Saturday, May 26, 2018

Warren Throckmorton has new post-Patheos blog, recounts situation, asks what expectations Patheos had that he didn't meet that inspired them to cut his blog

http://www.wthrockmorton.com/2018/05/25/dear-patheos-what-expectations-did-you-have/

Since Throckmorton's blog was the only blog I even bothered to read I noticed his output slowed. 

In the discussion and debate about Throckmorton's being dropped there's been an observation that the style and content didn't change but ... what about frequency?   Patheos seems like a lame clickbait-driven ad machine.  What if Throckmorton just didn't crank out enough material fast enough and often enough to monetize things to the satisfaction of the host?  Not that there's been any clear or straightforward explanation for why Throckmorton got dropped.  I've written about how stories getting spiked come from advertisers, publishers and sponsors of publishers more than hostile sources or editors already, but I was only indirectly considering the possibility that there might be rules by which Throckmorton might not have been getting ENOUGH traffic to keep in the club. 

The assumptions from Throckmorton's supporters (and I am sympathetic myself) has been that some kind of top down edict was motivated by a dislike of "what" Throckmorton has published.  That's possible, too, but it may not be the only variable to consider. 

Throckmorton has shared that it was said by someone connected to Patheos that the expectations had been made clear to him months ago but he's not sure what the expectations were.  One possible way for people at Patheos to believe they were crystal clear could have to do with contract stuff, about which we know pretty much nothing at this point. 

There's a commenter at Throckmorton's new blog going by BD who has proposed that a 2017 contract stipulated changes in expectation of blogging frequency. 

http://www.wthrockmorton.com/2018/05/25/dear-patheos-what-expectations-did-you-have/#comment-72393

This is about the January 2017 contract changes written at Gods and Radicals, by a lawyer who was on the Patheos Pagan channel. (A third of the Pagan channel bloggers left Patheos when BN Media introduced the new contract)

“The new contract also requires writers to post with a certain frequency, two to three times a week. While I don’t care that I will be earning less, it does irk me to have my income cut and then be told I have to write more in order to earn it. Jason has assured us this provision of the contract will not be enforced, but in my experience as a lawyer, the only reason to include a provision in a contract which you say you don’t intend to enforce is so you can later spring it on the person. It’s a classic way for employers to fire someone for a discriminatory reason, for example: They decide to suddenly start (selectively) enforcing a contract provision which was not previously enforced so they can claim to have a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for the termination.”
...


https://godsandradicals.org/2017/01/31/repost-read-this-before-patheos-deletes-it/

...

Under my original contract I make $50 a month. Twice in the 4 years I have been writing here, I made $100 because of especially high page views. (Incidentally, neither of those posts was anything to be proud of.) Fifty dollars is not much, but I know it is a lot more than most writers at Patheos Pagan make. I have it on good authority that only three of us at Patheos Pagan make that much. Under the new contract, I would make a little less, but since I’m not reliant on the income from Patheos, I really don’t care about that.

Others Patheos Pagan writers would make a little more, which I am glad for. But while five or ten dollars a month is more than nothing, it is still a pittance. Jason has repeatedly told me that Patheos is suffering financially, the implication being that we should be happy with what we get. Of course, we haven’t seen their books, so we don’t know how much revenue Patheos receives from ads and other sources, or where it is going. Needless to say, it is common for miserly employers to claim poverty when employees demand a living wage. (I do find it interesting, though, that Patheos can afford to fly its editors out to visit their corporate headquarters and to other events, but they say they can’t afford to pay their writers more than third-world wages.)

The new contract also requires writers to post with a certain frequency, two to three times a week. While I don’t care that I will be earning less, it does irk me to have my income cut and then be told I have to write more in order to earn it. Jason has assured us this provision of the contract will not be enforced, but in my experience as a lawyer, the only reason to include a provision in a contract which you say you don’t intend to enforce is so you can later spring it on the person. It’s a classic way for employers to fire someone for a discriminatory reason, for example: They decide to suddenly start (selectively) enforcing a contract provision which was not previously enforced so they can claim to have a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for the termination.

