How Dare You Make My Content More Accessible!

from the missing-the-big-picture dept

There are a few interesting arguments going on in the blog world lately, and while not all of them are directly related, there's a common theme. Services that are trying to make certain websites more accessible are getting slammed by bloggers who are accusing these services of "stealing" content or (my personal favorite) leading to the "loss of potential revenue." What it all comes down to is (oh no, not this again) money and control. It may sound familiar to those of you who have been following the mess that is the entertainment industry, but now that some bloggers are looking to make money, the same disease is happening there. Here are two quick examples. A service called Skweezer is trying to make websites easier to view on mobile devices by "skweezing" out extraneous content on the fly. Here's Skweezed Techdirt, for example. For mobile users, this is pretty cool. They can see the sites they visit without the slow downloads. Of course, sometimes this means without the ads, as well -- and that's got some bloggers screaming away. In another example, a legal blogger has demanded that web-based RSS aggregator Bloglines remove his RSS feeds from their service, because Bloglines is expected, at some point, to put targeted ads into the service. Both of these are cases of myopic decisions that are likely to do more harm than good. The reason these offerings exist is that they help more people access the content in question. If people are using them, that means the sites in questions are lacking a feature their users want. These new services have come to the rescue -- but, like with the music industry, the content owners simply freak out, rather than (a) being happy that someone has done the hard work for them or (b) offering a similar service themselves. The response, of course, is that it's not just about these services making content easier to access, but the fact that they're also adding their own ads -- leading to the inevitable charge of "profiting off the content of others." Of course, that's wrong. They're not profiting off the content of others (if they're profiting at all). They're profiting off of the ability to provide a useful service that makes your content more valuable to the end users. Why aren't these same people freaking out that Google indexes their site, makes it findable and (gasp! oh no!) puts text ads along the results page? If you hadn't figured it out by now, the name of the game is providing what your customers or readers want or they'll just go elsewhere. If a site won't let me view the content in the best way for me, then why should I bother visiting it at all? In the meantime, we're happy to get as many visitors as we can here at Techdirt, so if you prefer to read us via Skweezer or Bloglines or some other service that makes it easier, please, go right ahead. Thanks to the folks at Skweezer, Bloglines and others for making our content more accessible to people in formats they'd prefer.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Michael Moncur, Jan 18th, 2005 @ 7:11am

    One problem...

    One problem with sites like Skweezer is that their "skweezed" pages get into Google. This pollutes Google's listings, subjects all of your content potentially to a PageRank reduction due to duplicate content, and people searching for your content may find the skweezed version before they find yours.

    For some sites, this isn't a risk, but if anyone links to it (like you just did) Google starts crawling...

    This makes them worse than Bloglines in my opinion. Bloglines is using RSS feeds as they were intended, and there's nothing wrong with that.

    Another issue is that they "skweeze" out your ads, which is the whole ad-blocking debate all over again. And they're likely to "skweeze" in their own ads at some point, which is the spyware debate all over again.

    This is not nearly as simple as you make it sound.

     

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  2.  
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    Alex Chekholko, Jan 18th, 2005 @ 7:44am

    Can one object to this?

    If you're the owner of the content, you should certainly be able to request that other sites don't re-process it like that. I think Google listens to the robots.txt file; does Skweeze?
    While I agree that these services are good, there should be an easy way to avoid them, IF you want to for some reason.

     

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  3.  
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    Akatsuki, Jan 18th, 2005 @ 7:50am

    Nothing wrong with asking bloglines to remove ads

    Why should bloglines be allowed to make money by selling advertising on my content? That expressly violates my license on my blog (CCL non-commercial). It is fine to make things more accessible, but should I prostitute out my content for that?

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 18th, 2005 @ 7:57am

    Re: One problem...

    "Bloglines is using RSS feeds as they were intended, and there's nothing wrong with that."

    How is there any technology that is only supposed to be used in any one specific way. Who's to say the some certain way of using technology is the best. Take irc and usenet for example. They were intened just for text communication but a huge file sharing network has grown up around that. Its horribly ineffient the way in that they go about it. But that doesnt mean its not a valid use of the tech. If people are using it it means that its providing some useful feature that outwieghs any detriments to "using it wrong."

     

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  5.  
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    jeremiah, Jan 18th, 2005 @ 8:05am

    yer kiddin' me, right!??

