Chris Anderson Is Worse Than Wal-Mart

On known plagarist and hack Chris Anderson’s terrible business practices:

What he is actually proposing is the complete divorce of capital and earnings from those who make the product that is being sold. The only thing that is “Free” in this instance is the labor of the people who earn Chris Anderson money.

What he is literally saying is that the business side of an editorial operation—which is, in this case, the owners, not merely the part of the organization that handles the business of the site—is the complete authority of the editorial operation. That they retain all of the value, and that they have no obligation to share any of that income with any other part of the business. (In his description, this website in question “makes good money,” which then pays the people who make the website something “nominal; a few bucks,” or nothing at all.)

All of which is to say that the owners provide none of the product which is actually being sold and retain nearly all of the profit of that labor.

What he is proposing is down somewhere, on the scale of ethics, well beneath Wal-Mart’s policies of no longer hiring any full-time workers so as to avoid health and unemployment insurance. It is in fact some weird sort of neo-feudal, post-contract-worker society, in which he will create a dystopian and eager volunteer-slave system of “attention-paid” enthusiasts (which is to say, people with no other options, and no capital of their own) to create products from which rich people can get richer.

The Awl: Chris Anderson Is Worse Than Wal-Mart

(via Richard Metzger)


  1. Wait a minute, I thought we already lived in that society.

  2. What’s funny is that his plan isn’t even remotely new. Zines, magazines, and weekly newspapers have been working on that system for decades. The mantra is “we can’t afford to pay you just yet, but we’ll start paying/bring you on full-time/give you a spot on the masthead as soon as we make a profit.” Then, the editor/publisher works as hard as possible to make sure that the conditions necessary to make a profit never happen, and the long line of free labor that gets tired of nonpayment and leaves is immediately replaced by new grunts who figure that they’re not going to end up the same way. Hell, some of ’em deliberately volunteer their services because they were warned away, because they’re delusional enough to figure that they might buck the odds.

    Me, bitter? Hell, no. I just spent years as a pro writer dealing with the same broken promises, and I finally came to my senses and quit after the last dolt asked me for an article and blew up when I asked about pay rates. (I believe the phrase was “since I’m not a well-heeled trust fund baby, I won’t be able to pay until we make a profit.” I very seriously doubt this journalistic genius ever put out a first issue, much less a second or a third.)

    My favorite tale, though, involved Seth Friedman, the publisher of Factsheet Five, who shut down his magazine without notice to staff or contributors and announced that he was putting it up on the market for $70k, because Some Guy told him it was worth twice as much. Not only did he screw over contributors who’d been promised pay for services rendered (myself included), but then we all found out why he needed that $70k. About a year before, he’d put out The Factsheet Five Zine Reader, full of other free content he’d appropriated from zine writers who figured that they might get some exposure, and he needed that money to pay back his advance. Faced with all that, he promptly disappeared, but that didn’t keep him from accepting subscription money and spending it on himself in the idea that a future buyer (who never materialized) would cover those subscriptions.

    Yeah, I’m honestly not surprised that Anderson would think that this was a great system. Hearing the stories of Wired contributors other than Cory Doctorow and other pet asskissers, it seems to work out perfectly well for him in his day job, so why wouldn’t it work elsewhere?

  3. As the first commenter said, this is ALREADY how things work. Nobody’s paying you to write this, right? But if I do a Google search for your blog, Google shows me ads and earns money. But it was your writing – not even hosted on Google’s service – that made them that money.

    By writing this you are ALREADY an “eager volunteer-slave”.

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