Forget the lemonade stands and the car washes. If you want to make a quick few bucks, social media may just be your cash cow. Or at least a very small calf.
For those who missed it, the Associated Press reported the other day on two social networks that will pay for your posts. Bubblews starts at a penny per like, view or comment for posts of a certain length (though the full formula gets a little more involved) while Bonzo Me pays its most popular posts a percentage of its ad revenue.
It ain’t much. But it’s something.
“No one should come to our site in anticipation of being able to quit their day job,” Bubblews CEO Arvind Dixit told the AP. “But we are trying to be fair with our users.”
Strangely enough, I’ve got mixed feelings on this one.
On the one hand, my writer brain is ecstatic that someone finally gets it. People go online for the content: to read stories, see pictures, watch videos, keep up with people and things they know and love. And for the most part, the bloggers, posters, video-makers, lovers, dreamers and other members of the Rainbow Connection do it for free.
That’s one thing when you’re putting up a note to friends that Aunt Ginny just got out of the hospital. But when it’s something that takes time and labor … well, as the old sermon goes, the workman is worthy of his hire. In particular, a lot of news agencies (he said modestly) have put a lot of content on the social networks; it’d be kind of nice to see even a modest return.
But – and yeah, you knew there’d be a but – there’s a potential tradeoff. He who pays, says.
I brought this up years ago when I jokingly suggested a federal bailout of the newspaper industry. While I don’t know a newspaper alive that wouldn’t cheer at a new funding source, I know plenty who would be hesitant to go on the government payroll. The reason is obvious: part of the job of the press is to challenge government when necessary, and that’s hard to do when it’s their money sitting in your bank account.
This situation is a little less blatant. And it could be argued that the social networks already have all the control they need. After all, we’re users of a free service, not customers; the Facebooks and Twitters and all the rest pay for the space and set the rules.
But given that, is it wise to offer one more leash?
Maybe I’m overreacting. Maybe it’s a good thing to make every poster a freelancer-in-waiting. If the control’s going to be there anyway, might as well cash in on it, right? Heaven knows most of us could use it.
But every time we’ve thought the social networks couldn’t possibly go farther, they’ve found a way. (Psychological experimentation, anyone?) And so I hate to open one more door, even if it’s one that holds a small paycheck.
It’s one thing to be a guest. Another to be an employee. For better and worse.
How will it all play out?
I’ll keep you posted.