been thick enough to listen to educationalists and their crappy little unworkable theories scrapped grammars and thus condemned poor bright kids to sink comprehensive mess schools – Hackney grammar educated Harold Pinter, Alan Sugar, Michael Caine and many others; then it became a comp where 80% failed to get 5 GCSEs. It is the wholescale betrayal of the working and lower middle classes in the name of silly theories promoted by the upper middle classes for the sake of racial and class-based social engineering. Me – I am a practical man not a theorist, so I ask myself what works, The answer is selective educations – which does not mean failing those who are non-academic either, but it does mean offering an elite academic education to the best, even if that is 25% of kids. Just select on ability, not postcode as happens with comprehensives )and trust me, all the local Labour voters are desperate to get their kids into the best comprehensive which is a de facto grammar – and so make sure they buy houses in the catchment area)..

          • John Kinory

            Exactly so. Grammar schools were a boon, and were abolished by champagne ‘socialists’ who cared more about their ignorant theories and/or about looking good, than about the despised working class. In this country, so-called ‘Labour’ has betrayed the working class and been a disaster for them. Well, for everyone, but that’s another story.

            • Baron

              Well said, John, another star rating. if Baron were one of those who were forced into the comprehensive gulag, he would sue the socialist tossers for sacrificing his life on the altar of some unproved imbecility that one fits all.

              • Eddie

                And the 1970s inner city primary schools were just as bad – so-called progressive teachers at them, and the idiot hypocrite educationalists who they and governments obeyed, did not believe in such things as Standard English, spelling tests, learning times tables etc.
                The aim of this was to respect everyone’s culture (so strong Cockney or Jamaican Patois was to be seen as equal to Standard English) and to make everyone equal; also, the approach as so child-centred that it didn’t actually involved teaching kids anything – it’s called ‘discovery learning’ and it is utter tosh.
                The result? Kids left illiterate, innumerate and unable to speak Standard English. (Thanks be that I grew up just outside Greater London so that nonsense was not inflicted on me, despite some silly things of the age, so we did regular spelling tests and mental arithmetic, though not enough homework!)

                Those kids are how grown-ups and some are teachers – who don’t know their times tables, can’t spell and are so ignorant of British history that no wonder they worship any brown-faced radical Muslims who wanders into their school wearing a tent. They are ignorant and infecting children with the same disease that deformed them.

                Too much attention these days on secondary schools; primary schools are where the basics are inculcated, and it is a national scandal that 40% of kids leave them semi-literate and innumerate (like some of their dim teachers). Of course, well-off ethnic minorities know this – they pay for prep schools and public schools for little Asif and Mohammed and Sanjay.

            • Eddie

              Yes, but sadly all governments for the last 50 years have followed the same policy, like brainwashed shepherds herding sheep into the jaws of comprehensive education and thus ultimate failure and doom, because a pretty little theory and its academic creators told em to do it.

              The big problem with comprehensive education as a theory is that it is just that – it was created by unworldly educationalists (oh these academics – so many should be shot!) with the specific aim of attempting social engineering in class terms and in racial terms – the idea came from America, like drive by shootings, crack cocaine and enormously fat people.

              Maybe we should send it back and instead stick to the selective school system and traditional knowledge-based learning they retain in much of mainland Europe? The communists of course were great believers in selection by ability – they selected aged 7 in the USSR!

          • Baron

            Top marks for this posting, Eddie, you’re a star.

        • Colonel Mustard

          Try and think in terms other than ‘abolishing’ or ‘banning’ things you disapprove of. It is like burning books. Not a very nice stance. Promote an alternative on positive grounds and if the idea is good it will flourish. You don’t need to coerce others towards your utopia.

        • Baron

          Guest, take it from the barbarian: the grammar school set-up delivered by far better social mobility than the comprehensive idiocy, just look around, you see many council estate boys and girls making it?

        • Fergus Pickering

          Oh, go the whole hog. Abolish schools. Our younger generation should be left to flourish in natural ignorance and absolutely forbidden to learn anything..

      • Fergus Pickering

        But of course your cat is employed. You employ him just to be. All cats have this contract s Kipling pointed out.

        • Eddie

          Actually, my cats employ me – as generous dogsbody and occasional slave, as befits a member of such a weird and inferior two-legged species…

    • post_x_it

      Every year there is a veritable avalanche of graduates who want to work for charities, NGOs, in PR, or ‘something in the meejah’. As a result, employers in these fields can pick and choose from a pool of free labour who regard it as a privilege to get a foot in the door of one of these places, whether they do anything useful or not. Their main priority is to have a job that makes them sound interesting and helps them pull on a Friday night.
      I don’t hear of a lot of unpaid internships in engineering companies, law firms, the NHS, banks, pharmaceuticals etc. Why not? Because they employ people to get a job done, and they pay what it takes to get the best out of a limited pool of graduates who have the right skills and commitment.

