The mesh team — i.e. me, Rob Hyndman, Stuart MacDonald, Mike McDerment, Mark Evans and our indispensable conference planner Sheri Moore — are pleased to announce the launch of meshmarketing.ca, the site that goes along with our new one-day marketing event. Meshmarketing takes place on October 22 at Circa, and we have a number of fantastic speakers and panelists to announce.
The highlight is none other than the inimitable Hugh MacLeod, the artist known on Twitter as @gapingvoid. We’ve also got Mitch Joel of Twist Image, Ferg Devins from Molson, the new head of Facebook Canada Elmer Sotto, Mia Wedgbury, Dharmesh Shah and a host of others who will share their online marketing success stories and principles with you.
The idea behind meshmarketing is to spend a day focusing on the key insights, tools and tactics you need to help you win customers’ hearts and minds, online. In addition to Hugh’s keynote, we will have a series of “show and tell” presentations, as well as in-depth workshops. As with any mesh event, all of the presentations and panels and workshops will be as interactive as possible, so that you can connect, share and inspire each other. And we’re planning some inspiring social events as well 🙂
You’re spending more and more of your marketing budget building your business online. But are you making the right calls? Is display the way to go? What about search? Social Media? Community? Video? You know that word-of-mouth is one of the most powerful tools you and your company can use to spread the word about your product or service, and the Web is like word-of-mouth on steroids. What’s working and why?
Come to meshmarketing and hear from those who are making those kinds of decisions every day — the people who can help you understand what works, and how to take advantage of it. More details at the meshmarketing site and at the mesh blog.
In yet another exhibit in the ongoing debate about what constitutes fair use online, Washington Post reporter Ian Shapira writes about how Gawker Media “ripped off” a recent story he wrote. In addition to this pejorative (and arguably also inaccurate) description, Shapira also uses a considerable helping of hyperbole in referring to his tale as “The Death of Journalism, Gawker Edition.” He describes at some length how Gawker lifted a liberal number of quotes and other information from his story, which he says he spent hours acquiring through in-person interviews and so on.
So if the Gawker item is a “rip-off,” which most people would take to mean a wholesale plagiarisation of the original, then there must be no reference to the Post story as the source, and no links either, right? Wrong. Shapira notes that Gawker links to his story high up in its piece, but says that there is “no direct mention of the Post.” In other words, linking is somehow not good enough any more. So there’s no reference to the Post at all then? Er, not exactly. There is a link and reference at the bottom of the piece, in the same way that many blog posts use the “via” link. That doesn’t seem to be enough for Mr. Shapira, however.
If you want to look at the facts of this case in more detail, Zachary Seward at the Nieman Journalism Lab has done an excellent job of parsing the specifics, including the number of words in each piece, the number of “original” words, the estimated time it would take to produce each one, and — most importantly — the number of links and traffic to each, and how high each piece ranks in a Google search for the topic (key ingredients in what Jeff Jarvis and others call the “link economy,” a term that some argue is inaccurate, including Tim O’Brien of the NYT).
I think a couple of elements in this case are particularly interesting: One is that Shapira says at the beginning of his piece that when he first came across the Gawker post, he was happy — and even flattered — that the site had referred to his story and linked to it. He only got mad when his editor told him that he should be, saying the website “stole” his story and asking him why he wasn’t outraged. The more he thought about it, the madder he got. Why? Because he did all the work, he says, but apparently didn’t get enough credit (he should try working for a wire service, where that kind of thing is considered routine).
The other thing that’s interesting is that the Gawker item had not one but three links to the Post, and an explicit mention of the source. Shapira admits that these links drove traffic, but seems to be arguing that they just weren’t prominent enough, or not obvious enough, or something along those lines (some, including Alan Murray of the WSJ, argue this is Google’s fault). William Mougayar responded to me on Twitter that the credit given to the Post was “like a footnote” — and that got me thinking. We’re perfectly comfortable with long excerpts from other people’s work in other places when they are given just a footnote. Why is this case so different? It even includes traffic, which scholarly footnoting rarely does.
I’d be willing to agree that Gawker could have — and maybe even should have, in an ethical sense — mentioned Shapira and his story specifically. But there is no way in heck that a post with three links and an explicit reference to the source constitutes anything approaching a “rip-off” or the “death of journalism.” How about the death of hyperbole, and the rebirth of rational debate about the value of linking and traffic, and/or the ethics of sourcing online? That would be nice.
I realize it’s entirely possible that virtually no one will read this post. I have been a very bad blogger recently, and wouldn’t be surprised if most people have given up on it. I would dearly love to be writing more, but just never seem to find the time.
I blame two things — one being my new(ish) job as the Globe and Mail’s online Communities Editor, which has sucked up a lot of my free time, and the other being Twitter, which makes it so seductively easy to post quick thoughts rather than taking the time to think about and write a longer post.
As I lie here in the hammock at the family cottage up in the Ottawa Valley, I would like to think that some day I will be able to get back to writing more regularly (other than the posts I’ve been doing for the Nieman Journalism blog, which have also been few and far between lately). But I can’t promise anything.
In the meantime, please feel free to follow me on Twitter (I’m @mathewi) and start up a conversation about new media, technology, journalism or pretty much anything else.