Hijacked Blog Content or Valuable News Resources?
Have you ever had your material hijacked, stolen or plagiarized? What are your rules for quoting, distributing or sharing your content? In the last week, I’ve been acutely aware of several different types of sites that are thriving on using others content for their own gain (financial and web traffic). Some bloggers subscribe to the Creative Commons thought and others hold to traditional Copyright laws.
How would you feel if a post you wrote about a wine business topic ended up in the next issue of a wine magazine? You might be excited for the exposure, but would you expect to be compensated for your work? At the minimum you would expect to be credited for the article and have your contact information displayed. Chances are the magazine is making money off of you, so payment as a freelance writer would be the norm.
How does this work on the web? As bloggers, we’re often excited to be referenced on other sites and such references are the goldmine of SEO rankings within Google. Circular references and linkbacks (especially on popular sources) are key ways to boost your search engine rankings. Recently, I’ve seen a wave of aggregate sites that capitalize (even prey) on the content from wine writers. In my opinion, some of these models go as far as stealing content. Here is a look at four common uses of your content. How do you feel about these types of sharing sites?
Paper.li sites, while bordering on the spammy, are innocent ways to aggregate content of the people you follow on Twitter. My understanding is that you create categories and content buckets (hashtags) that collect the tweets of the people you follow. These items are posted on a newspaper type page that showcases the content.
- The Pros: Post includes a synopsis with a direct link back to the original content. The Layout is a quick easy read of the articles that interest you. An archive of previous days is easily accessible.
- The Cons: The tweet is not always accredited to the person who wrote the content. I may be sharing something that a fellow writer wrote and the Paper.li will attribute the article to me (at least in twitter image).
Sites like WineBusiness.com and the newly launched Today in Vino attempt to provide a resource of top wine news information. At Wine Business, editors sift through hundreds of daily content items and surface the stories that they determine to be the best. The site has become a trusted industry resource for the best stories on wine. Being featured here can certainly increase SEO rankings and traffic count. Today in Vino syndicates news from top wine blogs but also allows writers to upload their own content. The site allows readers to vote on articles which create a social hierarchy of popular content. Each site provides a direct link back to the source content with only a brief synopsis of information.
“Dear Nectar Wine Blog,
Many of the top Wine blogs have agreed to syndicate their RSS feed to us, and I would now like to request permission to re-publish your RSS blog feed on our web site too.
The benefits to you include…blah blah blah…
Each RSS post we syndicate is headlined with a long-term, one-way, link back…blah blah blah
In short – we provide increased awareness, online marketing, and promotion for your brand, blog, and/or web site.”
Really? It all sounds good but when I went to visit the WineMiles.com site, I was appalled with their model. HUNDREDS of blog posts in their entirety were on their site. An easy RSS feed reader grab results in instant quality content from various sources across the web. While they claim to provide a link back and reference to the original content, with 100% of the post on their site, why would someone want to link back? With full posts from Dr. Vino, New York Cork Report, Washington Wine Report, Vinography, Vinotology, Palate Press, Good Grape, etc – why would I even need to visit their sites? WineMiles has banner ads on their site and is essentially making money off of other peoples content. To their credit when I asked them to limit my content to a 100 word synopsis with a direct link back to the original source, they immediately complied. But, how many of the writers even know about their content here? Do you care? Are you up till 1AM writing to pad the pockets of some lazy aggregator geek? Visit WineMiles.com and see if they are sourcing your full RSS feed.
Site and Content Hijacking
While I’ve yet to discover a blatant theft of my material, I have seen tweets from several friends who have found their content surfaced on other sites with no back reference to the original content. How do you handle these issues? Hundreds of amazing pieces of content are written daily on the internet. More news crosses my “desk” on twitter every day, than I would even care to read in an issue of any major wine magazine. Because this quality content is published online, theft and plagiarism is as simple as a copy / paste. As a community we need to police these types of sites together. What culprits have you seen? Is there a central place we can aggregate offenders? With 500+ wine blogs, the community should ban together to police the theft of content.
Most, if not all of us work a day job and burn the midnight oil with a glass of wine to provide daily and weekly content. The passions and hobbies represent our dreams and creative outlets. The content should be properly represented and credited. I’m hoping that as a community we can police these hijack sights and limit their use of our content.
16 comments on “Hijacked Blog Content or Valuable News Resources?”
