Perhaps my only disappointment with Frankly Curious is that not enough other websites link to my articles. I do get some. Certainly, a lot of people Tweet out my articles, I get a certain amount of love from Facebook and Reddit, and of course, Crooks & Liars links to me. Also, Google sends a lot of people and that results in normal and very pleasant links from more established blogs like Lion of the Blogosphere. This is all for the good and I really like it. My disappointment is that I don’t get enough of it.
There is, however, a certain kind of linking that I do get that really annoys me. There are websites that do nothing but print other people’s content. They are often of high quality and they no doubt see themselves as news aggregators. The problem is that they don’t publish a couple of paragraphs and provide a link. They publish the entire article with a note at the bottom, “This article, [whatever], first appeared on [wherever].” One such website is First News Alert. Well, this website did this to me yesterday and I was not pleased. But let me back up a bit.
I am not that keen on our copyright system. And I don’t mind all that much if people want to use my content. But this outfit was added nothing. It was just using me as an unpaid writer. Even the statement at the bottom of the article saying that it was from Frankly Curious wasn’t highlighted — it just looked like the last paragraph of the article. The entire website is designed to look like it has a staff of writers, which it clearly does not. And it has all kinds of ads so the owners are clearly making some money off it. I have a problem with that.
But it is even worse than this. At the bottom of the page was printed, “© 2015 First News Alert… All rights reserved.” So there was a page that consisted of 99% my own content and they were claiming copyright! But hell, if it was a big website, it might have provided some people clicking over. But no. Frankly Curious is huge compared to First News Alert. And I checked my site statistics this morning, and sure enough: not a single person clicked from that article over to Frankly Curious. So I got nothing in terms of traffic and even the name “Frankly Curious” wasn’t highlighted, so I didn’t even get any name recognition.
But I’m a liberal guy. I might have just dropped the whole thing. But then I looked at the code for the page. And I noticed that the link to my page had the attribute rel="nofollow." That is a way to tell search engines not to follow (crawl) the link. But more important, it tells search engines to disregard the link when it comes to the ranking of the page. I almost never use them, but I used it in the link above to First News Alert out of spite — but also just because I want the search engines to know that I’m writing about the site in a negative way. They shouldn’t think that I’m linking to the site because it has content that I’m discussing.
So let’s review: a tiny website stole my content; it did little to highlight where the content came from; it did not ask my permission; it claimed copyright; and it didn’t even do me the favor of linking to my page to give it proper search engine credit. But even still, I wasn’t too angry. I just wrote them a short note pointing out the problems and asked that they at least remove the rel="nofollow" or take the page down. Within an hour, the page was down.
I must admit to being amazed by all this. What I do — both here and in my paying work — is create content. I understand that not all people are good at this. I’m not good at working on cars. This is why I pay people to work on my car (when I have one). If you want to have a website, you either create your own content or you find someone who will do it for you. First News Alert looks like a competent website. But its philosophy seems to be, “We don’t need no stinkin’ original content.” And so they just steal it from other sites. But that really isn’t the way that the internet works. There are writers all over the world who are looking for an audience. The last thing they need is a website like First News Alert diluting their efforts and taking their credit.