Friday, January 19, 2007

BlogBurst, ScooptWords, and Newstex; A Guide to Blog Syndication Services

I've been contacted by Newstex, a blog syndication service, and invited to join their Blogs On Demand™ network.

Since I wasn't familiar with Newstex, or blog syndication for that matter, off to research the topic I went. Here's what I found.

Basically, the three main players in this field are BlogBurst, ScooptWords, and Newstex. They each put their own twist on syndicating your blog content to their clients (mostly publishers).

BlogBurst takes your content and tries to place it on MSM online sites. Think exposure.

ScooptWords acts as an agent for your content; once the publisher finds you ScooptWords negotiates a licence fee for the use of your content. Think representation.

Finally, Newstex provides your content to the financial, government and entertainment markets, with a twist. It adds industry-specific data, stock ticker symbols, keywords and other categorization fields to your content. Think client support.

A bit more detail.

BlogBurst aims to place your blog's content on major online media sites (washingpost.com, sfgate.com, reuters.com, etc.). This is a distribution and matching service, and it's non-exclusive.

Their stated aim is to widen your blog's reach and drive traffic to your blog

Copyright*

From their FAQ: Your blog, your content and your name remain yours. There are some licensing terms you have to agree to when signing up for this opt-in service in order for your content to be displayed on partner sites.

*Before we look at what the current Agreement says, there's a bit of a back story you should be aware of.

First, since I wasn't invited to join, and haven't applied to join, I never read the original Agreement. Second, other bloggers who've read it have posted relevant bits. From Gary Farber, at Amygdala:

"you grant to Pluck [BlogBurst's parent company] and its affiliates a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free, perpetual license to reproduce, distribute, make derivative works of, perform, display, disclose, and otherwise dispose of the Work (and derivative works thereof) for the purposes of (a) modifying the Work without substantially changing its original meaning, and (b) distributing the Work (and derivative works thereof) to Publisher electronic web sites or corresponding printed editions, whether now known or hereafter devised."


As Gary Farber points out, the main problems with the original contract language were the "royalty-free, perpetual license", and the rights to derivative works.

Third, according to Plagiarism Today, BlogBurst has revised the Agreement, and addressed some of the initial concerns:

First, the new agreement greatly restricts the definition of "derivative work" as it pertains to the service. Where, previously, there was no significant definition provided, the new agreement the limits the creation of derivative works to "adapting the Work to fit within Publisher web sites without substantially changing its original meaning."

...

Second, the new agreement, unlike the previous one, is not perpetual. Once a blogger leaves the Blogburst network, all of his or her works are to be removed from licensor's sites at the end of one year.


Finally, from the current Agreement:

...you grant to Pluck and its affiliates a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free, license to reproduce, distribute, make derivative works of, perform, display and disclose the Work (and derivative works thereof) for the purposes of (a) adapting the Work to fit within Publisher web sites without substantially changing its original meaning, and (b) distributing the Work (and derivative works thereof) to Publisher electronic web sites


Byline

From the FAQ: Display of your blog or your blog posts on any BlogBurst network publisher site requires a full byline....

From the Agreement:

In the event that your work is published, you will receive attribution in the form of a "by-line." The exact format and placing of the attribution is subject to Pluck's (and the Publisher's) discretion.


and

In the event that your work is published, the publication will include at least one link to the website on which your content was located (if applicable).


Compensation

None, unless you're one of their "top bloggers". From the FAQ page:

We rolled out the BlogBurst Rewards Program in Q4, 2006 with the first payouts going to bloggers on a quarterly basis. Details are available in the Rewards Program FAQ, but in short we provide significant payouts to bloggers at the top of the BlogBurst leaderboard, which tracks pickups across the publisher using the BlogBurst service.


And from the Agreement:

You may be compensated for the Works that you have contributed subject to Pluck's then-current policies. However, you acknowledge and agree that Pluck is not obligated to compensate you, you are not entering into this Agreement with the expectation of any payment, and you are entering into this Agreement solely in exchange for the benefits set forth in Section 3 above. [Section 3 deals with attribution and link to original site.]


and

For the avoidance of doubt, where the Work is subject to any statutory royalty provisions under applicable law, you waive your right to collect any such statutory royalties.


Last, but not least, Problogger looks at the numbers:

Now however they’ll be paying their Top 100 bloggers with a payment system that is quite different to anything I’ve seen before in the blogosphere. They are basing their rewards program upon a system like the PGA leaderboard where there is an amount that will be paid out each quarter which will be split between the top 100 in a prearranged way.

Position 1 will earn $1500, position 2 $1250, position 3 $1150 right down to positions 81-100 earning $50.

It’s an interesting model and will of course appeal to their top bloggers and put offside a lot of the smaller publishers.

The actual numbers seem smallish to me (remember they are paying these amounts for 3 months rather than monthly) but then again I’m not privy to knowing how much of a blogger’s content is actually used in that time. If it’s just a few articles then it’d be fine but I’m not sure I’d want to be seeing my content appear on other sites regularly for around $16 per day ($1500 divided by 90 days).


