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Hell no, we won’t go… on Global Post, Huffington Post, etc.

31 December 2008

Is anyone NOT trying to exploit Mexican workers?   If the Mex Files has any higher purpose, it’s to promote Mexican awareness among students and scholars and maybe the general public.  It specifically permits reposting —  with attribution — on educational and personal sites,  including some very well known ones like Global Voices,  American Public Television’s “WorldFocus” and the Mexico Center of the Woodrow Wilson Institute.

But recently two different commercial sites — “Global Post” and “Huffington Post” — have tried to sell me on the “benfits” of letting them use my work for their own benefit, and I’ve had to say no.  Nicely once, and not so nicely now.

“Huffington” wanted me to “contibute” to some series they were running back during the interminably long U.S. Presidential campaign.  The Mex Files had, occasionally, said something about that election, but it was only of marginal relevence to the Mex Files’ purpose and while I — as Richard Grabman, a U.S. citizen  — might have an opinion on the U.S. election, the Mex Files, a Mexican website, did not.  And certainly, Richard Grabman would expect to be paid for his work.  The Huffington Post people wrote back saying “well, we’d be interested in foreign views of the election,” which is fine, but since they weren’t paying, I wasn’t interested.

Then, a few months ago, I got an e-mail from some intern at something called “Global Post” (aka “Global News Enterprises”).  She wanted me to permit her for-profit company to use my writing in return for “exposure” on their proposed site.  I was extremely dubious about the e-mail, both because it seemed marginally illiterate, and because there was no clear concept of what the site was hoping to accomplish (other than re-sell other people’s writing for their own profit).  I sent an e-mail back to the intern with a “CC” to John Wilpers, the company’s  “Director of Global Blog Development”.  I told them that I write under a Creative Commons License which prohibits reprints for commerical purposes.   I didn’t see any way I could grant them free reprint rights without a contract. If they wanted to enter into a contractual agreement and pay for reprint rights, I could work out something with the Creative Commons people, or publish specific pieces under a normal copyright.

I never heard back from the intern, and more or less forgot the matter until today, when John Wilpers sent me an e-mail detailing among other things technical changes I needed to make to my site to fit his site’s specifications:

Our only concern is that your RSS feed appears to be broken and, without that, we can’t get your posts into our CMS.

No, it’s not “broken”… I don’t use it… for the same reason I switched two years ago from “blogger” to “wordpress”.  As  my own editor (which is why my spelling and copy-editing is sometimes erratic) I control what appears on my website.   Blogger ran ads, which I found annoying, when they weren’t inimicable to my own biases (I remember posting about the appalling border wall only to have an ad for the “Minutemen” at the top) and contradicted what was on Mex Files.   RSS just brings in everything from selected sites, which may be a good way of promoting worthwhile sites I recommend, but not everything they do is useful to me, nor everything I do useful to them.  I just don’t find it meets MY needs and MY website.

RSS ain’t broken… it’s one of those things like advertising and “blogroll” I don’t want to use.  And don’t.

Secondly,  with no permission whatsoever, Wilpers told me he would be “possibly” sending my work to Huffington Post and trying to sell the reprint rights (something Huffington Post knew nothing about, according to an email I received from them this morning).    In return for… “exposure” and “traffic.”

“Traffic” is, as far as I can tell, the number of hits a site receives.  In the Mex Files’ case, that’s around a thousand a day.  Since this is a niche “publication” I don’t think that’s a bad number, nor do I expect that moving to a commercial site that sold advertising would be self-supporting (that’s why I sometimes shamelessly beg for donations).

Exposure bringing in traffic

Exposure bringing in traffic

I have no idea how much “traffic” I’d need to generate to create a viable market for advertisers, but it’s an exponentially larger shitload than I’d get writing about Mexican cultural history.  Anybody who falls for this line is an idiot.

To create “traffic,” I’d have to

  • Drop what little protection I have under the Creative Commons License.
  • Move to a new platform, since WordPress doesn’t permit commercial advertising.
  • Write something else to generate more “traffic”…

… which defeats the purpose of — as Wilpers writes —  ”  continu[ing] to publish your great work in a regular fashion.”  I’d have to write crap about time shares and tourist attractions and Cancun hotels to generate traffic that would get the ads that drew the traffic that gets the ads that…

Fuck… I’ll just keep bugging people to send donations.

Whether people who come to The Mex Files through those sites match the “traffic” I might get IF (possibly, maybe) something was re-posted on the Huffington Post, I can’t say.  But, since the Huffington Post is a general interest U.S. focused website, I doubt those numbers really mean any more than the huge number of hits I get for the post I entitled (as a joke) “Nude Gay Mexican” (which at least was about a nude, gay Mexican… and had something to do with Mexican culture and history).

