Paying For Talent: Buzz Feed Leads The Way
Buzz Feed might be best known for it’s no-shame approach to littering their site with click bait, but their “Books” vertical is getting a lot of positive attention from the literary world right now. Seed Jones has just been hired as their Literary Editor and he is making his presence known by spearheading Buzz Feed’s first fellowship for emerging writers. The fellowship is seeking previously unpublished writers to participate in a four month program that includes career mentorship, research, reporting, pitching ideas, and panel discussions. The biggest surprise about this fellowship is that it is offering writers $12,000 over the course of the program. There are a limited number of fellowships available to unpublished writers, and many new writers revert to writing for various online magazines for no pay. Buzz Feed is paving the way for appreciating artists no matter what stage they are in their career.
There are many start-up websites and magazines that do not offer writers payment for their contributions mainly because they cannot do so from a financial standpoint, but then there are also much more prominent publications that still offer no pay. Back in September, it was reported by several news outlets like Gawker and Time that the actress/director/author Lena Dunham was not offering payment to those who auditioned to be a part of her book tour. From an interview with Dunham and The New York Times:
The seven who made the final cut won’t be making cameos in “Girls,” Ms. Dunham’s HBO show about Brooklyn 20-somethings. Instead, they’ll be the warm-up acts — performing free of charge — on an elaborately produced, 11-city tour to promote Ms. Dunham’s new book, “Not That Kind of Girl.”
Historically, the value we place on artists has evolved in many ways. Artists have had to suffer under whatever the current mood is of society towards artists in their era. Actors struggled to receive the appreciation they deserved in the 16th and 17th centuries in Elizabethan England and the landscape for artists has changed several times throughout history. The biggest misconception among people now, is that people feel entitled to art and we weigh the talent that a skilled writer has far differently than the type of talent a successful stockbroker must possess. Can you guess which kind of talent makes you more money? Furthermore, it is increasingly difficult to not take advantage of certain services and technologies that give us cheaper access to art that is actually hurting the very artists we hold in high regard. Do you ever browse the bookstore for new titles and recommendations and then buy the books on amazon? Do you ever go to a concert of an up-and-coming band at a whole-in-the-wall bar and instead of buying the CDs they’re selling, look them up on Spotify? The conundrum people face is that we need and crave art, music, and books, but we’ve gotten used to not having to pay for it. However, as opportunities like the fellowship Buzz Feed is offering become more frequent, hopefully society will begin to regard artists’ contributions in way that is in line with the public’s demand for quality art and literature.