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Jarvis Coffin

Jarvis Coffin

Posted: February 15, 2011 11:56 AM

The blowback from the greater scribing community - paid and unpaid - to the news a week ago that Aol would purchase the Huffington Post for a reported $315 million has been striking. It divides into two camps. In Camp One are the legions of Huffington Post bloggers that feel their common cause has been trussed-up in the night and carried off to market. In Camp two are legions of professional (paid) writers in general disbelief, or awe, of the staggering commercial result to arise from the unpaid contributions of - well - ordinary people.

In a column titled, "At Media Companies, a Nation of Serfs," New York Times media columnist, David Carr quoted Anthony De Rosa who wrote:

"We live in a world of Digital Feudalism. The land many live on is owned by someone else, be it Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr, or some other service that offers up free land and the content provided by the renter of that land essentially becomes owned by the platform of the land."

Both camps are united around the idea that value was created for free. One camp has a problem with that, the other doesn't it. Ironically, it is the unpaid, "serf", class that cares less about the money. Instead, they mourn the loss of something more precious to them, which is influence.

This, of course, is the sub-text to the indignity projected by the paid classes with regards to the deal. Influence, they question? Influence? These people are serfs!

It's a disconnect. We move on.

Money has never been the object at the heart of the New Media revolution. The chance to participate has been a far bigger driver - the chance to create and share, and the chance to influence. In this sense the serfs of the New Media world have come very, very far from a time and place where the means of participation and influence were tightly controlled - by money.

If you are Aol, however, relax not. It may still be fresh your mind that serfs overran the garden walls once upon a time and, therefore, you have become wise enough to know that $315M buys land, but unlike the Feudal Age gone by, not serfs. It is as it was before, only more so. Digital Serfs abound, and they are - well - free.

 

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