The Informal Media Economy

This week’s reading by Lobato and Thomas focuses on the employment models beginning to emerge from the 21st century.  Most notably, they focus on the rise of ‘informal media work’ and how it is undertaken by ‘non-professional’ and ‘ultra-freelance’ writers. Working for companies such as Yahoo voices, Hubpages or Textbroker, they form “Content Farms” within the content production industry. Here, employees churn out low-grade clickbait articles, on a ‘cent per-word’ rate. Sometimes being paid from as little as ¼ of a cent per word.

This not only raises ethical concerns over underpaid minimum wages and exploitation but also about the professional standard and reliability of the content being produced. Yet as academic Toby Miller highlights; ‘There would be no culture, no media, without labor- labor is central to humanity’. Overall this conflict raises many issues for the creative labour debate.

The Pros:

  • Flexible working conditions for employees
  • Allows practice for new writers or students establishing a career.
  • Quick turn over of work
  • Global access
  • Greater access for minority or impoverished regions

The Cons:

  • Job insecurity
  • Low pay/ & No minimum pay model
  • Overwork
  • No union or Employment rights
  • Unhealthy working conditions

Overall, this has given rise to the combination of ‘formal media enterprise and informal employment’ within the creative industries. Allowing for precarious jobs and no guarantee of employment within your field. Yet as the reading emphasizes, this is a global issue. As sectors within the automotive and agricultural industries continue to take the greatest hits.

Yet, this doesn’t install much confidence in budding media students such as myself. Where the idea of being unemployed or employed in a field other than the media industry seems frightening.

Quite simply, we should all peacefully await for our jobs to inevitably be replaced by robots.


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