The Blog Net News controversy


Several months ago, I stumbled on Blog Net News (BNN) and liked what I saw. The site has different “channels” that focus on geographic areas or certain topics. Each channel aggregates the RSS feeds of various bloggers.

For those who aren’t tech types, an “RSS feed” is basically an automated tool that sends out the title and first couple sentences of each post that I make on this blog. An “aggregator” assembles the feeds of several different bloggers into one site or page.

After trading some emails with David Mastio, the owner of BNN, he created the Accounting channel and the Fraud channel, both of which I edit. I helped David comb the internet for good blogs to be included on the site, and I’ve gotten notes from bloggers who noticed new traffic and wanted to thank me. What do visitors see when they visit BNN? They see the blog’s name, the title of the most recent blog post(s) done on the blog, and a short excerpt of the post. The reader can click on the blog name and get a list of the posts in that blog’s feed. Or the reader can click on the title of the post to go directly to the source blog. The only way to read the whole post by the blogger is to actually go to the blogger’s site.

Where’s the controversy? Some bloggers have asked to be excluded from the site. On several of the channels, David has allowed bloggers to opt-out. On channels that have a political focus, however, he does not allow them to opt-out. His goal is to have wide inclusion of viewpoints on those political channels, so he feels it’s best to keep all blogs in.

Those who have asked to be excluded from BNN seem to make a reasonable request. On the other hand, I don’t see why they would object to what BNN is doing. The site is no different than a site like Technorati or Google, both of which use technology to comb through websites and catalog the results on their sites.

Some bloggers have suggested that David is stealing their content. I disagree. Using short excerpts from other sites is a common practice by bloggers far and wide, and so long as there is attribution of the material, I don’t find that objectionable. I quote other sites all the time, and I link back to them, just as BNN does with the excerpts it publishes.

I don’t know whether any of this falls under the legal term “Fair Use” or not. All I know is that sites quote other sites all the time, and there are plenty of indexes and search engines that use excerpts of my content and provide links back to my site.

What I would have a problem with is using entire posts from bloggers on BNN. That’s not what David does on BNN. And no, I don’t think the blogger who has been writing posts of 50 words or less to “prove” BNN is stealing entire posts has a leg to stand on. That’s just silly.

I like the BNN sites. I don’t know why a few bloggers are making such a fuss about it. Have they tried to get Google to stop indexing their pages? After all, Google shows a couple sentences in its search results. Using their logic, doesn’t that mean Google is stealing too?

The fact that BNN is set up to force readers to go to the bloggers’ sites means that bloggers are likely getting traffic from BNN, not the other way around. Why complain about more traffic and exposure?

David isn’t using anyone’s content in an improper way as far as I can see. If he was, I wouldn’t be an editor.

He’s not ridiculing any bloggers. Heck, he’s not even inserting any commentary on anything. He’s simply using technology to bring together a list of posts at good blogs, so that readers like me can cruise the blogosphere conveniently. I’ve found out about a number of blogs via BNN, and I don’t think I would have found them otherwise.

My hope is that David can reach out to bloggers to:

  1. Publish a policy about what BNN does and how they do it, so that everyone has a full and correct understanding. (I’ve seen bloggers improperly state how the site works. I don’t think they were being malicious in their wrong statements, but I would like everyone to have the right story.)
  2. Start a dialogue with bloggers to help address their fears and make sure their content isn’t being misused in any way.
  3. Implement changes that make the BNN channels better for bloggers.

7 thoughts on “The Blog Net News controversy

  1. I started BNN’s newish blog for just the reasons you state in your suggestions one and two. And of course, if folks have ideas on how BNN can work better to build the influence of bloggers without undermining its central purpose, of helping readers find what they need or want to read, then the door is certainly open.

    We have some changes in the works that will include improving some of the labeling on BNN’s links so people can more easily see what is internal and what is external and that should make the flow of information in the main column easier to understand.

  2. And I’m one of the bloggers hoping to be removed. I suppose there are two ways to look at many things, but since it’s my work, I’d very much like to have a final say where it is printed and who gathers income.

    I find it interesting that you would have one opinion when your work is taken, and another when you might profit from someone else’s effort, Tracy.

    It’s a little doubtful that you’ll post another opinion given your history on other sites you own, but I thought it was worth a try. Please remember I left your comment on my site.

  3. Tracy Coenen

    Cindy – I’m not sure how you got the impression that I have two different opinions, but you’re mistaken. (Not a big surprise there.)

    I’m also not sure what you’re referring to when you say “…given your history on other sites you own.”

    You don’t seem real intent on getting anything right, however, when you’re on the internet.

  4. Tracy Coenen

    Note about comments: I have removed a series of comments starting last night, as Cindy Kilkenny made a very serious false statement about me. I have invited her to retract the lie, but she has chosen not to. I will not allow my site to be a place for Cindy Kilkenny to print her lies.

  5. Count me as another blogger who wants to be removed from blog net news and YES, I do think you are stealing my content.

    Your actions wreak havok with the search engines causing duplicate content and you are damaging my search engine rankings.

    Let me say it again….I research and write content for my site or I pay writers to research and write content for my site and BlogNetNews comes along and STEALS all this work and puts it on its own site to make money with its own advertising.

    Please remove my site.
    thank you,

  6. Debora

    Though I agree that what BNN is doing is not stealing, I don’t see how that justifies not allowing bloggers to opt-out. You state “Have they tried to get Google to stop indexing their pages?”. Maybe they haven’t, but the point is: they can if they want to. Just like you can optimize your blog for Google you could do the opposite.
    You are in essence forcing bloggers into a relationship that some of them don’t want. And that’s just unfair.

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