It’s nice to be nice

November 14, 2011 § 14 Comments

Cracked laptop screen

by Kevin McCauley

On November 13, Les Rosbifs did something incredible – they got an interview with Steve McClaren. Les Rosbifs has been a wonderful blog with a unique concept for quite some time, but their interview with McClaren was one of the best things they’ve ever done. They spoke at length with an interesting man with interesting things to say. Perhaps more impressive than the content of the interview was the fact that an independent blogger got a chance to speak to the former England boss.

Many of the best football writers in print or online have been writing for independent blogs for years, but the biggest difference between the established journalists and the bloggers in their mothers’ basements is currently access. Professional journalists, through a combination of their own hard work and the clout of the organizations they work for, are able to speak with famous athletes and managers on a regular basis. This allows them to create hit-generating rubbish stories with incredible ease, while also beefing up quality opinion pieces with substantial evidence to support their claims. Professional editors, money, and exposure are all fantastic benefits of working for a large organization, but access is the hardest thing to get.

Take, for instance, a website like Deadspin. While they’re most famous for the pictures they were able to obtain of gridiron star Brett Favre’s penis, they’re not an organization based on getting inside scoops. They say funny, insightful things. Their pieces are usually well fact-checked, their spelling and grammar is always professional quality, and they make a good deal of money. Because of their reputation for funny and insightful posts, they were able to build an audience and build up their revenues. They’ve become well-known across the American sports landscape. And yet, there’s still a very good chance that when A.J. Daulerio calls up the PR person at a professional sports team, the person on the other line could think ‘What the fuck is Deadspin?’ Even if the PR person is aware of the site, they’re going below ESPN, NBC, FOX, CBS, Sports Illustrated and local print media on the list of people they give half a shit about. They have everything that the big boys have except for the access. Hence, their tagline “Sports news without access, favor, or discretion.”

That’s why the Les Rosbifs interview is cool, independent of the great content. An independent blogger with no major media affiliation got an interview with Steve McClaren. Despite the fact that Rupert Murdoch’s massive media empire has almost infinite resources and access to McClaren at the drop of a pin, they decided to print part of Les Rosbifs’ interview without linking them. Notice that I said ‘without linking’, not ‘without attribution’. Oh, they attributed the interview to “Les Rosbifs”. They just didn’t link, which is generally regarded as common courtesy on the internet. We’ll come back to why that’s the case in a bit.

Before moving on, a very important distinction has to be made: TeamTalk did not steal from Les Rosbifs, at least in a legal sense. They attributed the source of the interview. They should have linked and all of the subsequent outlets that printed the syndicated story should have linked, but they didn’t actually ‘steal’ in any legal terms. Taking quotes but NOT taking any of the original commentary/questions from the source material isn’t something TeamTalk is going to get in trouble for, especially since they attributed the interview to Les Rosbifs. You may think this is fucked up (I do), but it’s the truth. It’s not technically stealing.

However, you do not have to break the law to be a douchebag. TeamTalk and Sky Sports editor Mark Holmes unsurprisingly acted like a douchebag while refuting Les Rosbifs’ claims that he is, in fact, a douchebag. I’m going to link his tweets when I quote things he says in them, because DUH. THAT’S WHAT YOU DO, SHIT-FOR-BRAINS.

I’d love you to do a day to see how a big organisation works. You’d have a different view by 5pm … I wasn’t having a pop, I was being genuine. If you saw how we work, you’d understand why we can’t link to original articles…adding hyperlinks for every source we attribute would, I estimate, increase our workoad [sic] by at least 10%.

– Sources here, here, and here.

I work at SB Nation, which is somewhere between mainstream media and the world of blogging. The organization has about a dozen full-time editorial staff who work on SBNation.com and a number of other contributors, most paid and some unpaid. There are somewhere in the three figures – well over 100 – articles published on the site every single day. I work in two different capacities for this site where I have to write about a variety of sports, and I do this over 40 hours per week. In one of my capacities, in which I work 20 hours per week, I am a writer managed by others, generally just doing what I am told. In the other capacity, I am an editor who assigns and delegates work while doing some managing of a small group of people. I coordinate coverage of what is sometimes 100 football matches in a single week. I feel that, due to what I have just explained, I am in a position to comment on Mr. Holmes’ comments.

