Let's say that quiz interactions from McMahon come out to 5% of ad impressions for all of BF. What would a site as big as BF pay to ensure that those 5% of impressions don't disappear overnight? At most companies, I'd imagine quite a bit.
Even if we look at the low number for revenue generated from McMahon's quizzes ($200k), it's easy to imagine a company paying that much or more to continue driving those numbers. If someone is providing you a service for free that accounts for a very meaningful percentage of revenue, how much revenue could they be generating for you if you actually incentivized them to do that work? 1.25x? 1.5x? 2x? More?
It would seem to me that BF never had the realization that "huh, maybe we should protect this asset instead of protecting our short-term profits and praying she keeps doing this for free forever."
And yet here they are, having lost that percentage of revenue because they had this mindset. I don't think she needed a six figure salary necessarily, but BF made exactly no attempt to do _anything_. Unlike an unpaid intern, McMahon could have kept doing this indefinitely, not just for three summer months.
But the larger point is that economically productive employees in their early career are almost always exploited, so it wouldn't have been hard for Buzzfeed to throw some relatively token amount towards her and have her be over the moon with it. Most college students would love to get $20k for doing something they were procrastinating and doing for free, especially if you package it with an ego-boosting title.
In some cases, it could be less output, or lower quality. Money (or other explicit rewards) changes the psychology of doing work vs. volunteering it. It adds pressure, makes the work feel like a job instead of a hobby, and can lead the person doing the work to choke on deadlines, slack off, look for shortcuts, or even give up entirely.
Of course, people providing valuable services to a for-profit business should be fairly compensated, and companies shouldn’t be trying to exploit volunteers.
But monetary “incentives” are in general quite a terrible system for eliciting good work.
It's hard to make money for creative endeavors, for several reasons, and there are generally two ways to make money from them: put everything into it and hope for the best, or have a "real job" and do the creative thing on the side. Regardless, and personally-speaking, I prefer doing creative things for free because that's the best way to keep my interest-level high.
I'm glad I don't work for you.
edit: More to the point, I think this idea that people don't work for money is one pushed by management at the expense of the workers, and when I hear employers putting that out there, I assume those employers are... bad to work for, because they think that by being manipulative, they can get you to work for less.
Usually, those employers have less pleasant cultures and pay less than employers who simply pay more than their competition.
I don’t employ anyone, so you don’t need to worry about whether I would hire you to keep doing your hobby and kill your love for it.
Myself, and a few other developers, refuse to monetise our third-party apps for the video game Destiny because doing it for free means we have no obligation to any customers. If I was being paid to do this, I would enjoy it a lot less.
And they're probably not wrong. Bright-eyed teenage students are a self-renewing resource. Industries like BuzzFeeds thrive on them. As long as they keep them coming in as content consumers, they'll never be lacking of people willing to spend time creating content for them. BF can dole out status in a semi-respected field. That alone has value to the students.
This isn't that new. Plenty of companies seem to be A-Okay not paying interns to do real jobs. Apprenticeships in the UK pay just £3.70/h. And every junior position requires 3 years industry experience. It's no surprise that people are forced into working for pennies.
The only real problem for BuzzFeed here is people being able to kick up enough fuss that makes them look bad. Given how the rest of the world treats young workers, I think they'll be fine.
Looks like quizzes are valuable to BuzzFeed, if the gist of the article is true.
It doesn't necessarily follow that the price of a quiz should go up. The price of a quiz depends on the supply of and demand for quizzes. This quizmaker may be able to charge a premium - certainly the price will be non-zero - but it's unlikely to reflect the value it adds to BuzzFeed.
(This fundamental disconnect between price and value is what drives the greater returns to capital vs returns to labour. Labour competes with other labour; capital captures the difference in the cost of labour and the value created by labour. And the whole system is set up to tax labour instead of capital, because labour isn't very mobile, while capital is global.)
> Labour competes with other labour
And consequently, capital competes with other capital. And in this day and age, it's not expensive to create a website.
Assuming she's a world genius at making quizzes, all she needs in a domain name + some viral marketing, then slap ads on top on that. Some extra content would help, to drive visitors. But considering how people thrive on just doing quizzes, her MVP may not even need anything besides the quizzes.