Oh well.. the whole thing is an interesting variation on an old scam.  You MIGHT be eligible to win big prizes, if you subscribe to some worthless piece-of-shit magazine.  The only difference is here, you have to go to work for the piece of shit magazine and MAYBE will get published by someone decent (who still won’t be paying you).

Of course, people are free to use this site — for their scholarly or educational purposes, or to use reasonable exerpts for discussion purposes and are encouraged to do so. And, if they want to give my site more “expose”, and create more “traffic” that’s fine… but if you plan to make a profit off my work, you damn well better pay me.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. otto permalink
    31 December 2008 8:25 am

    Damn straight dude, you tell ‘em.

    I’ve had the Global Post bugging me in the same style, FWIW. Being of a more kapitalist nature (i run adsense on my blerg, take sponsors, try and sell stuff etc etc) I’m up for a deal where somebody slurps my feed in exchange for $. I’m signed up with a company that does just that for bizblogs, for the record. That started October and pays me about $100 a month. Not much, but pays the electricity bill. It’s cool.

    However its annoying to be parasited like this. I’ve already had a company tap straight into my RSS feed and then sell the content to US newspapers (I suddenly started appearing in the Boston Globe, Houston Chronicle etc which was a bit of an eye-opener). It took stuffy mails and advice from experienced bloggers to get it cut off.
    The line these parasite feed aggregator companies use is alays the same; they’ll “give you more exposure” which will then, supposedly “boost your own traffic”. It’s a crockashit, RG, but you’ve worked this out already. Whatever reason people have for blogging (there are thousands..we for example have things in common and things that separate us) they shouldn’t have to get freeloaders sucking at successful bloggers like this.

    THERE OTTA BE A LAW! AH TELLZ YA!

    Blogging is the future of information dissemination. Freeloading parasites are dragging blogs into the past. Pay to play, HuffPost et al. Pay to play.

  2. 31 December 2008 9:08 am

    Suddenly, I don’t feel so bad about being (a) small, (b) without “fans” on HuffPo, (c) independent, (d) without a tip jar on the Daily Kos, (e) without hundreds of comments on my every entry, (f) not written up by big-name snoozepapers as a Great Canadian Blogger (which would oblige me to blog only on Canada anyway), and oh yeah, did I mention (g) INDEPENDENT?

    One day, one day…this indie thing will catch on. And when it does, I’ll have my anti-corporate, non-market niche ready-made. Heh heh.

  3. 31 December 2008 11:04 am

    For kicks (as Harry Shearer says, “just readin’ the trades, man), take a look at the “team” of Global post http://www.globalnewsenterprises.com/team.php as well as the business model. Not surprised to see the resumes of their execs and editors nor their frequent use of the term “exploit” in the business model.

  4. 31 December 2008 11:23 am

    I got one of those Globalpost emails the other day. Thanks for vindicating my private thoughts on the matter. Damn capitalists are always trying to make a profit off free labor.

  5. 31 December 2008 3:44 pm

    I am writing on behalf of GlobalPost to say that we have read your concerns and are looking into how this matter was handled. We are a new journalism organization with more than 60 correspondents in nearly 50 countries, and we launch January 12th. We believe what we do is important, especially as America’s mainstream media abandons the mission of international news. We also think the points of view of bloggers from every corner of the world are important. They are voices we want visitors to the site to hear. And that’s why we’ve invited bloggers to contribute. It is our understanding that many bloggers welcome our invitation to appear on GlobalPost. But we understand and respect any blogger who may not want to take part. If your invitation was mishandled in any way, we are sorry. If you or any other bloggers would like to hear more about us or be in touch with us, please feel free to contact me. We welcome the feedback.

    Rick Byrne
    GlobalPost
    rbyrne@GlobalPost.com

  6. otto permalink
    31 December 2008 5:11 pm

    So a question, Rick.

    If it’s good enough to sell, why isn’t it good enough to buy?

  7. 31 December 2008 5:58 pm

    And, Rick —

    Your promotional material claims you have 70 correspondents in 53 countries. Your “Global Post Team” page lists only 42 correspondents in 35 countries (38, if you count the Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg Correspondent), nowhere near the 60 correspondents in nearly 50 countries that you mention. Are some of them “virtual correspondents”? And if, as you claim, “We also think the points of view of bloggers from every corner of the world are important.” then why is your Mexico Correspondent’s work for Associated Press, The Washington Times and The Chronicle of Higher Education listed in her biography, with no mention of any blogging experience. As far as I can tell, she is a well-qualified traditional “foreign correspondent,” but not a blogger nor is there mention that she lives in the country. Does anyone at “Global Post” bother to check their documentation, and is this an indication of the journalistic standards to which your organization aspires?