Mr. Holmes is, in short, a complete fucking jackass. I am often handed second-hand articles, quotes, and tweets by my editors. At this point, I often have to track down the original source if I want to use that information in an article. When I find the original source, I make sure to point out that they are the original source, linking them in my article. When one of my writers finds a piece of information that they want to use for an article that is obviously shady, I tell them to find something better or avoid publishing. If tracking down and adding hyperlinks to stories would add 10 percent to your workload, then you are lazy, stupid, or both.

Thanks to the laziness and stupidity of not just Mr. Holmes, but likely a half dozen other half-wits who work inside the Murdoch empire, the un-linked, quasi-stolen version of Les Rosbifs’ interview was syndicated. It’s gone global. There is literally nothing Les can do to stop it, especially since the lack of a link isn’t illegal, it’s just unbelievably and obnoxiously douchy.

Now, back to why having to link back to a source when publishing on the internet is something everyone should do. There is a very, very, very good reason why this is common courtesy. Beyond the fact that you should want to drive traffic to the original source and give them a proper credit, it matters for search engine rankings. Because the likes of TeamTalk – the Sky-affiliated site that originally lifted the piece – and all kinds of other highly-ranked outlets printed the interview without linking, it could possibly appear to Google and other search engines that Les Rosbifs is stealing from mainstream media as opposed to what actually happened.

What actually happened is that literally millions of people will see portions of an interview that Les Rosbifs did, then never bother to check out their site. They’ll see McClaren’s quotes, skim over the source and disregard it if they’ve never heard of it, read the article and leave the page. They won’t click on the link to their site because there’s nothing to click on. They won’t type ‘Les Rosbifs’ into Google because they don’t really care. And if something from the site ever gets sent to them, they probably won’t even remember “Oh, these are the guys who did the McClaren interview!” They won’t remember a goddamn thing. Les Rosbifs will be dead to the majority of the readers of the syndicated portions of the interview a second after they see the name, and that’s an absolute fucking shame.

But really, would you expect anything less from a fucking rubbish site like TeamTalk and abysmal organizations like BSkyB and News Corp? This isn’t the worst of the worst; mainstream media outlets have been caught doing straight copy-paste from blogs with no mention of the source. This is standard-issue MSM douchebaggery, and it’s going to continue for a very long time.

Everyone, do the world a favor. Don’t visit TeamTalk again and don’t visit Sky Sports again. Go to Les Rosbifs, keep the tab open all day, and hit refresh every 30 minutes tomorrow.

You can find Kevin on Twitter here: @kevinmccauley. More information on how search engines treat duplicate content can be found here and here.

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§ 14 Responses to It’s nice to be nice

  • What a palaver eh. Arguably because the license conditions set out by Gav, the author, have been violated there is an element of illegality, on a civil basis, to whole sordid affair.

    Gav has a very open policy with regard to the sharing of his content. Anyone can re-publish his work, all he asks for is proper attribution & that no derivative works are produced from his original content. He is perfectly entitled to ask this as the content producer & publisher. Indeed if he had not set a Creative Commons license setting out the conditions by which his work can be shared then the de facto status of his content is All Rights Reserved. In which cse anyone re-publhsing his content without express permission would be caught bang to rights.

    What muddies the waters here is the concept of fair use. Given that the offending re-written article offers no opinion, commentary, critique or new perspective on the original piece, merely a re-hash of what Gav wrote, then fair use in this case, for me is hard to justify.

  • andypants says:

    I would distinguish “technically” from “legally” — what TeamTalk/SkySports/et al did IS stealing. It’s just legalized stealing.

  • Simon says:

    Part of the accreditation thing is just wrong. Ok, fine, do the same accreditation to you would for example The Guardian…

    Such and such told The Guardian “I like football it is nice” etc etc…

    So if we (bloggers) are all on an even keel with MSM, why is it bloggers aren’t allowed the same access as MSM, such as interviews, press conferences etc. We’re all even aren’t we? MSM accepted that.

    There’s a bit in the new(ish) film contagion where Generic Stuffy Old Man dismisses a blogger as “graffiti with punctuation”… sadly, that actually rings true with how ‘big boys’ see things.

  • twistedblood says:

    One point that is worth bearing in mind is that, according to @LesRosbifs himself, part of the reason that McClaren agreed to the interview was because of the fact that this was a non-mainstream outlet. If people within football realise that their attempts to circumnavigate the traditional outlets will just be picked up and recycled anyway, then that squashes that avenue.