Promoting your work

From the FAQ page: BlogBurst helps promote your blog to publishers for display on their sites, and handles blog profile management, syndication, blog promotion and discovery....

I couldn't find any mention of BlogBurst promising to promote the work of bloggers in the Agreement.

To join

You are either invited to join, or you can request an invitation (BlogBurst editors review your site and notify you if you've been accepted).

Personal experience

None.

ScooptWords is set up to, and I'm paraphrasing, sell newsworthy blog content written by members of the public to the world's press. In other words, it acts as an agent, by negotiating a fee on your behalf with a prospective publisher. This is a non-exclusive arrangement.

Copyright

From the site (caps in original): AS A SCOOPTWORDS MEMBER, YOU ALWAYS RETAIN THE COPYRIGHT TO YOUR WRITING. WE DON'T HAVE ANY RIGHTS TO YOUR WORK OTHER THAN THE RIGHT TO LICENSE IT COMMERCIALLY ON YOUR BEHALF.

And this, from the "Terms and conditions" page:

- By displaying a ScooptWords button on a blog listed with Scoopt under the ScooptWords scheme, you accept and understand that you are granting Scoopt a non-exclusive worldwide licence of the copyright and all intellectual property rights in your writing until you delist the blog from ScooptWords or leave Scoopt.

- For the avoidance of doubt, Scoopt claims no right to use your blog content in any way except to license it for publication in return for a commercial fee which is then shared with you.


Byline

From the literature: We try very hard to ensure that you get a byline and a link back to your blog. However, byline policy differs from publication to publication so we cannot absolutely guarantee you will receive a byline for everything you sell.

From the "Terms and conditions":

You also waive any so called moral rights in the Content including the right to be named and credited as its creator. Scoopt will however use reasonable efforts to ensure that you are credited as the creator of the Content with each use made of them. However you recognise that it may not be possible for commercial reasons determined by Scoopt acting reasonably.


Compensation

From the site: You receive 75% of the sales revenue. We're suspending our intial 50% cut of the first sale for a limited promotional period. More in the FAQ section.

From the "Terms and conditions":

All licensing and assignment fees, including secondary and subsequent licensing paid to Scoopt by Media Targets, will be split equally between you and Scoopt after deduction of VAT and similar taxes which fall due.


Promoting your work

ScooptWords does not find clients for you.

Once you sign up with them, you place their button on your site, and wait for any interested publisher to find you. Once that happens, ScooptWords negotiates a fee on your behalf.

Note, however, this language from the "Terms and conditions" page:

- In return for Scoopt marketing, promoting and commercially exploiting the Content and agreeing to pay you the sums set out in this Agreement as they are due, you agree ....


Also, from the ScooptWords blog, an instance where they already have a publisher and are looking for bloggers to fill the assignment.

One more thing. While ScooptWords says it's working on its own aggregation and search tools, it already has a partnership with Nightcap Syndication, and they encourage you to submit content to Nightcap Syndication, in order to expose your quality blog content to editors who want to pay for it.

To join

All you have to do is fill out a form, and place a ScooptWords button on your blog.

Personal experience

None.

Newstext takes your content, adds industry-specific data, stock ticker symbols, keywords and other categorization fields, and delivers it to customers in the financial, government and entertainment markets (LexisNexis, New York Daily News, AP Financial News, Investor's Business Daily, Congressional Record, etc.). Then Newstex clients integrate Newstex's products into their commercial and proprietary applications for delivery to end-users via the Internet, wireless devices, proprietary networks and dedicated terminations. The arrangement with Newstex is non-exclusive.

Copyright

From the Agreement (.pdf):

...you are granting Newstex and Users, as appropriate, the right to:

• Use, market, distribute, sell and transmit the Content to Users on a worldwide, nonexclusive basis, including providing free trial promotions of up to 30 days. This includes all archival material from the Content that is maintained by Newstex, which may be made available to Users during the term of and in accordance with the provisions of this agreement.

• Reformat, index, add keywords or symbols, and convert the Content to standard electronic form; transmit only headlines or short-form versions; or use facts in the Content to create new content.

• Use the name of your blog and trademarks in promotional materials, press releases and advertisements that identify content providers distributed by Newstex and its Users.


and

In addition, Newstex warrants that:

...

This agreement does not transfer to it any proprietary right, title, copyright or other intellectual property right in your Content and that your trademark(s) are your sole and exclusive property.


Byline

From the Agreement: Newstex will place a live hyperlink to your homepage in its dateline and require its Users to maintain the same.

Compensation

Royalty Amount. It will pay you a Royalty Amount, based on multiplying the Royalty Pool (defined below) by the ratio of the stories from your Content distributed by Newstex to the total number of stories from all of content sources distributed by Newstex during each month....

Royalty Pool. The term "Royalty Pool" for any given Newstex product shall mean 30% of gross revenues that Newstex derives from licensing of such product, less allowance for bad debt. Distribution, composition and pricing shall be at the sole discretion of Newstex.


[Excuse mois? Leave it to me to be contacted by the one service with the oddest (as far as I'm concerned) compensation scheme of them all.]

