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Why Bloggers Need Google’s Help?

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The Blog Plagiarism post has resulted in a wide ranging conversation – and well, now I can point to two that make a lot of sense and bring up different issues. Mike over at Techdirt thinks me flipping out is a pointless. Its a battle one cannot win perhaps? He says since services like Bloglines and other aggregators make money off the content I publish, the other sites well, they should do that too.

I think he has a good point, and I wondered about that when looking at Squidoo, which in the words of John Battelle, “is either brilliant, or an AdSense honeypot scheme, or both.” I admit, it makes me shudder! In the case of say Yahoo RSS, Google RSS reader or Bloglines, the difference is that readers are making a choice, and deciding well, they want my feed. In the process, the middle men are making money, but its good, because I get readers. In straight up scraping, I get nothing out of it. To this Mike adds,

So, the complaints that these sites are “taking money” from the original sites is probably bogus as well. They’re not taking money away because no one’s reading those sites.

The big question however, and I wanted to save this thought for a later day, but what the hell…. why is in this wide open new media landscape, everyone is using “the content creator” as the lowest possible denominator. I mean scrapers aside, what does the content creator get out of it? If everyone makes money, except the guy at the bottom….. well.

Anyway I think the problem of splogs and scraping can be fixed if Google steps’ up to the plate. As one of my readers commented, its not in their best interest, at least in the short term. Paul Kedrosky writes:

Why would Google act, you know, evil? Because eyeballs are eyeballs and traffic is traffic. Until someone really shouts and makes a lot of noise, forcing either Google or its advertisers to sit up and notice, what’s the incentive for Google to shrink the size of its Adsense network — or even admit this is going on?

They don’t have to, but they should. Because if they don’t then the stand to devalue the currency that makes them the “clear and present danger to Microsoft.” Andy Abramson thinks that if Google gets tough, it will be like killing the body that provides the nutrition (AdSense) and the head will automatically shrivel.

11 Responses to “Why Bloggers Need Google’s Help?”

  1. I don’t think there are any dark conspiracies as much as all of this is happening probably due to AdSense support dept being understaffed.

    There are no serious money to be made in scraping – it’s probably 10 unique visitors a day, which generate 10 clicks, and hence increase the amount of click fraud, which in the long run hurts Google.

    With that, I think that if publishers like Om make a stink about it, we’ll see improvement in the way the copycats are dropped from the index.

  2. Well, this is a topic that’s near and dear to my heart… how does one protect the value of their own creation while simultaneously reconciling with the fact that people are becoming uncontrollably empowered with their own ability to copy/replicate bits. As John Perry Barlow wrote over a decade ago, at the birth of the commerical internet, it’s like “wine without bottles”.

    So as all media become bits and everyone owns their own bit-manufacturing factory (with zero marginal cost at that), it’s clear that this isn’t just a Hollywood problem… it’s a problem for the rest of us prosumers/indies as well, as Om has insightfully been prodding the community for some time.

    As I’m sure many of you will agree, the answer to this “disruptive” problem is not yet known, at least not at an obvious level. And many of us are involved with efforts/projects/ventures that are trying to address this issue head-on.

    That said, there is one thing that I know for sure. The answer does not lie in some type of extension to traditional biz models. The risks to protecting your own content, today, is a direct coefficient of the fact that the world is now internetworked by computers (e.g. your own bit factories). This is a whole *new* problem, and the more you’re rooted in traditional strategic thinking, the less likely you are to be a solver here.

    Heck, every big media exec goes to bed every night thinking… “how the f**k is Google making that kind of money? and how did we miss it… what did we do wrong?” Even when they surround themselves with a thousand analysts for explanations, it is certain that they won’t grok it at the end.

    So wholly new solutions are needed. But history tells us that such innovations need a long time to gestate… yet once understood, the hockey stick curve takes hold. The answer might very well already be among us… and whoever has the answer will hold the key to the foundations of the new economic/business models that will eventually reshape all “creative” industries. The thing is, it won’t be obvious and quite possibly counterintuitive.

