The author deserves it.
The other day, I read an excellent post by journalist Dan Tynan titled “My Job and welcome to it.” If you are a journalist, blogger, or other type of writer — or have dreams of becoming any of these things — I highly recommend that you read this. It might open up your eyes about how a professional writer works and how the decline in print journalism is affecting them. Many thanks to @estherschindler on Twitter for including this link among the dozens she tweets each day.
In it, he laments about the way his work is echoed on the Web:
And, of course, the blogosphere may pick it up. Kind-hearted conscientious bloggers will write a one paragraph summary and link to the story, citing the source where they found it (though not necessarily the original source). Some will add their own commentary or expertise, though this is pretty rare. Others will lift the story wholesale, but retain my byline and some notion of where they originally found the story. And some evil bloggers will lift the content and claim it as their own, the bastards.
From all of this I get exactly bupkis. Oh, there’s added exposure I suppose. I do always put a link to my own blog (Tynan on Tech) in the bio, and sometimes I see a small traffic spike. But really, the benefit to me personally is next to nil.
I added the emphasis in the first paragraph. It’s the point of this post: that too many bloggers and online content creators are linking back to their sources — but not necessarily the original source.
I see this on Twitter all the time. The Huffington Post, which apparently regurgitates top news and opinion items with a blurb and a quote — sometimes quite lengthy, going beyond what’s considered “fair use” — is frequently linked to from Twitter, Digg, and other sites. The only organization that benefits from this is the one that echoes the content — in this case, The Huffington Post — not the author of the original work or the organization that paid for the work to be written. The result of this is a potential loss of credit and advertising revenue for the true source. People read the meat of the content on the aggregating site, and don’t bother to dig deeper at the source. This not only contributes to the problems we’re having in the world of journalism, but it feeds the “think for me” attitude of so many people who are trying to consume the information that’s out there. After all, why should I read an entire article and form my own opinion when an organization like The Huffington Post can deliver the highlights and opinion for me?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not bashing The Huffington Post. It does serve a purpose. What I am criticizing, however, is the inability of people to recognize the source of someone’s hard work and to share a link to that source rather than to the regurgitated version on another site.
Oddly enough, another link shared on Twitter soon after the link referenced (and properly linked to) above rammed this point home — at least in my mind. It was a link to an article by Mack Collier titled “Five reasons you have a crappy blog.” I read the article, which I found interesting, and was surprised to find a statement buried at the bottom of it that said:
I clicked the link on the word “here” and wound up at Mack’s blog, where the exact same post appeared, but with the title “Five reasons why your company blog sucks.” (I guess the word “sucks” was too outrageous for the other site.)
This worried me. Had the other site, the one my Twitter friend linked to, stolen the content from Mack? I went so far as to fire off an e-mail message to him, apologizing for my snoopiness and asking whether he’d given the other site permission. He wrote back promptly, assuring me that he had.
Content theft is a major concern of all writers and bloggers. I’ve seen other sites steal content from newspapers and other bloggers and I’m always aware of when it may be happening again.
My point is this: if you’re going to share a link to content with someone, share a link to the original source. (Yes, “original source” is redundant, but I think redundancy is required here.) The same article — or a good portion of its content — might appear multiple times on the Web. The original author deserves to have his work written where it appeared first. This helps him gauge the popularity of a post or topic. It helps concentrate all comments related to the post in one place. If he’s been paid by the source site to write the content, it helps earn him points with the publisher that’ll get him more work in the future or increase his level of compensation. It could also help with advertising revenues if you click an ad on the site.
And you can bet that when I tweeted the link, I used Mack’s site as the source.