Thanks for this post. We were recently approached by Wine Miles (as were several of our wine blogger friends) and after looking at the site I couldn’t see anything that made me think that this *wasn’t* a lopsided relationship with the RSS scraper site getting all the win. I also contacted the site and asked if they would just do an excerpt for us instead of the full post; we’ll have to see if they comply.
Piggybacking off of someone else’s talents and hard work – this is why I put that copy of “The Four Hour Work Week” right back on the shelf when I realized what the deal was.
An interesting post, and one that got me thinking.
I’ve never had any problem with WineBusiness.com as their Blog section is a headline act only and clicking on the link send you straight to the originating web-site. Sure, they get stats out of the links and extra traffic for their ad justification – but they’re a great focal point for the blog “grazer” to pick out what’s current, relevant or interesting.
The other sites I was not familiar with, and I share you concerns – placing practically verbatim posts on a single site which negate the need to visit the originator, makes it look like the posts started off there or posts so many articles as to mask any originality or uniqueness (and garners them ad revenue as well) is worrying.
As an aside I hope you don’t mind the type of news story and blog reviews (linked) I use at the start of my “Greybeard’s Corner” posts,
Greybeard (Karl Laczko)
Thanks for the comment and I am completely fine with that style of sharing. There is a direct link back to the original content without scraping the entire post.
Love reading your stuff! Always informative and thought provoking!
I got the WineMiles pitch also and had a similar reaction. What’s in it for me? I saw you had a link and thought that maybe I was missing something, but apparently you don’t like it either. Guess I’ll follow your lead for now and do the minimum, and keep an eye on them.
Any site that scrapes my entire content is not in it for mutual collaboration. They’re in it for the easy access to information to pad their own pockets.
Great post. I was out of town when I received the email from WineMiles, so I only just looked at the site today. You are absolutely right. I am certainly happy to get links back to my site, but I’m not willing to have my content given away on other channels, with only a minimal SEO gain to show for it. I told them the same thing that you did.
The way that Today in Vino is doing this seems like a much better model. I will get the same SEO gains from participating on that site as I would with WineMiles, but they also link back to my site for the full post, meaning that people who want to read the post will have to hit my blog to do so. Most of us bloggers aren’t making money from our blogs, so it hardly seems like too much to ask that we at least get the traffic on our own websites from our work.
Not only do I love the way Today in Vino is approaching their model, I appreciate the company and man behind the vision. He is a man of integrity!
By making wine bloggers posts available on our site, our intention was not to steal content, but was instead to provide an example to be used in conjunction with our syndication permission requests that went out.
Unfortunately, our roll-out process was flawed, most acutely because we used full posts to demonstrate our offering. This was a mistake and has since been corrected. It is also something we address in detail in our FAQ for WIne Blog Owners. We put the posts up so that blog owners could view what we were proposing and make a quick and informed decision as quickly as possible, not because we intended to steal anyone’s content.
During this current recruitment phase, we’ve contacted each and every blogger listed on our site asking for their permission to syndicate content. Those that have declined, we have removed immediately and without question, and we have tried to make it very clear that we’re more than happy to syndicate partial posts of 100, 150, 200, 250, 300, 350 words, etc, or not at all, if someone does not wish to be a part of our system.
The Wine Miles mission is to serve as a conduit that assembles wine information from a variety of sources, and then send wine information seekers through to the bloggers who have authored that content. By aggregating the content of a large number of bloggers, we’re able to create value for wine seekers in new and unique ways.
If we get a good participation rate among the bloggers, wineries, and vineyards whose permission we seek, we’ll be able to provide a new and better search experience for wine information seekers.
If you do a search on Wine Miles for a particular wine or vineyard, such as, perhaps, “silver oak” our goal is to have results from a group of hand picked sources. A similar search on Google leads to a lot of clutter, and a search on any one blog is too limited. Conducting this search on Wine Miles will give information seekers the ability to quickly scan through several hand-picked and pre-selected information sources that they can easily click through to via Read More links back to the original articles.
Because of the way we present our site to search engines, those blog owners who have decided to be a part of our site not only benefit in this way when searches are conducted at Wine Miles, but they also benefit when those searches are conducted out on the web. Our Tag pages stack relevant posts from a variety of bloggers based on an algorithm that automatically scans and compiles groups of related posts. This presents unique and valuable pages of content that summarizes what a diverse set of hand-picked wine bloggers have to say about a particular topic, and then routes visitors through to the sites of blog partners who have blogged about that topic.
