A few weeks back I was contacted by Buzzfeed reporter Katie Notopolous interested in doing a story about my ongoing PayPal woes. Buzzfeed published Katie’s story yesterday. In the story, Katie included a link back to my original PayPal blog post.
Immediately after the story was published, I began receiving pingbacks on my blog and my comment section began to fill with stuff like this…
I decided to follow a few back thinking that they might be commenting on the story. Instead, what I found was content scrapped verbatim from Katie’s Buzzfeed story, including the link back to my original blog post.
Which explains why I was getting pingback after pingback from these content mills as they copied and pasted the story exactly as it appeared on the Buzzfeed site, right down to using the same Getty photo (that I suspect Buzzfeed had to pay for the rights to use) that Buzzfeed used in the original story.
Each of the links I follow (close to 20 now and they keep coming in) was the same. No additional context. No editorializing. No opinion on the story. Just a straight copy and paste of Katie’s story onto their site.
What was worse is that Katie – who did the original work – isn’t even attributed as the original author of the story. On most sites the content is posted by “admin” or “editor” or some other anonymous title. But in some cases, there are other people taking credit for Katie’s work, like Michael Blythe, if that is indeed your real name.
While I have had content from my own blog scrapped and farmed in the past, I haven’t seen it happen quite this quickly and at this scale.
For journalists, these must be both exciting and terrifying days. You now have a potential audience reach unheard of in human history. Exciting. But publish online and your work will be stolen and quickly capitalized on by others. Frustrating.
I don’t greet the disruption of journalism with glee. And I’m not justifying the theft of content, but in a digital world content will be copied, it is inevitable. If your business model is dependent on advertising revenue derived from driving traffic to your site with original content, you are in trouble.
I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know that trying to stop this from happening is like whack a mole.
Attribution and content theft in a new media world by Clint Lalonde is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.