> labour isn't very mobile, while capital is global
The $ I spend on mechanical turk and the online contractors I hire when I need them say otherwise.
> capital captures the difference in the cost of labour and the value created by labour.
No, factors of production are paid at their marginal productivity. Capital without labor usually can't produce much. When labor is scarce and highly productive (software engineering), it commends high prices.
I agree with you that writing quizzes seems simple, and a skill that could easily be learned by anyone. However, she has written thousands of them. The article says she was #5 of BF. There are not many people who do that.
Let's take another example: anyone can play basketball. But it takes some special skills to score while a team of highly motivated, trained and paid professionals try to prevent you from scoring. If you keep succeeding, this is what commends a high wage - even if anyone can play basketball.
(Although Marx would roll his eyes at the idea that pricing was based on the skill of the producer relative to her peers, and divorced from demand for the good.)
Seems her "secret" for writing a lot of popular quizzes was that it wasn't work to her. I can relate how someone at BuzzFeed getting paid to make them would be much less effective than McMahon creating them as a pastime she naturally enjoys.
So the claim that "shadow work" is becoming more prevalent doesn't make a ton of sense, especially when you net it out with the types of labor that are becoming newly salable (through taskrabbit and all the other forms of the gig economy).
“Please remove the last scanned item from the bag and scan it before placing it in the bag.”
“Please wait, help is on the way.”
I really wonder whether that system actually helps prevent theft, or if it was originally put in place because stores suspected that theft would be a problem, and we're just stuck with it now.
Plus, in the couple stores I frequent, there's always an employee standing at the ready to clear out the errors. Which, I imagine, would go a long way toward reducing theft on its own.
Either way, they seem to be universally bad. I can only hope a store tries to buck the trend by turning off the weight check and finds that it causes no problems. Maybe if that happens, the other would follow suit.
With Walmart specifically I haven't gotten "Unexpected item in bagging area" in a couple of years at least. It's probably a combination of an improved system on Walmart's part and learning how to place items in the bagging area appropriately on my part.
There's obviously a long way to go to make these kind of systems ideal (the UX of entering in produce items is probably the most common frustration for me nowadays) but the all-too-common refrain that I hear that these systems are basically unusable without some employee to constantly babysit them is false, at least at the stores I frequent that have them.
I severely doubt it's the case. Besides, businesses aren't typically interested in having a competitive market anyways. It's probably more profitable to not lower prices at all and lobby to make it harder for competitors to lower prices . . . or just conspire with major competitors to keep them higher. Both actions have a strong historical precedent in US markets, at least.
While price fixing obviously happens, it usually only happens in markets with a small number of producers. And even then, it will inevitably collapse.
Look around, goods are very competitive nowadays. Computers are competitively priced, all goods on Amazon, nyc $1 pizza, food, gasoline, cars, clothes, etc.
Very few businesses have the fat margins you claim are the norm. And the businesses that do are usually not producing goods, but renting services: telecoms, advertising, etc.
 In particular, rewarding consumers who reduce costs by passing on the cost savings.
How is that remotely analagous to the buzzfeed situation or self checkout
See the analogy now?
If you choose to not drive to a job that you signed up for knowing that your only option to get to work was driving, then you’ll just not earn income. The company won’t otherwise pay to transport you there.
I mean, long ago, before the invention of the department store or grocery store, the customer wasn't allowed to just roam around in the aisles grabbing products. A clerk had to go and fetch the inventory from the shelves for the customer.
Shoppers today do a tremendous amount of shadow work for the grocery store but think little of it. We actually like it.
> At the time of its founding, grocery stores did not allow their customers to gather their own goods. Instead, a customer would give a list of items to a clerk, who would then go through the store, gathering them. This created a greater cost, and therefore higher prices. Piggly Wiggly introduced the innovation of allowing customers to go through the store, gathering their own goods, thus cutting costs and lowering prices.
> Customers at Piggly Wiggly entered the store through a turnstile and walked through four aisles to view the store’s 605 items sold in packages and organized into departments. The customers selected merchandise as they continued through the maze to the cashier. Instantly, packaging and brand recognition became important to companies and consumers.