    OK, taking the plane down now from 20,000 feet ;-)

  3. why is in this wide open new media landscape, everyone is using “the content creatorâ€? as the lowest possible denominator. I mean scrapers aside, what does the content creator get out of it? If everyone makes money, except the guy at the bottom….. well.

    Speaking very vaguely it seems that historically the content creator is always at the vulnerable end of the financial equation. Musicians and music labels in the 40s and 50s is a very easy example. Newspaper reporters and photographers in the 90s surrendering reusage rights in perpetuity to the papers is another. Where the laws are unclear or in favor of the business person, the jewels of the creatives will be plundered.

    I suspect many an artist has pondered, as you are, about why they should produce anything if it means anyone but themselves will profit from. Business people will almost always, by their nature, seek to reduce the profit from anyone else involved in their endeavor while maximizing their own. The artist either then needs to become a savy business person or expect a life of unequal compensation. That’s seems to be a law of our style of capitalism.

    Once upon a time a wonderful creative company was tired of others profiting off their creative property (even though they borrowed heavily from others to get going) and this company, tired of the theft, decided that no one should ever get the right to reuse their creative. And 75 years later later the Disney company is still extending their control. Once upon a time they were simply protecting their personal creations, now they are manically protecting what their corporation owns, very little of which was created by anyone living.

    With the web and feeds and early agreements on open standards what we see are many thin lines of rules and norms that financially motivated entities will seek to push any way they can in their favor. It will take a bunch of lawsuits, a bunch of new thinking and a lot of screaming content creators to make them larger more recognized lines.

    I think if one states one’s site’s conent is not for reuse by means of scraping, non-human request or however it should be legally termed than that request should be recognized by all.

    I’m sure Jim and Craig at craigslist and many other top-level content creators/providers are thinking on this topic every night. In the big picture I think simply becasue you can scape a site does not mean that you have the right to do it. From afar it’s akin to transcribing a WSJ article and reposting. The AP can always offer syndication rights to whomever they chose however they want, but they can restrict those rights however they want, even if one can pick them up off the wire.

    So what’s your plan to limit usage of your feeds seems to be the big question. Creative Commons extension? Formal copyright? Approve feed requests one at a time?

    Thanks for sharing all this as it all coming to a website near year sooner than later.

  4. I don’t see the content creator as the lowest possible denominator either. I see the content creator as the originator — and in most cases recognize that people will realize who created the content. Every once in a while some scumbags will try to copy your content, but it’s unlikely that it will last very long or that they’ll get very far with it.

    Also, I disagree with Greg’s comments above. There are RSS readers that display ads, and I don’t think most people will mind. The ads aren’t profiting on other people’s “content” but profiting off of *making that content useful* by putting it in an easy format to read. I’m sure plenty of people would bail out of readers like Google and Bloglines if they refused to post whole feeds.

    Let’s face it, the content you write is, in many ways, an advertisement for you. Not all of it is going to work — and some of it is going to get copied unfairly, but that’s just a minor loss compared to the people who will know it’s you and will come straight to the source.

    This is a silly debate, to me, and seems way too similar to the RIAA or MPAA whining about people sharing music and movies. It’s all about control.

    Stop worrying so much about controlling all of your content — focus on providing good content and a good experience and people will come to you.

  5. Well, I don’t know if everyone is using the content creator as the lowest possible denominator.

    Findory, for example, explicitly tries to send traffic to the creators of the content. We only show excerpts of articles, even for weblogs that provide full text feeds, and have people clickthrough to the weblog to read the full article.

    It works out well for everyone. Findory readers discover articles and weblogs they wouldn’t have found on their own. Bloggers get traffic when Findory shows an excerpt of their content to those that might be interested.

    In the end, I suspect all commercial web-based feed readers will only show excerpts. My Yahoo only shows excerpts. While Bloglines and Google Reader do show full text, they have no advertisements on their pages. If they try to put advertising on the page while still showing full text content, I think they’ll be a strong outcry for exactly the reason you mentioned, that they are profiting while giving nothing back to the content providers.