This post has been spreading like wildfire, for obvious reasons, among the journalist set. The Atlantic, a publication that never stops talking about how profitable it is, deigned to offer a seasoned professional journalist the grand total of $0 to republish his work-- after he made some revisions for them. But, as the editor says, he'll get buzz! And besides, they only pay $100 for original reporting.
For context, I've talked to tiny academic publishing houses about republishing my work, and they've always offered at least a little cash. It might be $25 or $50, but they've offered, and we're talking about non-profit academic publishers. There, too, the understanding is that nobody makes money off of publications themselves, but that there is a standard procedure whereby your publications lead to salaried employment and professional advancement. (There aren't enough of those jobs, but that's a separate discussion.) For a freelancer, there is no eventual gig.
If this isn't glaringly obvious: writing for The Atlantic is the kind of gig people think they'll get once they get the buzz. What is the higher rung, exactly, that the buzz is supposed to get you than The Atlantic? Where's the big money magazine, if that magazine doesn't qualify? The sense I get is that the big publications assume that they can pay writers in "exposure" and then the smaller publications will pay them. But the smaller publications can't pay, or think they can't pay. They think they're building exposure for the writers to eventually get published in the big, profitable publications... like The Atlantic.
If you're trying to write professionally and you're regularly working hard and getting paid in buzz, you're getting played for a sucker. People get exposure all the time and end up broke. It goes for publications too; magazines or blogs or whatever get written up in some prominent place, have everybody buzzing about them, and can't pay their editors. There's no natural endpoint for buzz. Sometimes you get paid. Lots of times you don't. A lot of the young writers I talk to have this notion, they'll get the buzz, and suddenly people will start sending them checks. Doesn't have to happen. Usually doesn't happen.
Sadly, the long-term trend will be towards more and more of the journalism and opinion class coming from the ranks of the born wealthy, a trend I think actually began long ago. Especially because those who want to do it professionally are always getting undercut by the amateurs-- like me.