We do a number of other things that benefit bloggers, such as improving your SEO, and minimizing your risk of getting hit with Duplicate Content penalties, which you can learn all about on our FAQ for Wine Blog Owners, and which also includes a Case Study on how Wine.com syndicates its content to stay on top of the search engines.
If wine blog owners want some food for thought on the pros and cons and nuances of how and when to syndicate their content, as this blog post suggests, then the Wine.com Case Study, and section on SEO in our FAQ for Wine Blog Owners is not to be missed.
The good news is that despite a regrettably bungled feed partner request process, we’ve had a fantastic response. The majority of wine bloggers we’ve heard back from have given us their approval to syndicate their content, and we’re still in the recruitment phase and will likely be contacting another 100+ wine blog owners next week before beginning to market the site to the public.
I think the jury is still out on you. Your misfortunate roll out will cause a scrutinized look at your practices. Your best bet is to provide an aggregator of synopsis with link backs to the original content.
That’s just what we’ve done.
We’ve set the default syndication to the first 50 words, followed by Read More links for the remainder of our demonstration and recruitment phase. This is similar to what Google, Bing, Yahoo, and most other major search engines do without asking anyone’s permission.
The responses to the 300+ permission requests we sent out last week are still rolling in and the majority have been positive and have given us their approval. We’ll probably give it through the end of this week and then take down / remove and/or substantially deprecate those who have not responded.
A couple of other notes on this topic.
(1) We don’t scrape content – we ping a blog’s publicly available RSS URL periodically, and only access what bloggers have made publicly available via their blog’s RSS feed settings. Scraping and pinging someone’s publicly available RSS URL are two completely different things. Many bloggers limit what gets sent through their RSS URLs on their own. One of the first things a blogger can do to protect their content is limit what gets sent out via their RSS URL, because there are many people out there (not us though) who will argue that content made available through Real Simple Syndication (RSS) comes with an implicit license to be syndicated. This is something to be aware of if you’re a blog owner. My philosophy, and I think most people who study the topic closely will agree, is that as long as this content is accompanied by links back to the original content, its almost always a good thing for the content owner.
(2) To put things in perspective, Google, Bing, and a host of other lesser known search engines do scrape your blogs all the time in order to present the approximately 20 – 30 word summaries they display along with links back to your content.
I didn’t get the pitch — Wine Miles just decided to post my work in it’s entirety without compensation. I’m completely angry and feel violated.
The guys at Wine Miles posted a nice rebuttle here. I was with you when I first visited the site and saw my content already in full theft…contact them and they will amend or remove it.
Appreciate all of the valid points made hear, will keep this in mind as our site grows. Today in Vino does not currently use RSS feeds, this was in the works at one point, but I did not want to remove myself from moderating the content on the site. While there are many great articles and bloggers out there, I don’t want to create a site with so much content each day that it becomes too much to absorb. I prefer to find what is interesting to me, and allow others to post what is interesting to them.
Balance is power…
Thanks for bringing this to our attention. Turns out my “invitation” was deep in my email since I was traveling for the holidays. I have always remained skeptical about such requests and have caught many an aggregator re-using complete content from my site and have had to deal with them sternly.
In this case, I have read the About Us and Blogger FAQs and I am currently inclined to believe the intent of WineMiles and it certainly helped that they responded here on your post to help clear things up. My content is currently displayed as only the first 50 words and the (read this…) points directly to my site. I will keep an eye on the stats to see if this model truly results in an increase in traffic, however, I like the idea of helping consumers get an opportunity to improve target searches and ease searching on a specific topic like wine.
But, I will be keeping a close eye for the first sign of any shenanigans 8^)
Thanks for the thoughtful post! This has been happening at least once a week to me and I have mixed emotions. Here is what I’ve decided: Make no fuss (UNLESS) there is no link back to my site and credit to me (this has yet to happen), let it go and be happy for the traffic it may drive to my site, never RT, @ or publicly draw attention to it (if the person has not asked my permission to post my work, they don’t deserve a shout-out or thank you). I ultimately find it icky, and lazy, but I realize that someone who is slapping other people’s posts on their blog are never going to be recognized as an industry leader or influencer of any kind. I guess it ends up being their loss and my gain. Have at it hijackers, and good luck trying to garner respect!
How do you stop sites like paper.li fromposting your content. To me, it seems as though all they’re doingis hicaking my content for use on their domain to beef up their webbsite. They do it pretty ieddiately so how does (can) Google determin whose content it really is and who is the originalposter of that information? Not sure they can. Then, you’re possibly labled as a content farm and slapped by the panda update.