    At any rate, I take it I’m not the only one who is dubious about your business model.

    I saved my correspondence from Lily Yuhas, who described herself as “an intern working with John Wilpers, the Director of Global Blog Development at GlobalPost.com” and John Wilpers, whose return e-mail address is at globalpost.com. Ms. Yuhas’ email was a “gmail” account, but to be certain of her legitimacy, I “CC’d” Mr. Wilpers in my reply to Ms. Yuhas.

    I replied to Ms. Yuhas to say I was certainly flattered, but for legal reasons — both my Creative Commons License, and because my present immigration status in Mexico limits me to a single employer — in addition to having the odd idea that one should be paid for work, especially time consuming work — I would require contractual agreement and payment through my Mexican employer, who is also my literary agent.

    I was willing to allow you reprint rights under those terms, but never heard back from your company until 30 December 2008, when John Wilpers sent me an email saying “I am extremely pleased to tell you that you have been selected to be included in the ‘Top Global Bloggers’ section of GlobalPost.com.” He then went on to say I needed to “fix” my RSS.

    Both Ms. Yunis and Mr. Wilpers’ emails contained several identical paragraphs about “exposure and traffic”. Since Mr. Wilpers’ emails referenced Huffington Post several times, I also sent emails to that company. “Colin’s” reply is noted in the post. I also heard from Nico Pitney, the National Editor of the Huffington Post (who “CC’d” their legal department). Pitney confirms that you have a “content sharing agreement” with Global Post, but it is “against our policy to run any of your material without your permission.”

    Since I stated back on 11 November that I could not give permission without meeting certain legal requirements (which I was willing to do), and since the ONLY response was the 30 December email telling me that I needed to “fix” my site to meet your specifications, I can only assume that you have every intention of violating my authorial rights and making a mockery of intellectual property protection (as well as the laws of the United Mexican States).

    To me — and others — this smacks of both contempt for the work we do, and for any understanding of (in the words of John Wilper’s 30 December 2008 email): “… a true sense of what life is really like there”. A true sense of life HERE includes paying for work done.

    This whole incident, by the way, is a perfect illustration of imperialism. Companies in the U.S. want to extract resources from Latin America at an little or no cost to themselves in return for vague promises.

  8. 1 January 2009 1:08 am

    Your RSS is perfectly fine. I read your posts in Google Reader. All I needed to enter was your full domain and the feed appeared. Aww shoot, maybe I shouldn’t have told you that? ;-)

  9. 2 January 2009 1:09 am

    Bina, I fit into all the categories you mention as well – but I still found one of my posts copied on a another site the other day. I know it was copied by a person and not an automated bot because they’d added an image and a spelling error that weren’t in my original. And not so much as an email to ask permission.

    Richard, I think you made the right choice. As an aside, I also like the way you stay(ed) on topic and didn’t make every post about the US and in particular its election. Like everyone in the world, I had my interests and opinions on that election, but it got a bit tiring when for weeks on end all my carefully selected Latin America feeds were nothing but the US.

    Oh, and I read you in Google Reader too…

  10. 3 January 2009 10:16 pm

    Global Post attached my formal invitation extolling my virtues and telling me how special I was as comment spam to one of my posts! Godd business model they got there.

    I haven’t responded and now, a couple of days later, my feeds are broken!

    Coincidence?

  11. 6 January 2009 1:51 pm

    Hi to the Mex Files from Italy,

    It’s something of a shame, I feel, that you won’t at least try out the GlobalPost offer. You have lots of very interesting things here, and it would be great for more people to read what you write. Well that’s my opinion, for what it’s worth.

    By the way, I signed up with the GlobalPost people a) because I would like more people to read what I scribble about a certain country, in the hope that something might eventually be done to right a few wrongs, and b) because I like their approach to journalism. And if I end up making a few dollars as a result, then that’ll keep my family happy – and allow me to keep on plugging away – in all senses.

    Yes, it’s about making money, but we’ve all got to live.

    Oh and I’m going to subscribe to your RSS feed in Google Reader, and I’m going to link to you too.

    All the best, and keep doin’ what you are doin’! GP or not!

    Alex

    Stands back and waits to be shot down;-)

  12. Mayme permalink
    23 March 2009 5:08 am

    I am just a 62 y.o. woman in northern NY who likes to read about the world and world news. I googled Global Post, to see if I’d like it as a news source and found your site because it came up as an anti Global Post item. You owe them a little something-I found you thru them!

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