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Is Brijit liberating or enslaving?

April 25th, 2008 · 2 Comments

briji For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, Brijit is a website that publishes 100-word summaries of various web, TV, radio, and print media. The idea is that there is so much information out there – wouldn’t it be nice if we had the short-short version so we can get the gist of it and decide if it’s worth reading or watching the whole thing.

It’s a neat idea, but with so much content out there, it would be impossible for an editorial team to cover it all. Brijit came up with the genius idea of asking anybody to submit these 100-word summaries in exchange for $5.

Now, let’s get this straight. Five buck for a hundred words works out to a paltry five cents a word. Top freelance rates in Canada hover at around a buck a word, and even that is pathetic. Most writers settle for around 50 cents a word, which is still ten times as much as Brijit is offering. I would assume that no serious writer would even consider working for pea…oh wait, I think even peanuts are worth more than that.

The sad thing is that the writing on Brijit is actually quite good. Are there people desperate enough to spend an hour or two reading an article and then capturing the essence of it in a 100 words? It may sound simple, but it takes far longer than you’d think to do it right.

Brijit ups the ante by submitting each requisition to competition – you actually have to compete with three other writers in the hopes that your piece gets chosen. So most times you just end up writing your beautifully crafted cribs note for free. Competition, however, is a great motivator for some people apparently.

Is Brijit turning freelance writing into a cheap mockery? Is it dragging down freelance rates by calling anybody a writer? Can you even stomach reading summaries that you know were written by word slaves? 

Tags: freelancing · journalism · the internet · web 2.0 · writing

2 responses so far ↓

  • JeremyB // Apr 25, 2008 at 6:04 pm

    For starters, BRIJIT IS LIBERATING! Thanks for recognizing that the writing on Brijit is good. We’re proud of it — it’s a testament to our editors, our community of writers, and the quality of the underlying content we cover.

    That said, let’s take the notion that Brijit is some sort of slave master off the table. Slavery is involuntary, and there’s nobody writing for Brijit that didn’t explicitly choose to do so. Not to read too deeply into your analogy, but it demeans the horror of actual slavery.

    Second, let’s make a more meaningful comparison of payments here. We’re not competing with Conde Nast for writers — we’re competing with other sites that work with user-generated content. And of course, the vast majority of these pay precisely nothing. Zero. Zip. Nada. So even if we dropped our fees to $1, we’d still pay infinitely more than virtually any online content site out there.

    Finally, a word about competition and process. At present we take up to three submission for a typical assignment, which means you’re only competing with up to two others. And in terms of speed, some of our most prolific Brijiteers can craft up to three abstracts per hour. To be clear, we never set out for someone to make a living on Brijit. But publish two abstracts a day and you’re talking about $200 per month — it adds up. And it’s particularly good if you’re going to read / listen to/ watch the source material anyway, especially since you have the flexibility to do so in your pajamas.

    Hope you’ll stick with us as we grow.

    Jeremy Brosowsky
    founder & editor-in-chief, Brijit

  • Antoine // Apr 28, 2008 at 7:09 pm

    Thanks for your comment Jeremy. From a public relations point of view, I think it’s brilliant that the founder of Brijit would respond to my misgivings. I respect that a lot. You’re an eloquent spokesperson for your company and I appreciate the points that you raised.

    I agree that my analogy to slavery is a flawed one and obviously has more to do with creating emotional resonance than verisimilitude. I also agree to an extent that the Brijit community of writers is motivated less by money and more by competition, or by some sense of purpose. I don’t quite get it, I suppose, but am willing to acknowledge that perhaps there are a group of people out there who just love to write summaries and share some sort of camaraderie.

    User-generated content after all, is a labour of love, like Wikipedia for example. But that’s the crux of the issue that I had. Free content is priceless because it comes from a place of sharing and community. When you put a price tag on that content, it changes the dynamic. By its very nature, money indicates a perceived value and sets up an economic structure. It changes a socialist dynamic to a capitalist one.

    In the web 2.0 world, anyone can be a writer, or a musician, or a movie producer. Should they get paid for it? Perhaps. But if they do it for the love of it, not the money, would they even care?

    These are questions that will be answered in time, I’m sure. I’d just like to say I respect Brijit and have no qualms with the intention or premise of the site, which really is quite marvelous. Best of luck to you.