  • J Sillcott says:

    i speak as a professional journalist. But, please, let me finish…
    Sky Sports website and Team Talk have, for many years, been no more than traffic generators, with no pride in accuracy or the basic concepts of journalism. The whole concept of ‘Sky Sports.com understands’ is another way of them saying that they have perused a local newspaper’s website, for instance the Sheffield Star, and seen that the Blades are after a Dutch striker and, hey presto “Sky Sports.com understand Sheffield United want a Dutch striker…”
    In all my years working as a reporter I have never met a single ‘reporter’ from Teamtalk or Sky Sports.com because, guess what, they aren’t reporters or journalists. Their form of journalism involves highlighting someone else’s copy, pressing control+c and then control+v onto their own document.
    What is more galling is that there are a whole legion of fans who get sucked in by the shiny websites like Teamtalk and Sky Sports.com. But think again, because those of us who work in the football media industry regard them as copy-and-pasters who have zero insight into football or how football clubs work. They are there to get your hits. No more, no less.
    It’s not only unpaid bloggers who fall victim to this, but professional journalists who work hard and call in contacts to generate stories, only to see these losers from Skysports.com or Team talk literally copy their stuff ten mins after their own newspaper’s website has put it live. And, if you’re very lucky, they might even attribute it to you. And if Mr Holmes reckons that providing hyperlinks would increase his workload by 10% then it’s about time his company sent him off for a ‘duffers guide’ on how to use the Internet. In fact, I question why he is working with the web if hyperlinking takes so long….

  • WBABenbow says:

    I disagree almost completely with this article. If Sky had not mentioned the source then it would have been scumbaggery of the highest order, but by mentioning Les Rosbifs it gave anybody interested the chance to find the article. I bet that the traffic generated to the blog through this route outstrips anything in Les Rosbifs history. Googling isn’t exactly hard.

    Would it have been better if they had not taken the quotes? Of course not, by doing so pushes people towards a niche site they would never have heard of otherwise. To complain that they didn’t hyperlink it also is pedantic – some sites do, some don’t, there is no hard and fast rule. This whole kerfuffle all seems very precious to me.

  • Les says:

    I checked the stats for my website today. Going by what “WBABenbow” states, “the traffic generated to the blog through this route outstrips anything in Les Rosbifs history.”

    Wrong.

    Taking the premise that people will search for “Les Rosbifs” or any related deriviatives, my site has generated a further 74 hits since this all kicked off. This, for a website, that generates 1500+ hits per day when any sort of new article is posted.

    So no, it has not outstripped “anything in Les Rosbifs history.” I doubt I will see any change of recognition and/or hits over time.

    The fact I am not being precious about the hits is by-the-by. It is the principle of it all. For a start.

    • WBABenbow says:

      I stand corrected on the hits, which surprises me.

      Can you please clarify the principle for me? You interviewed a person in order to place their comments in the public domain. Their comments, which are then in public, are used by other sources, who state that you are the source.

      Good quotes will always get rehasehed. It may not be groundbreaking journalism, but it is how the media works. Do bloggers never take comments from interviews given to mainstream sources?

  • Elliott says:

    Part of the problem is the old school vs the new school – back in the pre online days, all you ever got was a blurb about the source. Nowadays, people expect a link so that you get 1) A bit of traffic and 2) A bit of a pagerank boost.

    As a blogger, I can empathize with the frustration, but when a famous person says something to anybody, even their own gardener, it arguably belongs to the public domain.

  • Les says:

    But what about when said famous person says something to an independent – amateur – blogger because “you’re not mainstream”? there goes all of the trust placed in me by McClaren in one fell swoop, off the back of one C&P’er behind a computer.

    Of course, they will never see it like that. They also don’t see the discredit it has done to my everyday, professional day job, a job where trust is seen a vital prerequisite.

    There are many layers to this, none of which those who used my article seem to identify with. Because, in the end, all of my hard work, all of Steve’s trust, all of my Creative Commons Licence (and that of bloggers) counts for nothing more than a syndicated article which regurgitates somebody else’s hard work and vision.

  • Gollo says:

    You work 40 hours a week? Wow.

  • […] For more on the lovely journalistic practices at other outlets owned by BSkyB, check this out. […]

  • […] point on establishing The Blizzard earlier this year and Kevin McCauley expounded on the subject in an overview of a spat between blogger Les Rosbifs and Teamtalk that fired up the twitterati last […]

  • Alinne says:

    PaulStop f***ing moaning about there being nohnitg about f***ing Forest in the article. It’s about his time overseas. Have you not read the banner at the top of the site? That’s the whole point of this website.Jesus wept. Myopic press? How about myopic bloody Forest fans? Expecting every new article about MacClaren to be about his time at Forest.

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