- The Washington Times - Monday, February 7, 2011

THE HUFFINGTON PURSE

Behold the media caterwaul du jour: Arianna Huffington, once waggishly photographed in bed with comedian Al Franken for a Comedy Central project called “Strange Bed Fellows,” has sold her Huffington Post to AOL for a tidy $315 million. Now all Ms. Huffington has to do is start paying her bloggers.

“The Huffington Post’s home-grown content, for the most part, has been especially notable for its low cost to Huffington: low as in free. Although some actual paid journalists work for the organization, her blogger network is an amazing achievement; she’s persuaded untold numbers of people to write for nothing, to have their names on the page as compensation for their labor,” says Mediactive columnist Dan Gillmor.

Mr. Gillmor and Atlantic senior editor Alexis Madrigal — who once wrote a single post for Ms. Huffington — are now pondering an e-mail the proprietress sent to her bloggers, post-sale. Their stuff could be read by up to 250 million around the world, she told them. But money? Hey. Not mentioned.

“It’s hard to imagine something that sends a more dismissive message,” Mr. Gillmor says. “Which is why I’m hoping that Huffington will recognize how this looks and then do the right thing. Namely, cut a bunch of checks to a bunch of the most productive contributors on whose work she’s built a significant part of her new fortune. They’ve earned some of the spoils.”

NOW HEAR THIS

Those disquieting buzzes and odd silences heard in mandatory Emergency Alert System radio messages may get interesting. The Federal Communications Commission has announced that it is developing “the first-ever Presidential alert” to be aired across the nation. See the plans, as released Feb. 3, here: www.fcc.gov.

The agency, along with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Weather Service, are parsing the idea of having President Obama (and future presidents) say, “This is the president speaking,” followed by warnings to Americans that they could face an imminent threat. A big, fat possibly alarming public awareness campaign is planned; technology will bring these alerts to smart phones and other mobile devices.

“There will be chatter about how this is an expansion of presidential authority, but if you think about it, the only surprise is that there hasn’t been one of these in the past,” said Tom Taylor, an analyst with Radio-info.com.

PALIN

They are nimble, indeed. Sarah and Bristol Palin have filed applications with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to trademark their names — mother within days of the 2010 midterm elections, daughter in September, just prior to her appearance on ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars.”

We’re talking “Sarah Palin” and “Bristol Palin” here. But this should not come as any surprise. Celebrities living and dead, singers, animals, even the “Hollywood” sign over Los Angeles have trademarked names, just to keep any revenue from merchandise agreements in the family.

“These savvy women are taking all the prudent steps a brand holder does to protect an asset,” said Suzi Parker, a Politics Daily columnist who is tracking the progress.

“Politicians seldom trademark their name but they might do so to prevent others from using it, for example, to sell shoddy, unapproved merchandise or ‘official’ candidate memorabilia,” Ms. Parker notes. “A search for other political figures such as President Obama and potential 2012 GOP presidential candidates Mike Huckabee, Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney do not show any pending trademark applications. It is a rarity, say trademark attorneys, for political figures to file such forms.”

AN ECONOMY OF WORDS

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