    Mike speaketh:

    "They're not profiting off the content of others (if they're profiting at all). They're profiting off of the ability to provide a useful service that makes your content more valuable to the end users."


    The point, young Jedi, is they're profiting and you're not. The idea that someone's doing you a favor (presumably without your consent) is completely moot.

    Mike, are you seriously OK with the idea of someone profiting from your work without either your consent or a share of the proceeds?

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 18th, 2005 @ 8:16am

    image not sqweezed out?

    in the skweezed version of techdirt, the icon for "story type" remains, which makes it less-than-perfect for mobile browsing.

     

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  7.  
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    Mike (profile), Jan 18th, 2005 @ 9:06am

    Re: yer kiddin' me, right!??

    Yeah, sure, I'm serious. If I'm not able to convert that into a business model, why should I stop someone else. As I said, I don't think anyone is "profiting from [my] work". They're profiting from making my work (and everyone else's) more accessible. That's cool.

    Just because I didn't come up with the service, why should I stop someone else from doin so?

     

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  8.  
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    Mike (profile), Jan 18th, 2005 @ 9:09am

    Re: One problem...

    Actually, Skweezer does not allow their Skweezed pages to get onto Google, so that point is not valid.

    And, actually, they already do have some of their own ads on there (down at the bottom) which is totally cool with me. I also have no problem if someone wants to use an ad blocker to block out ads. If my business model isn't good enough that people don't find the ads valuable, why should they be forced to look at them?

    As for "spyware"... just putting ads on a page is hardly spyware. If Skweezer ever did anything "spyware" like then the response is simple: stop using them.

    So, where's the problem? These sites are making the content we create more accessible, meaning more readers, which is a good thing. If you don't want more readers, don't publish to the public internet.

     

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  9.  
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    jeremiah, Jan 18th, 2005 @ 11:33am

    Re: yer kiddin' me, right!??

    "Just because I didn't come up with the service, why should I stop someone else from doin so?"


    You should stop them because their "service" cannot possible exist without your creative energies. The loop, so to speak, does not feed back.

    ...unless what you're telling me is that a possibility of more readers is the currency you value more than regular money.

    Techdirt probably doesn't make the best example, as (IMHO) it functions more as a metafilter, so your "creative" work is kind of a non issue- you pretty much link to stuff with a bit of commentary.

    Comparing it to say, myself, who's creative work represents hundreds to thousands of man hours, the net impact is different. If someone were scraping mp3's off indie musician sites and compiling them on an advertising-supported site (assuming it's also profitable), that would probably represent a greater potential economic injury.

    I still don't understand your "if they thunk it up they might as well exploit it" philosophy. Just because someone can doesn't mean they should.

    /Oppenheimer

     

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  10.  
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    Mike (profile), Jan 18th, 2005 @ 11:47am

    Re: yer kiddin' me, right!??

    Comparing it to say, myself, who's creative work represents hundreds to thousands of man hours, the net impact is different. If someone were scraping mp3's off indie musician sites and compiling them on an advertising-supported site (assuming it's also profitable), that would probably represent a greater potential economic injury.

    You really think so? Wouldn't that be a great source of new leads for your music? People would go there and hear all kinds of indie bands, and those that liked your music would be able to go and find out more about you, how to buy your music, how to see you perform it, how to join your fan club, how to hire you to write songs for them, etc...

    That's someone aggregating info to make it easier for people to find you. What's wrong with that?

     

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  11.  
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    jeremiah, Jan 18th, 2005 @ 12:40pm

    Re: yer kiddin' me, right!??

    Mike speaketh: "You really think so? Wouldn't that be a great source of new leads for your music? People would go there and hear all kinds of indie bands, and those that liked your music would be able to go and find out more about you, how to buy your music, how to see you perform it, how to join your fan club, how to hire you to write songs for them, etc..."

    That's a straw man.
    "That's someone aggregating info to make it easier for people to find you. What's wrong with that?"

    In a word: Profit.

    The issue isn't whether or not someone aggregates info, or whether or not it's easier/not easier for someone to discover your work.

    The issue is people profiting from your work without your consent or participation. That's what the (legitimate) concern with these kinds of scraping/repackaging technologies.

    My art is my living, and I think you're hard pressed to make an argument that somehow *not* getting paid is supposed to be good for me. Publicity don't pay my rent.

     

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  12.  
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    Mike (profile), Jan 18th, 2005 @ 12:50pm

    Re: yer kiddin' me, right!??


