HuffPost US has closed its unpaid contributors platform because of the “ubiquity of social media”

HuffPost Canada’s blogging platform is staying open, even though HuffPost US has ended its self publishing contributors platform.

“As each country edition of HuffPost operates autonomously, our blogging platform in Canada remains the same,” wrote Andree Lau, HuffPost Canada’s editor-in-chief, and Lisa Yeung,  managing editor, blogs and lifestyle, in a memo sent to HuffPost Canada blogs contributors on Jan. 18.

“Submissions to HuffPost Canada’s blogging platform (and HuffPost Quebec in French) have always gone through editorial review, where a team of our editors assess and then edit each potential blog,” wrote Lau in an email to J-Source. “It’s a system that has allowed us to feature countless diverse perspectives and opinions, from analytical and incisive to heart-warming and quirky.”

However, HuffPost US has closed its contributors platform, which it launched in May 2005, because of the flood of information online and “ubiquity of social media,” wrote Lydia Polgreen, HuffPost US editor-in-chief, on Jan. 18.

“One of the biggest challenges we all face, in an era where everyone has a platform, is figuring out whom to listen to,” Polgreen wrote. “Open platforms that once seemed radically democratizing now threaten, with the tsunami of false information we all face daily, to undermine democracy.”

Instead, HuffPost US has launched two new commissioned sections: Opinion and Personal. HuffPost US will pay contributing writers for those sections.

“Our hope is that by listening carefully through all the noise, we can find the voices that need to be heard and elevate them for all of you,” Polgreen wrote.

By contrast, Lau said HuffPost Canada doesn’t have these issues because of its process of editorial review.

“Our system works for hearing from Canadians from all walks of life, and we continue to invite them to submit for the same reasons people post on platforms like Facebook and Twitter: to connect and to be heard,” she said.

Coinciding with the changes at HuffPost US, HuffPost Canada has also updated its guidelines for blogs submissions.

“For the past year or so, we’ve been refining the kinds of submissions we’ve been accepting to focus on high-quality, well-written and compelling blogs, and to exclude travel articles, product reviews, public relations-heavy blogs, and Q&As,” Lau said.

But, like the former HuffPost US contributors, HuffPost Canada bloggers are unpaid.

“We want our submission process to be open to all, and not limited by a quota or financial restrictions,” Lau said. “Most of our contributors are people who do something other than writing as their full-time work—activists, artists, experts in various fields who want to share their knowledge, stories or ideas with a wider audience. HuffPost offers that platform, with a much lower barrier to entry than paid, professional journalism.”

Lau said HuffPost Canada contributors can post at their convenience and don’t have deadlines.

In lieu of payment, Lau said HuffPost Canada provides contributors with a network to connect with the company and audiences around the world.

Contributors have the potential to reach HuffPost Canada’s audience of 6.4 million monthly unique visitors and its audience on platforms in the larger Oath network, which includes Microsoft and Yahoo.

In addition to its paid editorial staff, HuffPost Canada introduced its blogging platform when the publication launched in the country in May 2011.

Yeung was part of the team that helped launch HuffPost Canada, which became HuffPost’s first international edition.

However, critics have attacked HuffPost for its labour practices. Nine HuffPost Quebec writers who had agreed to contribute blogs quit in 2011 over concerns about writing for free.

“Many writers argue that publishing models that turn on unpaid or low-paid labour are degrading the craft of writing, cutting into professional writers’ livelihoods, lowering entry-level requirements to become a professional writer, and, critically, depressing writers’ fees,” writes Nicole S. Cohen, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto Mississauga.

HuffPost UK will also maintain its unpaid blogging platform, according to the publication’s editor-in-chief Polly Curtis. But in addition to its current staff of 38 paid journalists, HuffPost UK will start commissioning articles from a small group of paid freelance columnists.

Errol Salamon is a contributing editor at J-Source. He is a senior lecturer in digital media and communication in the department of media and performance at the University of Huddersfield. He taught in the Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota. Salamon is also co-editor of the book Journalism in Crisis: Bridging Theory and Practice for Democratic Media Strategies in Canada (University of Toronto Press, 2016).