But the real problem with the new contract is the increased editorial control. The new contract reserves the right to edit any of our posts, and even to change the format of the post or to use the content to create a quiz (?). We are explicitly prohibited from using profanity (with some minor exceptions) and the “tone” (a very subjective term) is expected to resemble that of other online media with which Patheos compares itself, like Slate or Huffington Post. The contract also prohibits advertising or self-promotion. We are also barred from posting a “farewell” post without approval, and even approved farewell posts will be deleted after 7 days. (What is that about?) And Patheos can delete any post it deems, in its sole discretion, to be “offensive”another subjective term.

...

So making what is admittedly a speculative guess, is it possible Throckmorton was just not prolific enough to comply with the newer expectations and got cut out for that and possibly other reasons?  If the explanation is that there was no one post that catalyzed the decision that doesn't mean that the problem might not have been that for the controversies generated writing about people with connections to associate or parent companies that some other reason could be invoked that, strictly speaking, had nothing to do with the past criticisms but that could be enforced in a way that ensured some kind of disciplinary activity could be taken up that was "also" for some other end.  Just a guess that attempts to account for the patently conspiratorial theorizing doen on Throckmorton's behalf on the one hand and the flat explanations that it wasn't about any one post on the part of Patheos on the other. 

Again, just a guess for a weekend drawing on some comments from BD and an awareness that when Patheos changed ownership pagans bailed from the platform and explained at some length why. 

Over the years I have had posts that have the title "answers to questions you didn't ask".  I thought I had one about whether or not I would monetize this blog and the answer to that question is "no" because I believe what I write should be available freely to anyone who pays for their internet connection.  I did not believe that this blog should make a cent and that people should be able to read about the history of Mars Hill as documented during its peak and fall free of charge.  The lack of monetized interest and writing the blog as a public service and as a journalistic/historical experiment in chronicling the Mars Hill saga has, as best I understand it, a Fair Use safeguard in it.  Once you monetize stuff someone can try to make a claim of copyright infringement, which, if memory serves, Mars Hill tried to do with Throckmorton a few years ago in complaining to Patheos.  But monetizing can go the other way, once you're monetizing then if you don't rake in the money the suits want they don't see why they should keep you around.  It hasn't been considered up until recently but it's an element BD's comments at Thorckmorton's new blog has introduced and so it seems worth noting.  If those stipulations were in an agreement that could, as a speculation mentioned earlier in this post, go some way to explaining why Throckmorton's at a loss for why he got cut and why anyone at Patheos might have the impression that the new expectations were conveyed months ago.

Thematically, this kind of thing could be of a piece with the European Union requirements that websites are crystal clear about cookies and data tracking for user information that folks in the United States have to comply with.  Google's revised privacy policy took effect yesterday, for instance. 

So if you're reading this blog or this blog post from the European Union you should have gotten a display saying this site uses cookies and that by reading the blog you agree to the use of cookies and so on.  That's for privacy policy issues but policies can stipulate that writer X creates Y number of posts in order to stay on Z format or platform. 

If folks want to consider this all as a long-form speculation then this could be a consideration that for a given "text" there can be a "subtext" that is observed that doesn't necessarily articulate the "pretext" that was the catalyst for the "text".  Without all of these elements a "literary analysis" will tend to be incomplete.  What may be happening, to go by what's been written about and around Throckmorton's removal from Patheos is that Throckmorton's fans are writing about the "subtext", Throckmorton's trying to understand the "text" and Patheos has at least someone saying the expectations were made clear a while back which gets at what can be thought of as "pretext".  But that the decision/event/"text" is opaque seems to be all that is clear at the moment.

2 comments:

chris e said...

"So making what is admittedly a speculative guess, is it possible Throckmorton was just not prolific enough to comply with the newer expectations and got cut out for that and possibly other reasons?"

The flip side of being on a commercial platform is that it operates under the logic of companies everywhere, and is always likely to go through the kind of financial squeeze that requires .. sweating of assets.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

yes, "sweating of assets", thanks for putting it that way.

It may be Throckmorton was an asset that was sweated. You might have seen some comments at Throckmorton's blog where someone pointed out that traffic for Patheos took a nosedive late last year from which it hasn't recovered (yet).