  • Frank Heaven

    Nick, I agree Mumsnet is very cheeky to ask a journalist for a fee to talk about a subject.

    But in reality, the line between journalism, PR, and advertising has become increasingly blurred in the last few years. Many smaller titles wouldn’t exist without some content being ‘sponsored’, produced in ‘partnership’, or simply provided FOC.

    However, I do increasingly object to how PRs use the media. PRs are well-paid (much more so than journalists) to promote companies, and generally use the media as a free route to market. Journalists are often grateful for the content, but they got no financial reward from it, just a few extra page views. So why shouldn’t media titles receive a payment when they publish a PR-penned article?

    • handelaar

      They didn’t ask him for a fee.

  • ADW

    I suspect the internet will obliterate most traditional publishing eventually, because any idiot can publish anything for nothing. But over time there’s some hope the better writers will monetise (awful word I know) what they do by advertising space on sites, etc.

    • David Glen

      What is happening now in the ‘writing’ industry, is what happened to the music industry. The means of reproduction, hard print, is no longer needed. ‘Soft’ print, video and music once digitsed can be reproduced an infinite number of times and distrubuted for no expense.
      No one cared about the musicians, plenty of middle class dinner parties I attended had people saying “but what I get from Pirate Bay has no effect on YOU.”
      Such is the competition in the ‘meedja’ world I had last to score a film to put my hat in the ring. They went with someone else, and offered no money to someone who was probably glad for the “exposure”. In time you will have to pay to write for a big LA feature.
      “Trust me, this is good for both of us….”
      Once Kindles become as popular as walkmans – its happening, we see them on the bus, the book world will go the way of the music industry.
      Still, who cares, we once mined coal, built ships, made steel etc…

      When writers are scraping the barrel trying to ‘monetise’ I’m just gonna laugh and ask where were you when you thought the music industry was only run by ‘evil record labels’ and deserved its fate?.

      • Eddie

        But actually, writers make more per sold copy from e-books than from selling books – Amazon take 60% of the cover price (which leaves little for writers when you take into account publisher/agent fees); most bookshops take 45-55%, and places like Waterstones (lost £37million last year) are focused on core titles only (best selling celebrity pap).

        If major book chains go under, many writers wouldn’t weep a single tear.

      • LolKatzen

        I’ve paid for every e-book I’ve ever downloaded! E-books are not freeloading.

  • John Pearce

    This is an important piece -thanks Nick. If we get to a position where only the well off, or favourites get column inches, website space and plugs – we are on a slippery slope to some kind of elitist, or crony led promotion/publicity. I’ve had similar experience with conference organisers who want sessions led for “free” as it, “Will be great exposure for you”. This could well lead to a new class system of paid for and promoted works… Still we have the free for all BLOGsphere… but wait…. have you seen the creeping advertising on twitter? I fear the free internet (whatever that was) will become a pay per view market place. Perhaps the only way forward is for others to take the moral stand – to write for a reasonable fee,

    • Colonel Mustard

      “we are on a slippery slope to some kind of elitist, or crony led promotion/publicity.”

      I think we are more or less there. Much public ‘talent’ these days seems to be dynastic and ‘who you know’ has never been more important as the facile pretence of ‘equality’, ‘diversity’ and ‘fairness’ are spouted like never before.

  • A_Libertarian_Rebel

    Somehow, I can’t see BBC Newsnight covering this, in the interests of safeguarding independent journalism, any time soon….

    • Bill Brinsmead

      I guess you are alluding to the role of Mr Mumsnet as editor of the esteemed Newsnight show.

      • Kojak

        With Mr Mumsnet covering her media back Mrs Mumsnet can do as she likes – just look at how she’s dumped on her business partners for an insight into the ‘do as I like’ mindset.

    • monty61

      Don’t quite get your point. The BBC are fastidious in paying contributors/participants.

      Indeed they gave me my first ever pay cheque (I was organist at my school when they came to record a Sunday service – I even made the Radio Times, indeed my mum has the clipping 30-odd years later).

    • John Smith

      How are Newsnights viewing figures?

  • Marcus

    Some scientific journals require you to pay for publication ($400 +) They charge even more if you need colour pictures to illustrate something in your article.

    • SmartyArty

      Those journals rank waaaaaaay down the list of desirable publications to appear in. If you need to pay to publish your research, I’d strongly consider another line of work.

      • Marcus

        That’s not strictly true. Some of the neurology ones require you to pay are not too bad and their turn around for review is quicker. The point is that it’s happening everywhere.