Media portals (legal) vs. “Feed scraping” (illegal)
Chalk it up to ignorance, disinterest, or media illiteracy, but I’m just now opening my eyes to all the different ways a piece of content gets sliced and diced for distribution to different outlets.
For example, a documentary can stand alone as a film, but can also be edited for airing on broadcast TV, or sold in bits and pieces to educational institutions, like schools or museums.
Online content can appear on several sites at once, for example an article on CNN.com can actually be a shorter, edited version of a full-length piece originally on OPRAH magazine’s website, and the CNN article drives the traffic back to Oprah’s website.
For a better walk-through of media portals, check out this interview with Chris Johnson, VP Hearst Digital: “We are very aware that you can’t just create a magazine website and expect people to simply show up… you want to find the right strategic partners who can help you distribute your content and drive traffic back to your site.”
In essence, media portals are sites that use other sites to get their own traffic, and in turn drive traffic to their strategic partners.
But what if you took content and placed it on your own site so that it appears the content is your own, thus driving traffic to your site? This is a concept called “Feed scraping” and it’s a form of content theft has seems to blur the lines of plagiarism.
Merlin Mann of 43 Folders defines feed scraping as “Republishing online work without consent and wrapping it in ads.” Blogger Jason Kottke calls it “Extreme borrowing in the blogosphere”, also the name of his post on the subject.
Recently, blogger Joshua Schachter had a story of his linked to All Things Digital, a blog owned by Dow Jones and run by writers from The Wall Street Journal. All things Digital correctly attributed the blog post to Joshua and made it clear who the author was. However, a big hullabaloo ensued when some folks thought there an implied affiliation between Joshua and Dow Jones, and that Joshua worked for Dow Jones, or had his material copyrighted by them.
The conversation it started was about affiliation, attribution, and transparency of online works. Is it right for a media company to “reblog” your content, without your permission, and make money form the ad sales generated by the traffic?
Metafilter creator Matt Haughey had an article of his also excerpted on the All Things Digital website. His thoughts on it:
“This is weird, apparently the Wall Street Journal’s All Things Digital does a reblogging thing. I sure wish they asked me first though. That’s a hell of a lot of ads on my ‘excerpt.’ If they’re just trying to drive traffic to articles, why have comments on excerpts? That makes no sense to me.”