- You can keep headphones on and keep listening to a podcast without being rude to the cashier
- You can scan and bag stuff in an order that makes sense (e.g. so you don't get eggs at the bottom) at your own pace
Arguably the same rings true of every wiki, internet forum and community site in general.
The question hence becomes 'what point does a site or service go from being innocent to exploitative?'
Few would say Wikipedia is exploiting its users. Some may say that about StackOverflow or YouTube, but many would say it about BuzzFeed or the Huffington Post.
What's the line between a community and a platform and a publisher? What kinds of sites and services and business models based on user generated free content are a good thing and which aren't?
(It adds a little of discoverability and traffic, that is nice and useful in internal meetings, but it's not my main reason to use it.)
From wikipedia they get information, from the Stackexchange network - answers to questions that enable or improve their work or hobby; Buzzfeed's Justin Bieber haircut quizzes, however, do not provide any value to the users, apart from a tiny fleeting endorphin rush, maybe.
Depends on whether you measure people's stated or revealed preferences. Traffic stats make the revealed preferences pretty clear.
And unlike certain other websites Stack Overflow shares the dataset back to us.
You started with exploitative commercial sites which "tend to have the same business model." Wikipedia doesn't belong on the low end of a concocted poll of "few---some---many" in that regard. It's a different class of service with a completely different governance, content licensing, software licensing, and log access model. Putting it there pretends those issues aren't vital to your set of questions.
Is BF designed so that Rachel naturally learns how the BF sausage gets made? Seems that a) she never had any interaction with decision makers at BF, b) she still has no way to deduce what inferences can be made when people click on BF quizzes, c) she had no access to the decision-making process at BF nor how her work affects to it.
The consequence of that is she was blind-sided by a set of ethical concerns. It was a tweet from a laid-off employee that first suggested her work may affect BF's bottom line and the livelihood of the people who worked there. The pipe that connected her with BF almost seems designed to have prevented her from ever facing any ethical concern whatsoever.
>Few would say Wikipedia is exploiting its users. Some may say that about StackOverflow or YouTube, but many would say it about BuzzFeed or the Huffington Post.
You may have answered your own question with your examples. Wikipedia isn't monetized at all. It relies entirely on fundraising. All the rest have some sort of monetization model which is built around the assumption that their users will generate free content that gives their platform its value.
On the monetization spectrum, though, I would say StackOverflow does much better than YouTube. It's designed entirely around providing value to its users, rather than merely selling their eyeballs (you can find lots of information about SO's approach to monetization here: https://stackoverflow.blog/2016/11/15/how-we-make-money-at-s...).
My personal spectrum from best to worst looks like this:
1. Funded by donations (sort of utopian and doesn't always work)
2. Funded by directly selling services/goods worthwhile to the community (pragmatic and mutually beneficial)
3. Funded by selling generic ad space to third parties (lazy as business models go, but newspapers have been doing it for centuries - this is usually a sign the organization doesn't have a well-defined audience: cf. Facebook/Youtube vs. Stack Overflow)
4. Funded by secretively profiling people and selling their personal information without telling them (just evil and gross)
As for platform vs. publisher, that's been an interesting topic in internet law. See for instance Cubby vs. CompuServe in 91: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cubby,_Inc._v._CompuServe_Inc.
glances over at timer counting down from 15 minutes
Netflix did not reach out to her because it's her "15 minutes" they reached out because she has a skillset that overlaps with their needs. Long after we've forgotten about this article she'll likely continue to be successful in internet marketing if that's the route she chooses.
This young woman just learned that something she does for fun in her spare time has a high economic value.
2) Because with said experiences, she developed mastery on the topic (cf the 10'000h rule)
3) Because she can now charge sweet sweet money for her services (being the #5 quiz maker on BF would imply that she knows how to provides value)
In retrospect, even if she did if for free, it wasn't a bad deal: it was a fun way to spend her time and she gained some skills
It's not much different from whoever hacked Linux servers as a teen, then suddenly found this skillset could translate to good money on the market- sometimes more than what they studied for in college.