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Finding out that someone is using your posts without your name is a slap in the face, to say the very least. That’s why so many people, including me, got pissed off at Don Crowther. But I did something nobody else did. I called him up. Turns out is was an honest, if clueless mistake.
Constantin Basturea posted about Don Crowther’s 101 Public Relations’ PR Commentary Blog which had a beta of a PR blog aggregator. It picks up RSS feeds from selected blogs and runs a summary leading to the actual post. Note that is it called Don Crowther’s PR Commentary Blog. He likes his own name used, but didn’t bother to include others’ names in their posts.
RSS Feeds: Summary or Full Posts?
He’s picking up RSS feeds off the blogs he likes. Some people post summaries to their RSS feeds, some post full content. I post summaries because I want people to come to my blog to read my content. Others, like Rubel, post their full content on their feeds, figuring that all exposure is good publicity.
I know Crowther [full disclosure, he sells some of my reports] and I know him as an honorable guy who’s really into promoting himself. So I called him and asked him WTF he was doing. He said he started aggregating the PR blogs for himself and then realized others might want the same info. The site is in beta and he claimed he wanted it running smoothly before he made his announcement and his final tweaks.
Bad Judgment, Not Evil Intent
Because only headlines show on Crowther’s aggregator, it definitely gives the appearance that he is the author of all of the posts. Hence the charges of plagarism. But he insists that was not his intent, and I believe him.
His judgment sucks, but his intent is not evil. He was accused of making money from others’ posts because he has Google ads on his blog. That’s just ridiculous. Plenty of bloggers, including me, run Google ads and/or other advertising on their blogs. I simply don’t see that as the problem.
Steve Rubel commented, “I don’t mind if they make money off my content. As I see it, I benefit from greater visibility. If a blogger feels they’re getting ripped off then they can turn off the faucet by publishing a headline-only RSS feed or none at all.”
Neville Hobson commented on Rubel’s post: “I suppose I might feel less pissed off about it if the guy who writes the blog had asked. But I guess he wouldn’t do that if he intended to repurpose the content and package it all up the way he has, and present it all as part of his commercial offering….It’s just that I really don’t like the idea that’s this guy is making money out of something he had no part in creating.”
What Crowther did wrong:
– didn’t ask our permission. While he could have made it seem like a privilege to be included, he ended up looking like a thief
– he didn’t include the name of the blog or the blogger as all newsreaders do
– he didn’t respond quickly enough when the conversation began.
What’s he’s done since:
– asked permission and given an opt-out option to bloggers who don’t want to be included
– said he’ll get the blog names in the headlines
– posted a response on each of the blogs discussing him
crowther_cover.png.jpgCrowther as made other mistakes in judgment. I gave him permission to sell my book, Press Releases From Hell and How to Fix Them. I just realized tonight that he’d changed my title, taken my name off the report and created his own cover! Then he used MY copy to promote my report. Needless to say, that’s now been changed.
All of this makes me wonder how we prolific bloggers really can cover our backs and our butts. I had a guy sell stuff that I give away free. And when I told him to take it down he told me to have my lawyer call his lawyer. That was pre-blogging. Now I’d publicly whip his sorry ass.
The other question it raises is how to apologize for a mistake made in full view of the world. The answer, in my opinion, is full disclosure, quickly and politely. Crowther didn’t respond immediately, but he responded. He made changes. You have to give him credit for that.