For those who haven’t heard, PunkNews.org was sold to BuzzMedia. The quick summary is that only Aubin Paul, the owner of the site, is making any cash off this. He’s not sharing with his “volunteers” (or “exploited unpaid people who make the site possible” as some would argue). He’s also not disclosing how much money he’s making. These practices are totally valid in a lot of cases, except where “community” and “volunteer run” type phrases abound.
Razorcake’s collection of articles sum it up much better than I do, so really read those. I think they offer a great perspective. I’d also like to throw my own couple of ideas in on the issue:
1) PunkNews always has kind of sucked. It’s almost exclusively press releases. Very little consideration is given to anything that doesn’t come from a label. This is evident both in the material they publish and for anyone who has ever attempted to get something published there (hint: lie a little and make it look like the band’s management is pushing this directly).
2) I don’t fundamentally disagree with advertising. Yes, ads that are intrusive or exceptionally lame (“guess whose boobs,” “you’re the 1,000,000th visitor,” etc) are a bummer, but I have no problem with advertising itself. It’s a way to provide something for free to an audience while a company can say “hey, what you’re doing is cool. Let us give you some money, just let people know that we’ve supported you.” Yes, the company is doing it in hopes of making more money in the future, but they’re also taking a risk in giving money to something that they think is worth supporting for some reason. Remember, without Red Bull’s ad dollars, it’s unlikely that Felix would have jumped from space.
3) Making money is not necessarily bad. Getting things for free for years and then keeping all the cash when it comes in is lame. Continuing those practices with income flow is unconscionable. If PunkNews starts paying its main editors and contributors for the profit they’ll be generating for Mr. Paul and Buzzmedia, then that’s pretty cool. Even if the site still sucks.