Promoting your work

From the site: In the virtual company [Newstex is a virtual company.], motivation and creativity are required. At Newstex, we pour resources into marketing and communications, not physical assets and tangible infrastructure. We meet with partners and business prospects rather than worrying about buildings and HR guidelines.

I couldn't find any mention of Newstex promising to promote the work of bloggers in the Agreement.

To join

You are either invited to join, or you can fill out an application and a Newstex representative will contact you.

Personal experience

So far, so good.

The initial email form Newstex was the standard corporate intro/flattery (totally justified when it comes to TWTP, of course) combo. Because I detest corporate speak, I awarded points to Newstex for going easy on meaningless generalities.

Subsequent communications have been excellent. I found the Newstex rep to be very responsive and helpful. All my questions were answered, and my concerns addressed to my satisfaction (I wasn't too keen on the ...use facts in the Content to create new content part.]

Obviously, I don't have any first-hand experience with reimbursment. However, you should know that earning potential is not my main consideration here [exposing financial professionals, journalists, and lawyers to correct medical information is]. So your analysis of the pros and cons of joining Newstex might differ from mine.

Finally, here's what other people are saying about BlogBurst, ScooptWords, and Newstex.

An overview of BlogBurst from NewsBreaks.

InterMedia on BlogBurst:

I spoke with Pluck CEO Dave Panos last night about Pluck's new BlogBurst technology. The BlogBurst elevator pitch is "the AP newswire for the blogosphere." BlogBurst will cull content from bloggers who have been approved by Pluck to participate in the service. That content will then be pushed (via RSS I believe) to newspaper Web sites. Newspapers participating in the beta service include The Washington Post and the San Francisco Chronicle.

The two great thing about BlogBurst are 1), that it allows the bloggers to continue developing their content and brand on their own property, and 2) it will (eventually) provide them with revenue share.


A detailed discussion of BlogBurst, and personal experiences from Plagiarism Today.

The definitive series on BlogBurst from medGadget here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

An interview with the head of ScooptWords, Graham Holliday, from Problogger. [Don't miss Mr. Holliday's additional contribution in the comments section.]

A review, and critique of both BlogBurst and ScooptWords from MediaShift:

Budding writers often dream of the day their words will reach a wider audience, and that they’ll get paid for their hard work. And for many bloggers who toil in obscurity below the radar, the thought of having their blog posts show up on a huge newspaper site such as washingtonpost.com is enticing.

But the dream doesn’t always match the reality. New blog syndication services BlogBurst and ScooptWords help increase exposure for independent blog content through mainstream media outlets, but neither company entirely puts bloggers’ interests first.


Finally, a couple (and I do mean, a couple) of items on Newstex. [The one company I was most interested in was the hardest to find any insightful pieces on.] From Content Matters:

Larry Schwartz, President of Newstex, discussed their inclusion of blogs within their news feeds. According to Larry, Newstex views blogs as commentary; they have several hundred blogs today. In terms of why bloggers would syndicate their blog, they have found bloggers choose to syndicate their content for a few reasons:

1. To generate traffic for their blog
2. To get publicity (particularly consultants)
3. Some professional journalists want the chance to post their opinions without having to be reviewed by an editor.

Newstex users, largely traders and other financial professionals, see blogs as a way to find information before the mainstream media. He cited the example of last week’s announcement by Apple Computer of their intention to support Windows. Gizmodo picked up the story at 9:05am, while AP and other wires were 30-40 minutes behind that. The time advantage allowed traders to get in and out of the stock while others were just reading the news.


From Joseph Marshall at A Straight Shot of Politics, who was trying to find information about Newstex in the context of it being a news source for Pajamas Media:

They have contracted out this News function to an organization called Newstex, who provide, for a fee, "content on demand". When the PJs first appeared a couple of weeks ago I was curious about this news source of theirs. No indication of prices were on the Newstex site, so I dropped them an e-mail for information. The cost is a minimum of around $2500 for newsfeed and rights. And details would have to be negotiated over the phone.

The overall tone of the operation is that of a modest but unassailable professionalism. But this well modulated tone cannot conceal the strong impression that the corporate assets largely consist of a good fileserver, paid first party licensing fees, access to a professional web designer, and a nondescript rented suite of offices.


[Ha, great catch by Mr. Marshall. He was almost right. Newstex doesn't even rent offices; it's a virtual company.]

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4 Comments:

At 5:15 PM, Blogger TBTAM said...

Wow - that's complicated...

So what are you going to do? Which one (if any) are you going to join? Do you recommend any of them? Or do you think they are just using our content to make money and reimbursing us pennies on their dolars?

 
At 11:19 AM, Blogger barry said...

Excellent overview -- thanks for the full picture.

 
At 4:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The link to the PDF of the Newstex contract is broken.

 
At 6:17 AM, Blogger GCohen said...

Thanks for the detailed look at these services. Like you I am interested in Newstex and wondering if it really is relevant for getting the message out. I have a leadership blog at www.co2partners.com/blog

 

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