Nov 08, 2010

Content curation – a cautionary tale

For better or worse, sharing and even republishing content is a major component of blogging. Most publications yearn for republishing, the linking and all the traffic it entails. Even PR Newswire offers a widget in order for our content to be distributed and republished as far as can be. However, authors surely don’t want to give away their trade for free (especially if someone else is making cash off it). Many publications walk a middle ground between these two sides, creating new content that is often linked to various other sources. However, last week, one publication made a number of cardinal sins and is now a perfect example of how the power of the internet can wreak havoc on a publication’s brand… almost instantly.

If you were on the internet last week, you may have read something about Cooks Source magazine. In a nutshell, the regional cooking magazine from New England allegedly has been lifting previously published pieces in their entirety for publication. When Monica Gaudio noticed an article she wrote on pie (yum) in the pages of Cooks Source, she contacted the publication to see how that could have come about. The response Gaudio from editor Judith Griggs could best be described as rude, and maybe even dismissive. At one point, Griggs even suggested Gaudio pay her for editing the piece’s errors and readying it for publication.

The story soon broke on Twitter and then Facebook, where thousands of people immediately identified with the author’s plight and took up her cause as if it was their own. And when we say thousands, we literally mean thousands. Before this story broke last week, Cooks Source had 161 followers on Facebook and was relatively unknown outside of its niche and geographical location. But by 2 p.m. the next day, its number of Facebook friends was climbing toward 5,000. And almost every single one of those “fans” had something terrible to write on Cooks Source’s wall. The negative wall post updates were coming at almost 10 per minute. How could anyone engage all this feedback?

It seems if the editor of Cooks Source had followed basic principles (don’t steal; be polite) the publication may have avoided this backlash. The editor of Cooks Source tried to brush off Gaudio as not only annoying, but worse, insignificant. Her “go away kid, you bother me” mentality has gotten her publication mountains of negative attention and furthermore has no place in the online arena. Today, the readers of blogs are not only the consumers, but also the content creators. They too, have a story to tell. In the case of Cooks Source, it wasn’t a pretty one.

Hopefully, this story will serve as a warning to anyone else doing business online. The power of the internet is like a wave: It can propel you toward success or crush you like a fierce storm. Because at the end of the day, it wasn’t the scorned author who destroyed Cooks Source magazine, but rather, it was an open-sourced beat down by a legion of online strangers who knew bad practices when they saw it.

Author Tom Hynes is PR Newswire’s manager of blogger relations.

Image courtesy of Robert Couse-Baker, via Flickr.

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