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Huffington Post logo contest mess sheds light on free Web content delimma

Ragan.com brought my attention to a hot mess at the Huffington Post that has boiled over into the nether regions of the Internets. One of the leading news site on the Web, the Huffington Post asked its readers to submit a logo design for its new political content section. For free. Oh, well, your name will get mentioned.

As a copy and content provider, I hope you understand without me having to say it where I land on such an arrangement.

Cleverly disguised under the trendy Web concept of “crowd-sourcing,” Huffington Post’s “contest” was really nothing more than an attempt to get something for free, not at all unlike the bevy of companies on Craigslist trolling for content providers to augment their Web sites “for the chance to build your portfolio.”

Major news sites—all of them—do the same thing when they ask for people to submit their videos, texts and tweets on breaking news. “Did a tornado rearrange your town’s zip code? Send us your video! Were you there when the bus hit the daycare? Share it with our readers! Be part of the i/u/they/someone other than usReport team!”

In exchange for not even 15 minutes of fleeting Internet fame, people across the country are providing global Web sites with the very content from which they produce profit. Web clicks = ad revenue. And today, through efforts just like the one at HuffPo, far too many Web-based businesses are paying less to get it.

Here is HuffPo’s official statement on the screw up:

“The entry period for this competition has ended. Thank you to all of those who entered. Stay tuned to see the competition finalists in the coming days.”

“We asked fans of HuffPost Politics to submit suggestions for social media icon designs as a fun way of enabling them to express their passion for politics—and for HuffPost. As readers of our site know, we frequently engage our community with requests for feedback and suggestions. So while AOL Huffington Post Media Group employs an in-house team of more than 30 talented designers, we felt this would be a lighthearted way to encourage HuffPost Politics users to express another side of their talents.”

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