Friday, January 28, 2011

What the? Part 2

Any publicity is good publicity, so I’m told. Though in the blogworld there’s a slight division between those who court being noticed (and lavished with free stuff) and those who are a bit like the punks I hung out with briefly in my teens. Their attire would scream for attention but would menacingly spit “What ya lookin’ at?” to anyone who cast a glance their way.

I guess at my heart, I’m just a kid with spiky hair. Notice me but let me decide whether I’ll let you get away with it.

Back in November there was a mass email that some of us dubbed “FYI What the F*ck”. My post about the communique prompted some lively commenting and a volley of off blog emails from the Production Director.

December came around and serendipitously I was eating at Pope Joan (wonderful place but a vegan-unfriendly menu) with another foodblogger when we came across the Holiday Edition of GRAM. What a waste of print was the general consensus but to be fair, I thought I’d wait for another edition or two to give it a go.

I was rather surprised today to see a mention on twitter; it appears one of my posts got "quoted" in GRAM. I hadn’t expected that.

So what is GRAM?

An A3 print magazine style (similar size to Beat etc) food-focused freebie.

Issue 2 comprised of:
14 full sized pages of advertising
21 x 2-3-sentence regurgitation of local food blog posts
1 full paged promo for the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival
1 full page “piece” comprising of listing 10 local eateries and the name of the coffee machine they use
1 “about us” style page
8 full format photos (supposedly original as their blurb expressly says “All photography in Gram is copyright and may not be reproduced in whole or part without the prior consent of the publisher”.)

How they described the publication in the original email:

In the interests of integrity, GRAM doesn’t commission writers or works. Content isn’t product driven or based on any commercial directives. Instead it’s made up of positive, in-depth pieces with attractive photography, written by passionate and knowledgeable local ‘authorities’.


Does it deliver?

“In-depth pieces”? Sadly there were none. I could be wrong but the image of some work experience kid being plonked in front of a computer with the instructions to scour local food blogs for any interesting content comes to mind.

I'm more than a little confused as to who are the "passionate and knowledgeable local 'authorities'" who wrote the in-depth pieces. Not the person who clumsily compiles the quotes. So are the bloggers the writers they allude to? If so, I hope my cheque is in the mail.

So are these “in-depth pieces” quoting blogs in the manner that other print media or bloggers themselves do, or are they lifting free content for free?

GRAM claimed
A very similar premise to how a blogger might make reference to an external article they want to share - placing a link in their own blog and directing readers on.


Here’s an example from their site of how they do it:

HUXTABLE
131 Smith St, Fitzroy. Ph. 9419-5101
R&H @ Pepper. Salt. Sugar. Spice. found the menu at Huxtable “intriguing”. Deciding on the “plump and lovely” dashi-poached eggs with smoked salmon, and “spectacular” French toast with poached rhubarb, Istra bacon and maple syrup, they weren’t disappointed. In fact they think Huxtable is Melbourne’s best “café to have breakfast”…
Article Source: http://peppersaltsugarspice.blogspot.com


Would I be upset if another blogger quoted me like that?

Apart from the bad writing? To be honest, I’d think it was just utterly lazy. Most quotes are often used in context. For example “R&H loved the French toast (link to post) but it was the amazing Japanese breakfast that sold me on the place”. Then there’d be ORIGINAL content about my own experience.

These “pieces” are not in-depth or add any original content whatsoever but what differentiates GRAM from another blogger writing the laziest post on earth is that the pieces are just mere wrapping to sell advertising.

Verdict

I’m more amused than hugely annoyed about getting a mention. My understanding from the outcome of my extensive emails to GRAM in November were that they would contact me for permission to reproduce actual content but “quoting”, i.e.: a simple link, was ok. I can’t share those emails as they were marked “in confidence”.

Strangely, rather than being cutting edge, my post they spat out was from March 2010. Hardly recent.

I’ve seen no spike in hits, as the mass email suggested:
As a result, GRAMs featured bloggers will probably notice a marked increase in traffic to their sites, expanding the potential for those already advertising to capitalise on their work, and creating opportunities for those that yet don’t (through options like Google AdSense, Nuffnang and Foodbuzz).


NOTE: F*ck off adsense, nuffnang, foodbuzz I don’t want you.

But wait is that a knock at my door? I think it’s a publisher, who saw my blog for the first time today in GRAM and is offering me a 3 book deal!

As to the concept of GRAM?

Will anyone download the Microsoft software needed to scan the codes (I certainly wont)? And who would laboriously type a long url into their smartphone?

Overall I feel sad that so much money has gone into this magazine, that they’ve wasted the time, space and opportunity that could have created something worth of reading. Regurgitating unpaid pieces that other people have written, instead of commissioning talented food writers to create something new is a total waste.

Or just a cheap way to make money from advertising?