    My art is my living, and I think you're hard pressed to make an argument that somehow *not* getting paid is supposed to be good for me. Publicity don't pay my rent.


    It sure does. How do you get people to pay your rent if you don't get that publicity? Who cares if someone is profiting in getting you publicity, as long as you get the publicity that you can then capitalize on?

    Based on your argument, you would be upset if someone wrote an article about you in a for-profit publication. After all, they're making money on your work. They're profiting off of your work (they wouldn't be writing about you if it weren't for your work). They did so without asking your permission. Oh, the horror.

    Especially in situations where they're offering a service you never would (such as aggregating) it's nearly impossible to figure out how you could possible complain that they're "taking away" revenue from you. You wouldn't have offered that anyway.

     

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  13.  
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    xman, Jan 18th, 2005 @ 1:21pm

    Re: One problem...

    If someone starts taking my RSS feeds and sticks in advertising I shall be mightly angry. I hate almost all advertising you see on the net (and most other pladces too) with a passion and would not want anything of mine polluted by it.

     

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  14.  
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    Mike (profile), Jan 18th, 2005 @ 1:39pm

    Re: One problem...

    If someone starts taking my RSS feeds and sticks in advertising I shall be mightly angry. I hate almost all advertising you see on the net (and most other pladces too) with a passion and would not want anything of mine polluted by it.

    But why? You still have your own RSS feed without ads. Most people would know this. What would you care if someone put ads in your feed? Most people would know to just use your ad-free feed instead, and the ad-added feed would be useless.

     

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  15.  
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    The Muse, Jan 18th, 2005 @ 1:42pm

    A way of splitting the revenue pie.

    People have a sense of fairness!
    The problem is:
    1. the potential of future revenue may not help if you cannot survive now because you don't have the cash.
    2. The publicity may be valuable but may not payoff off soon enough.
    3. Ads are another way of generating money. Ads in the newspaper style - get paid even if the ads do not sell.
    What is needed is a first a plan (and then a workable implementation)
    - to let all have a fair share of the profit pie
    - the initial creator of the content and the others who promote it in any.
    Perhaps some notion of registering for a part of the pie
    to be paid in the future might be a step in the right direction.

    Another idea - on the lines of the stock market
    - assuming that this future profit idea could be implemented, could one have a futures market in this.
    Then a cash-poor individual could sell his
    future potential income to someone with cash and the foresight to buy the option and accept the risks!
    Comments and ideas?

     

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  16.  
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    Mike (profile), Jan 18th, 2005 @ 2:11pm

    Re: A way of splitting the revenue pie.

    I don't understand this at all. You're suggesting that Google cut in any website that is popular on its advertising revenue? That doesn't seem right.

    It's not about "fair share" but about who's providing something useful and who has figured out a way to capitalize on it. The services that provide additional value have every right to try to make money off of that service, just as those who create the original content have every right to try to capitalize on it if they can. But, to deny someone else the right to capitalize on their own useful service -- especially when it benefits the initial creator -- is incredibly shortsighted.

    If you don't want people looking at your content, don't put it online. If you do want people looking at it, why should you care whether people come and look at it via a for-profit service if that's what makes them more likely to look at it?

     

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  17.  
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    Steve, Jan 18th, 2005 @ 3:08pm

    No Subject Given

    Can't agree with you on this one - sounds like Skweezer and similar services are abusing the sites they're scanning. Your comments about how they may ultimately make the site more popular are reasonable, but that doesn't mean the originator of the content should be powerless to say whether they want this 'service'. "It's for your own good" is not much of a defense.

     

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  18.  
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    Mike (profile), Jan 18th, 2005 @ 4:09pm

    Re: No Subject Given

    Can't agree with you on this one - sounds like Skweezer and similar services are abusing the sites they're scanning. Your comments about how they may ultimately make the site more popular are reasonable, but that doesn't mean the originator of the content should be powerless to say whether they want this 'service'. "It's for your own good" is not much of a defense.

    Really? Based on this, you think that people should be able to ban their websites from showing up in the Opera browser? After all, the free version of Opera shows ads as you surf. Technically, they're making money on the content of others also.

    Where's the outrage?

    All that Skweezer is doing is creating a better browsing service of content for mobile devices.

