How the Freelancer Payment Protection Act Would Impact Newsrooms and Freelancers

Freelancer Payment Protection Act

The rise of freelancing and the “gig economy” over the last several years has made many people keenly aware of how late- or nonpaying clients affect independent workers. In fact, the Freelancers Union reports that almost half of independent workers had trouble getting paid for their work last year.

The organization launched a #getpaidnotplayed campaign and created website called The World’s Longest Invoice to put a human face on the issue (last we checked, the tally was nearing $16 million). On May 22, the Freelancer’s Union delivered the invoice to lawmakers in Albany in support of the Freelancer Payment Protection Act. The Act would offer some of the protections afforded to traditional workers, helping independent workers in New York state collect from nonpaying clients.

The Assembly Bill passed in June 2011, and the Senate Bill is currently in the Labor Committee. The Freelancers Union is hosting a volunteer phone bank over the next few weeks to try to sway undecided legislators.

Our big questions is: If passed, what would the Freelancer Payment Protection Act mean for organizations, especially newsrooms?

We turned to Donald Siegel, Dean of the School of Business and Professor of Management at the University at Albany, SUNY, for an economist’s perspective. “It’s hard to be opposed to it,” he says. “The only concern that I would have is the cost of implementing this legislation.” That cost would likely fall to the Department of Labor and, by extension, taxpayers.

The act could also have an unintended consequence of increasing the cost of doing business with freelancers, he adds. “If you think about it from the organization’s perspective, they may be having trouble with their own suppliers or customers,” he explains. “You are increasing the cost of hiring a freelance worker, so it could reduce the demand for freelance labor.” Of course, the impact would be minimal or nonexistent on organizations that are paying freelancers in the timeframe outlined in the contract.

“Maybe just the threat alone is enough to change people’s behavior,” he continues. “I suspect that a lot of these organizations that aren’t paying people on time are doing so because they know the only recourse that these workers have is small claims court.” A writer in Minnesota recently blogged about taking a client to small claim’s court, but many freelancers choose not to go that route because of the time and headaches involved in collecting relatively small amounts of money.

Overall,  Siegel predicts that the Act will pass and have a positive impact. “Freelancers can be more certain they’re gonna get paid and that makes them more confident,” he says. “Workers are protected by organizations like the Department of Labor, and extending that protection to freelancers seems fair.”

Do Tweet Buttons Help News Sites? Yes, According to Nieman Lab


Some social media managers love the convenience of a Tweet button. Others hate how the buttons clutter up otherwise elegant web design. Love them or hate them, but Tweet buttons account for roughly 1 in 5 tweets from news organization websites, finds an analysis by Joshua Benton at Neiman Lab. Using a Ruby script that shows how many of recent tweets containing a specific URL were generated using a Tweet Button, Benton examined the 1,000 most recent tweets for 37 news sites.

According to his findings:

… killing off Tweet Buttons would, for most news organizations, remove somewhere around 20 percent of their Twitter link mentions. Maybe more, if … those Tweet Button users are often something like a Tweeter Zero — an originator that enables a story’s later spread through other means.

Of course, the numbers vary depending on the niche, presumably because readers of tech websites are savvy enough to tweet without the help of a button. Read his full analysis on the Nieman Lab blog.

This Week’s Headlines: Time Magazine Cover Makes Headlines, Judge Rules on Facebook Likes

Did Time Magazine take its cover image too far? That’s the question on many people’s minds this week in response to a story on attachment parenting. Here’s a look and this and other media news from the past week:

  • Time magazine breast-feeding cover provokes strong reaction: Time Magazine‘s provocative cover depicting a young mom breast-feeding her three-year-old son went viral, as bloggers and media commentators questioned whether the magazine had gone too far. The cover image was part of a pre-Mother’s Day story on attachment parenting, but the image seems to have overshadowed the topic.
  • Storify introduces new feature to make individual story elements more sharable: Storify, an online platform for curating social media mentions around news topics, recently added features that enable users to share, “like,” or comment on individual social media posts within a story. (For more on Storify, check out Ana Gonzalez Ribeiro’s Storify post from March.)
  • Pinterest Plug-In Lets You Track Pins From WordPress: Bloggers, copywriting services, and publishers on Pinterest have a new tool in their arsenal of tracking tools. WP Pinner, which launched this week, allows WordPress users to content on the popular pinboard site, schedule pins, track repins, and more.
  • Court: No 1st Amendment protection for Facebook ‘like’: A federal judge recently ruled that hitting the “like” button on Facebook is not free speech protected under the first amendment. The issues arose after several workers claimed they’d been fired for supporting the sheriff’s opponent for re-election. An attorney for one of the fired workers said planned to appeal the ruling.
  • Greek Journalists Dodge Threats and Yogurt to Cover Rise of Far-Right Party: As Greece’s political climate heats up, journalists face threats from members from the country’s far-right Golden Dawn party. The Athens Union of Journalists has condemned these threats and vowed that party leaders will not silence reporters. Protestors broke into a TV studio and pelted the host with yogurt and eggs on air after he’d interviewed a Golden Dawn spokesperson.

