Beware BlogBurst: Bad for Business

Bitch PhD has a long post warning bloggers of the perils of signing up with a syndication service called BlogBurst. Essentially, what BlogBurst does is take an RSS feed of your blog, then sell the feeds to big-traffic websites. Now, we can already see one thing wrong with this picture. Why would anybody pay for RSS they can aggregate completely free?

Clearly that reference to “big-traffic websites” ought to read “high-traffic but clue-deficient websites”.

Now, this might seem a good idea. More traffic please. Here’s the first problem, though; the BlogBurst feed includes the complete text of your stuff. There is no way in which any of the traffic will make its way back to you, unless you count a byline link. In fact, as one can read all your stuff (and other blogs too) on Bigsite.com, you may actually lose traffic.

BlogBurst asked us to join some time ago. After considerable consideration, we decided to turn them down. It wasn’t the traffic we were concerned about, though. It was the fact that agreeing to let BlogBurst use your stuff involves granting them 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. That is to say, signing over the rights!

Needless to say, this is a very bad idea, and (although IANAL) does not seem compatible with Creative Commons licencing. Especially as BlogBurst offers in exchange the prospect that there “might” be some payment in the future. Not “will”. And, just to cap the lot, if you are independently hosted like we are, it could cost you a fortune. Any images in your posts, should they be picked up by BlogBurst, will be hotlinked – on sites that are meant to run massive numbers of pageviews.

4 thoughts on “Beware BlogBurst: Bad for Business

  1. Alex,

    there’s an extensive debate about the value of full-post RSS feeds, see, eg the problogger’s wrap-up –

    http://www.problogger.net/archives/2006/02/23/the-latest-full-vs-partial-feed-debate/

    And even though I don’t want to go out of my way to defend blogburst, after all, I agreed with our decision not to join, I think you’re overly harsh in your assessment even though I believe you entirely understand their proposition: outsourcing the editorial task of sifting though blogs ans offering a qualified selection to online/offline editors of MSM outlets who do not have the competence or manpower to do this themselves.

    Of course, just as the initial discussion of blogburst’s proposal in the blogosphere showed, they aren’t getting the pricing right, which may be a consequence of uncertainty regarding the own product or simply a matter of lack of funding. By signing over rights without any certain compensation bloggers *do* bear a disproportionate part of blogburst’s proposal.

    The signing over of the rights may be a consequence of getting into business with partners like the WaPo, as I imagine they won’t be too happy to use material on their sites that exposes them to possibly costly lawsuits. That’s why I think they have that “non-revocable” clause in the content-provider agreement.

    So that’s my take, their idea is valid, but the execution is, for whichever reason, less than optimal, certainly as far as the legal agreement is concerned.

    The fact that they did not reply to a very kind email addressing these issues doesn’t increase my confidence in their long term ability to attract a sufficiently high number of high profile blogs they will need to pull this model off. Although – bloggers have been willing to prove Jeremy Rifkin’s vanity economics proposition right in the past.

  2. As I said then, and on Bitch’s site, the signup process was so obviously manipulative and meant to mislead you, that they can’t be sincere, and one can’t assume they’re acting in good faith.

  3. The BlogBurst rights grab makes this a potentially huge business opportunity.

    Take food bloggers as one example. If BlogBurst sign up, say, 100 of the good ones. With the rights grab, they may well be able to branch out into publishing recipe books, regional food books, you name it. Having signed a contract giving away all rights, the bloggers can’t do a thing about it. Just grumble.

    That’s not to say BlogBurst would do this… but… they could….

    Signing away all rights to your work is fundamentally a bad idea. No sane journalist, and I am one, would ever do this. It should be the same for citizen journalists. Maybe those who signed up don’t fully understand what they have done.

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