     

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  19.  
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    Nathan, Jan 18th, 2005 @ 8:49pm

    Re: No Subject Given

    So would a Skweezer like product be okay if all of its proccessing was done on the handheld that you are browsing with? It would seem that your problem with Skweezer is that someone else is modifying your content before I see, even though that the way _I_ want to see it. This is like being pissed because I am lynx instead of Mozilla.

     

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  20.  
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    thecaptain, Jan 19th, 2005 @ 5:17am

    Re: yer kiddin' me, right!??

    It sure does. How do you get people to pay your rent if you don't get that publicity? Who cares if someone is profiting in getting you publicity, as long as you get the publicity that you can then capitalize on?
    The problem is, if I have content, that I make money on with either advertising or in some other method, and some other site takes that content, strips my ads, and puts in their own, then I lose that revenue.
    Sure...I get more publicity, but if there's very little difference between getting MY content from ME or getting it from THEM...why would they even bother coming to me? Hence, I lose my rent.
    Of course, if you COULD find a way to drive those people back towards your site somehow, then sure...but I can totally see why people are complaining like this as turning that extra publicity into revenue isn't always easy or obvious.

     

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  21.  
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    Kelly, Jan 19th, 2005 @ 9:46am

    No Subject Given

    here's the way I see it:
    I read more and more (and more) websites from my Treo, as opposed to my PC, everyday. If a site has crappy formatting, I refuse to even waste my time.
    Does your website/blog have a mobile version? If yes, then great, I'll see you there, ads or no ads. If no, then you're ignoring an ever-increasing bulk of your audience. Skweezer fills that need. I don't see it as viewing your website either as it exists at your url, or via a reformatted version with Skweezer; I see it as either I'm using a service that makes the formatting of your website acceptable, or I'm not bothering going to your website at all.
    But I'm just a dumb consumer with no free will; what do I know?

     

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  22.  
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    Mike (profile), Jan 19th, 2005 @ 10:13am

    Re: yer kiddin' me, right!??

    The problem is, if I have content, that I make money on with either advertising or in some other method, and some other site takes that content, strips my ads, and puts in their own, then I lose that revenue.
    Sure...I get more publicity, but if there's very little difference between getting MY content from ME or getting it from THEM...why would they even bother coming to me? Hence, I lose my rent.
    Of course, if you COULD find a way to drive those people back towards your site somehow, then sure...but I can totally see why people are complaining like this as turning that extra publicity into revenue isn't always easy or obvious.


    If you're the original provider of the content, why WOULDN'T they go with you? Most people prefer to go to the actual source -- unless someone else is providing your content in a better format, which means you're not doing a good enough job marketing to them.

    Anyway, I don't believe the phrase "lost revenue." Lost revenue is a choice. Lost revenue is a marketing mistake. It just means you didn't convince someone to spend on you instead of someone else. If people are going somewhere else instead of your site, then *you* failed to get them to your site. Don't blame the competition for being better than you.

     

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  23.  
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    thecaptain, Jan 19th, 2005 @ 12:54pm

    Re: yer kiddin' me, right!??

    I agree with what you're saying Mike and it makes sense.

    However, hypothetical situation, website A offers content with ads on a mobile feed. Maybe its content created on that site.

    Along comes website B, they offer website A's content, stripped of the ads, replaced with their own, on a feed. Perhaps they offer a few, in essence simply acting as a one stop center for many different content without creating any themselves.

    So here I am, I haven't heard of website A, but I see the content on website B and get it there. Its the same as if I got it from site A but since I heard of B first...I have no incentive to go to A since there's really no difference. It becomes a case of B getting ad money simply because I stumbled on them first. Even though I'm seeing the content from A, even though there's likely a lot of wizbang stuff on A, I'll never know because there's nothing that website B is doing to make me GO to A, unless inside the content is something to make me aware that I can go to A and get more...or get better.

    That's where I can see the other side from. Yes, you can say "find another business model...", but still...

     

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  24.  
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    Jason Argos, Nov 22nd, 2005 @ 9:41am

    advertizing

    as an artist I want to have some choice as to what adds are associated with my music.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Abena, Sep 28th, 2006 @ 1:58am

    teen pussy lesbian asian worldsexplorer.com

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
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    jordan c, May 2nd, 2007 @ 6:56am

    unblock so i can read mail

    I can't read my mail but i can go into yahoo but it shows up funny won't let you compose or read but it will let you look at your site

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    naomi, Jun 25th, 2007 @ 7:06am

    how??

    can somebody please tell me how 2 get on bebo coz my skool has blocked all the sites!!!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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