Nick Denton (q.v.) has a stunning ability to pack even the simplest sentences with venom and innuendo, making every paragraph sound like the least contemptuous thing he could say.

Gawker Media has a new payment system for its indentured writers. The system was beta-tested on Gawker.com and a couple of other sites, and like all betas, it led to a system crash, with Choire and somebody else finally, at long last, quitting for good. As of yesterday, the new payment system applies to all Gawker sites. And the whole thing reeks of “This is the best you could hope for, you unworthy layabout. And if you don’t like it, walk.” (Careful: The last time that happened, Engadget ate Gizmodo for breakfast.)

So let’s fisk the new system, as published on Valleywag – with, oddly, Noah Robichon as author credit, though that ain’t fooling nobody. (Excerpted.)

It’s only on the Internet that a writer’s contributions can be measured…. [w]hich makes it so bizarre that most writers, on the Internet as in print, are paid for the sheer brute quantity of their output.

Gawker has been equally backward. [I]n the large [sic], writers have been rewarded, at $12 a post, for mind-numbing frequency. When we’ve paid a higher rate (the $200 “feature” rate) we’ve often not been rewarding better pieces [but] merely encouraging the padding of perfectly good short items.

Admission: Some items can be short and good at the same time.

[W]e have repeated the bad habits of traditional media organizations: leaving remuneration to the arbitrary will of upper management; and, by treating words as if they were Soviet steel output targets, encouraging quantity over quality.

Early on in the commercial blog era, frequency was the key to the success of a site…. We learnt [telltale British English] that lesson, and vowed never to be out-produced again. But we now really are reaching the limits of sheer volume. Readers can’t take any more.

Shorter Nick Denton (and/or ghostwriter): Quota systems don’t work. (I’d wager they didn’t work for Soviet steel, either. Perhaps somebody on staff has a master’s in Russian history – where else would they end up working? – and could tell us for sure.)

It’s fine to pen the occasional self-indulgent or self-referential item. But we’re not going to waste the editorial budget on them when we’re investing so heavily in the sites.

The implication here is that self-indulgent or -referential items carry a marginal cost. They don’t. These items would tend to be shorter, and we already know short can be just fine.

For several months now, we’ve displayed the number of views each item receives. It’s not a perfect measure. The view count does not reflect attention paid to the posts on the front page[,]

If people can read your entire item, or all they need to read of it, from the “front” page (actually any omnibus page), then you don’t get paid for it even though it is child’s play to calculate its pageviews.

The obvious solution for the writer eager not to be cheated in yet another way is to write half a sentence and break it up with that notorious Gawker “innovation,” MORE AFTER THE JUMP. But we had already been told that short items were of worth.

nor photo galleries (which are usually junk views anyhow);

Unless you’re the photographer. Now would be a good time to abandon ship, since Denton thinks your work is junk. (Remember: Contempt is his middle name.)

You will be expected to contribute a set number of posts each month in exchange for your monthly base pay.

The quota system, an admitted failure, is still in place.

On top of your monthly base pay, you will be eligible for a bonus based on the number of pageviews your posts receive each month.

By implication, Denton can ignore the pageviews of all your posts that meet the quota and pay you only for posts exceeding your quota.

This total includes any pageview on any story with your byline that was read during the month, even if the story is months or years old.

Denton fails to point out that many items, especially links with no commentary, carry no bylines, yet somebody put effort into them and most of them attract comments. Who gets paid?

Your site lead

Apparently Gawker sites no longer have editors.

will be able to tell you the pageview rate for your site, and give you a chart like this one to for calculating [your] bonus.

For the majority of sites, there is no cap on the amount of bonus you can earn each month.

Which sites do have a cap?

In other news, young Noel Jackson is back working for Denton. I put in a word on both sides. Of course I counsel caution, but only to one side.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2008.01.02 12:42. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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None. I quit.

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