3 Ways You Know BuzzFeed Is Taking Your Stuff
- Blog Post by: James Lileks
- September 13, 2013 - 12:24 PM
There are two different species of people on the internet: content producers, and content “aggregators.” The latter look for things the first group has made, and reassemble them in a way that adds value or presents them to wider audiences. Sometimes this means assembling disparate pieces to buttress a novel idea; sometimes it means hoovering up portions of someone else’s work and putting them in list form and adding your own captions and byline. Today “copyranter” at Buzzfeed took 13 images from lileks.com. It’s an old, old site about Mr. Coffee Nerves, an advertising character I found in the Strib microfilm 13 years ago. I printed off the pages, scanned them, cleaned a few up, put them on the site I pay to host. A few years ago I found another in a magazine I bought in a thrift shop. Over the years people have stumbled across Mr. Coffee Nerves and enjoyed the peculiar tableaus; another site, allthingsger, has collected some examples as well.
"Copyranter," the "best ad blogger in the world," has decided to share them with the world, and in true BuzzFeed style has added value to the original by writing new captions.
Here’s one image:
Original copy on the page:
Let’s see . . . ugly hat on her, plaid jacket on him: yes, they belong together, all right. Too bad coffee blinds them to the fact.
Mr. C. is having fun: dump her! It’ll just be you and me and the percolator!
Buzzfeed extra-added-value copy for the image:
Well, that excalated quickly.
You can see how this is totally different from my site. I have too many words and most are spelled correctly.
In the early, optimistic infancy of the internet before greed and sloth took over (this lasted from Feb. 16, 1997 9:27 AM until later that afternoon) you didn’t help yourself to everything on someone else’s site, put it on your page, sell some ads, and cover your tuckus with a weentsy link back to the original source. Nowadays this is common, and if you complain, you’re told Hey, you’ll get some traffic and people will see the rest of your stuff and besides information wants to be free and also, why don’t you send your complaints to sad-trombone@pound_sand.com, okay?
Here’s how sites that do not wish to become widely regarded as “a sinkhole full of leeches” do things. It’s not easy, but I’l walk you through it.
First, find a story you’d like to share with the rest of the internet. Let’s say, oh, this one. It’s from BuzzFeed, as it happens. It’s called “This Half-Naked Guy Shouting At You From a Lake Is Running for Mayor of Minneapolis."
"With 38 candidates in Minneapolis’ mayoral contest, it’s hard to stand out. Ryan Broderick at BuzzFeed has discovered how Jeffrey Wagner intends to get your attention:
"That’s right: standing in a lake in swimwear yelling campaign promises. See the whole piece here. (image from YouTube via Ryan Broderick.)"
I know, I know - so much typing is required. Why credit him for a a YouTube frame grab? Because he grabbed it, that’s why. This way the work is sampled, presented to a new audience, the author gets a hat-tip, and you’re invited to view the original with the expectation that there’s more to be found.
Or, you can take all his screengrabs and write your own captions and put a link to the original in type size usually found in the fifteenth sub-clause of a legal document.
Another tip for people who want to be better at this madcap romp we call “making stuff for the internet”: generate your own material. This is hard, because it requires leaving the house. Next month, for example, I’m doing a piece on General Mill’s seasonal revival of the classic Monster cereals. Do you recall this one?
I don’t. I may have blocked it from my memory, because the implications are too horrible. Like BooBerry, the Mummy cannot taste the cereal, but at least BooBerry’s reason can be traced to his ectoplasmic composition. The Mummy cannot taste, or digest, because all of his internal organs were removed and stored in jars.
What’s more: the Egyptians regarded the immediate aftermath of death as the start of a perilous journey through the labyrinths of the underworld, ending up in a fearsome confrontation with the god who judges your soul. If you are brought back to life with the application of tannis leaves, as is the accustomed method, that’s what you would expect. That’s not the expression you’d have if someone handed you a bowl of cereal.
Anyway: the only reason I know about this Mummy cereal is because I left the house, and saw it at Target. I’m sure there are pictures in Google; surely Mr. Breakfast’s site - the Library of Alexandria of cereal lore - has something . . . why, yes.
While most cereal enthusiasts group Yummy Mummy with the other monster cereals, Cereal Mascot Expert Topher Ellis notes that General Mills never officially declared Yummy Mummy to be part it's monster cereal collection.
That’s why I love the site: it makes you realize there are people who consider things like “canonical monster cereals.” There’s more at the page, including a video and a history of the awful, awful stuff.
Anyway: I won’t have to bother with credits for the pictures, because I took them. A little work was involved; here’s the original.
But in the end it’s just a picture of a box of cereal, and I don’t care if anyone uses it. You can't demand credit for every damned thing you do. Unless they take all the pictures and write short captions that say, in essence, OMG WTH THIS WAS A THING.
I’ll be putting up the Monster Cereal post on Oct. 2nd, so you can expect to see the pictures on BuzzFeed around the 9th.
Can’t say which year; took them 13 years to get around to Mr. Coffee Nerves.
PS There weren't 3 things in this piece and YOU probably aren't having your work repurposed, but headlines like that make people click. I learned that from somewhere; the URL escapes me at the moment.
© 2014 Star Tribune