Thursday, March 11, 2010

Turmoil in Magazine Land: Did Folio Diss BoSacks?

Folio: posted an interesting blog about online news aggregators today that was made more interesting by this aside near the end:

"I can think of at least one well-known media news aggregator who not only pulls publishers’ headlines and leads for his e-newsletters but posts full news stories, verbatim—and sells ads against them," wrote Jason Fell. "Sure, he links back to the original story, but who is going to click back to the publisher’s Web site when they can read the whole piece directly from the newsletter?"

Bob Sacks, alias BoSacks, agrees with me that he is almost certainly the target of Fell's ire. More than 11,000 people in media-related industries, especially the magazine industry, receive his e-mailed newsletter -- which is mostly media-related articles he forwards, often with commentary and sometimes with one of his famous BoRants.

"Yes. I do fit the M.O. described in the article," Sacks emailed me. "I have been at this a long time. I have tried to save every letter from publishers and writers begging me to pick up their stories -- and also the many thank-you letters for doing so."

I would much rather have one of my articles mentioned by "blurb-and-a-link" than having aggregators publish the entire article. A blurb at brings at least a thousand visitors, while having an entire article on a prominent Web site will lead to only a handful of links. (Links from emails are hard to track.)

But I have no quarrel with BoSacks because he provides proper attribution and links. He also tries not to pull often from any one source -- though he did send out three Folio: articles last week, including two by Fell. Besides, reformatting by Constant Contact software often makes BoSacks emails so hard to read that many people probably end up linking to the source Web site instead.
For an obscure, anonymous, part-time blogger like me, the exposure from BoSacks is worth more than the lost traffic from people seeing an article in one of his emails rather than on my site. (Besides, I'm not very good at "monetizing" the traffic here, which only averages about 1,000 people a day. You could help by clicking on one of the ads, you know.)

But as someone who has sent a few cease-and-desist emails to Web sites that used my content without permission or compensation, I'm sympathetic to Fell's annoyance when he concludes: "In an age when publishers are struggling mightily to make nickels from their online endeavors, shouldn’t this aggregator offer some sort of revenue sharing program?" Folio: may be so widely read by magazine people that having an article become a BoSacks email does little to bring new readers to the magazine or its Web site.

For the record, Folio: always plays fair with my blog, providing proper attribution and links when it cites my articles, which is not often enough. At times it seems to have gone out of its way not to mention one of my "scoops" when it picks up the same story, but Folio: always puts original research and thought into its article rather than just rewriting me.

Also, for the record, BoSacks does not know the true identity of D. Eadward Tree.

"I can't tell you have many people ask me who you are," he wrote me. "I always speak the truth, which helps my newsletter be what it is. So I tell them I have no idea. They don't believe me. I say, 'No, really, I have no idea.' They say, 'OK, so you won't tell me.'"

Bob, don't expect me to tell you, either -- unless you take Fell up on that revenue-sharing thing.

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