Join us at the ASJA Conference Next Week

ASJA Conference 2012

ASJA Conference 2012If you’re attending the American Society of Journalists and Authors Conference next week (April 26-28) at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City, then we hope to see you there.

Look for the Ebyline table, where you can chat with Joanne Cleaver, Director of Freelance Growth, and Jonathan Joseph, V.P. of Strategy and Development, about freelance opportunities with Ebyline.

Drop your business card in the bowl at the table to receive an invitation to join the platform and be entered to win a $200 Amazon gift card.

Also check out these panels:

  • Power Profiles: How to Stand Out on LinkedIn – Friday, April 27 at 10:15am
    A powerful social networking tool, LinkedIn helps you find sources, connect with colleagues and build your personal brand. Learn how to use apps, answer questions and participate in groups to make your profile stand out in a crowd. Ebyline blog editor Susan Johnston (that’s me) is moderating.
  • Secrets of Successful Freelancers – Friday, April 27 at 5:45pm
    Plenty of freelancers make good money even in this unpredictable economy. Learn the techniques successful freelancers use to thrive. Whether you’re an experienced freelancer or just starting out, you’ll come away with new money-making insights.Panelists include Ebyline blog editor Susan Johnston (me again).
  • Find Ideas That Sell – Saturday, April 28 at 4:15pm
    The news. Your travels. Trends. Ideas can come from anywhere you are or wish to go, even from fellow article writers. The trick is selling them to your editor, publisher or agent. This panel has the scoop on what works–and what doesn’t. Panelists include Joanne Cleaver, Director of Freelance Growth at Ebyline.

See you there!

5 Ways to Write Sexy Online Headlines


headlinesWhich headline makes you want to click more? “How Companies Learn Your Secrets” or “How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did”?

I don’t know about you, but I vote for choice No. 2.

The New York Times recently published an article on its website,, with the headline “How Companies Learn Your Secrets.” The article was about how stores are using data about their customers to create marketing strategies.

Forbes’ Kashmir Hill then posted a story (with a link to The New York Times article), but used a much sexier headline – “How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did.”

On Feb. 19, Nick O’Neill, former owner and freelance writer of the Social Times blog, which was acquired by WebMediaBrands in 2009, wrote an article about this situation on his blog. He used the headline: “How Forbes Stole A New York Times Article And Got All The Traffic.” According to O’Neill’s blog post, The New York Times article had 14,000 likes on Facebook, and Forbes’ had more than 15,000.

When posting an article online, there isn’t a more important task than writing a headline (sometimes called a title). After all, this is not only one of the major components search engines look at, it is the one and only chance to draw readers to click on the headline and read the article.

Here are five tips to writing great headlines for the web:

  1. Make them compelling and controversial: “How Companies Learn Your Secrets” is interesting, but “How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did” is much more likely to draw in readers because teen pregnancy is a hot topic. The story is also likely to see much more engagement with readers (comments), although provocative headlines also run the risk of turning off some readers, especially if the article doesn’t deliver on the headline’s promise.
  2. Stay away from puns: When I used to work on copy desks at daily newspapers, I got no more satisfaction than writing a fantastic pun headline that worked. These types of headlines do not work online because online headlines are all about keywords (see tip number two) and being to the point;
  3. Use keywords: Think about what words people will use to find your story in Google. If you use names, make sure to include first and last. Check out your stats on Google Analytics to see what keywords are most popular that drive people to your website. Some sites, such as The Onion, even write their headlines first, before the story, to maximize the number of people that came to;
  4. Keep them short and to the point: Online headlines should be no more than 10 words – the shorter, the better. When people come to your website, they want to be able to make quick decisions about which stories they want to read; and
  5. Use questions: They must be provocative and make the reader want to click to find out the answer.

What do you think? Does the headline on this blog post meet the criterion above? Let us know in the comments.

Image courtesy of Tina Phillips /