30.1.11 Update: Clarification

* As I said, I'm "amused" about my inclusion in this publication.
* I was surprised rather than upset, mainly because I tend imagine any feedback I give to a publicist/marketer et al that is not 100% positive potentially puts me on a blacklist.
* I quite possibly have an overactive imagination, or so I've been told.
* I am not a lawyer, nor am I pursuing one, I have not been plagiarised.
* Academically though, I'd like to know if a publication used it's "in-depth articles" as a sales pitch to potential advertisers - as in "(the publication is) made up of positive, in-depth pieces with attractive photography, written by passionate and knowledgeable local ‘authorities’" and they acknowledged that the pieces they refer to are the blog posts, if they commission the photos but not the pieces - is it misleading or unethical in any way?
* In the two days since the publication hit the street (literally, I found my copy in an unopened bundle getting very dirty, at lunchtime Friday outside a Degraves Street cafe) the post has had one hit from GRAM (hey the work experience kid has to do something :) but in the same period of time it has had four hits via Google, all from outside of Australia, therefor not remotely related to being "quoted".
* Speaking of links, quotes and mentions - GRAM take note, this is a good example of how most bloggers do it.
* Feel free to speculate on how many editions GRAM will run for. They've clocked up two so far. Do I hear advances on four? Was that a five at the back of the room?

7.2.11 Update: Crikey writes about blogger backlash.

Amber Jamieson reports:
Cea says GRAM is now considering reproducing entire blog posts and paying writers for republishing posts after realising the backlash and negativity from the blogging community. Money has been received for ads, says Cea, but adds: “We’re not making money [yet], that’s for sure.”

While I'm a little skeptical about that happening (or if so, at anything nearing market rates), read the full article as there are lots of gems in it, as well as a good round up of what fellow bloggers are saying. The comparison between Saucy Thyme's actual writing and the GRAM rehash is a fine example of what many of us are on about. The GRAM precis written is so badly, who'd be inspired to visit the original piece?

On other matters, I was informed by GRAM last week that my link has been removed without a trace from their website. Though I've not asked for this, I'm other bloggers quoted in the magazine have suggested it.

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13 Comments:

Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

PS I've not linked their "quote" of my post as I want to see if I really do get spikes in traffic for it LOL.

3:59 pm  
Anonymous Injera said...

We were having a look at this over lunch and the verdict was:
- waste of trees
- haven't people heard of feed readers?
- if you can't work RSS, are you really going to download software so you can scan a barcode?

4:09 pm  
Anonymous Fitzroyalty said...

Fuck the "in confidence". It has no legal foundation. Quote those emails at length. It's fair dealings for the purpose of criticism and review. Some of our food blogger community are lawyers and could easily do a nasty cease and desist letter to these idiots. Any volunteers?

4:28 pm  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

Injera - totally agree. Love the last point, if you can't work RSS what will they make of a barcode?!

Fitzroyalty - my motto this year is to "change my reaction to stress". This isn't worthy of getting hot under the collar about for me. To be honest I can't see the publication being sustainable if it doesn't lift its game and invest in quality writing and you know real "in-depth" pieces. Street mags rely on loyalty of readers to stand the test of time. I've no idea why the whole thing couldn't be reduced to 1 piece of folded down A2, it's so darn wasteful!

4:46 pm  
Anonymous Fitzroyalty said...

Things like the Gram paper work because corporate advertisers are dumb enough to be conned into paying for space in them. If we want to stop it we need to deny it content.

It makes no difference that no one likes it or cares about it. It has the same business model as MX and that is successful - see http://mumbrella.com.au/australias-sleeping-newspaper-giant-38691

4:59 pm  
Blogger Anna said...

I spent a bit of time worrying that my comment mentioning toilet paper on your original post about GRAM was a bit harsh, but I've decided to worry no longer!

5:00 pm  
Blogger Ann O'Dyne said...

Bravo FoodNazi. It i$ clearly about them taking money from adverti$ers and they are u$ing other writers work as the lure.

9:03 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gram will come. And then it will go. Four or so issues maybe if they are lucky.

Also I admire your ethics in not publishing the emails and I deplore the comments by Fitzroyalty with his quasi 'legal' justification.

People are either honourable or they are not.

11:10 am  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

Fitzroyalty - maybe you need to take your concerns directly to the advertisers?

Anna - I prefer mine unbleached and recycled :)

Ann - it would appear that way.

Anon - thanks. Honour is an old-fashioned value. I hope it didn't go out with spiky hair.

7:11 pm  
Blogger Lucy said...

"In the interests of integrity, GRAM doesn’t commission writers or works."

Can anyone explain how commissioning writers affects their 'integrity'?

10:08 pm  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

Lucy perhaps they got the emails mixed up and we got the one that was meant to go to their backer? In the interest of integrity we won't commission pieces as actually paying the local 'authorities' could compromise our bank balance?

10:52 pm  
Anonymous Lucy said...

Am wondering if anyone's thought to contact the people who've bought ad space in the mag, you know, to show them what their money's buying? To see how the (sort-of) content providers are thinking?

It's all Very Odd.

11:28 am  
Blogger Ed Charles said...

I think anonymous is right. It's got about four issues. It's all so lame.

11:18 am  

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