Wednesday, September 4, 2019

When content scraping affects your livelihood (well, not my livelihood)

The Internet demands content, and when the Internet wants something, it gets something. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that the Internet is getting a bunch of ORIGINAL content.

How many times have you run across an article from ReallyCoolNews that basically quotes a previous article from TodaysNewsForYou? Sometimes it seems like 90% of all news articles are regurgitating stuff from other articles.

In fact, if I'm going to be honest, this blog post itself is a repurposing (that's the euphemistic word here) of something I wrote on Facebook yesterday.

But, let's begin at the beginning (although, as you'll see, it's really at the ending - but I digress).

I was following up on some links and I ran across an article that began like this.

Competitive intelligence collecting may be a beneficial exercising that yields important records to manual your enterprise and advertising strategy, or it can take a seat in a laptop document and accumulate the equal of digital dust in case you’re no longer care. While an aggressive intelligence undertaking can convey out your internal spy, it may also lead to confusion, misinterpretation of statistics, and faulty approach-putting.

So I scrolled down to the bottom of the article to see if it was written by someone who was NOT a native English speaker...and found that the author had a name that appeared to correspond to a native English speaker's name.

And the author was employed as a marketing writer - or, as the brief author bio said, she worked for "a content advertising and marketing firm that offers mild advertising and marketing via sturdy writing."

My first reaction was to think of one of my high school friends, an editor who occasionally shares examples of shoddy writing. Boy, did I have a beaut for her!

But something seemed off about this whole thing. I couldn't imagine that a native English speaker who is employed as a marketing writer would write something that terrible.

And, as it turns out, she didn't.

Fast-backward to something that I wrote over nine years ago on this topic. Here's an excerpt:

But some sites move from "fair use" to uses that appear to have more questionable fairness....

In most cases, those types of sites take someone's content, pass it off as their own, and surround it with a bunch of ads. In essence, those people are definitely making money off of the original writer.

But I'm mystified by people who appropriate content and DON'T surround the content with ads or redirect you to other places.

So I began wondering - did someone lift some content from someone else and INTENTIONALLY garble the content to make it hard to link the revised content to the original?

Well, since the (alleged) content scraper included the name of the original author and her company, I did a little bit of searching and found the original article. And here's how the REAL article began:

Competitive intelligence gathering can be a useful exercise that yields important information to guide your business and marketing strategy, or it can sit in a computer file and collect the equivalent of electronic dust if you're not careful. While a competitive intelligence project can bring out your inner spy, it can also lead to confusion, misinterpretation of data, and faulty strategy-setting.

So this was just a case of super weird content scraping.

But in this case something else was at stake.

What if I had not pursued my questions, and if I had stuck with my earlier assumption that the author was an incompetent writer?

Worse still, what if I had gone ahead and shared this with my editor friend, without bothering to realize the truth that the original writer had been ripped off?

To be quite honest, if someone were to rip me off (again), perhaps some harm would be done, but it wouldn't really damage me. But when an independent contractor's work gets garbled, thus potentially damaging her reputation, that's a different matter entirely.

You will note that this post does not link to the ripoff version of the article. (If you really want to see it, pursue the link to my Facebook post at the beginning of this post.)

Or, better yet, perform your own Google or Bing search for the words 10 tips for effective competitive intelligence gathering. It turns out that multiple sites have published the ripped-off, garbled version of the original author's content.

By the way, the original author is Jeanne Grunert. Here is one of her websites. And one more time, here is the real article that she wrote.
blog comments powered by Disqus