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