Friday, June 18, 2010

Post Pushes Bloggers for More Original Content

The Washington Post’s blogoscabbing program, through which it has convinced a few bloggers to work for it for free, attracted nationwide condemnation when we exposed it. But the Post is moving forward with the program, and it is pushing the bloggers relentlessly to hand over original content that would not appear on their blogs, but would appear only on the Post’s website.

When the Post tried to convince your author to sign on, its selling point was its alleged ability to drive traffic to our blog. The Post said that it would reprint a paragraph or two of at least some MPW posts and link back to the blog for the remaining content. Post spokesperson Kris Coratti told Media Jobs Daily, “We think there is value in the additional traffic it will drive to their blogs and in having their writing exposed to a new audience.” Your author pointed out to a Post representative that when its Maryland Politics blog did link to MPW, we received very little traffic bump, probably indicating that our audiences mostly overlapped. That was news to the Post, and so was MPW’s edge over them in online subscriber counts.

But merely reprinting and linking to existing blog content is not the Post’s goal. Their real intention is to direct the bloggers to provide content that would only appear on the Post’s website. And the Post has been emailing its bloggers non-stop to get them to provide this free and exclusive work.

On April 19, Post editor Sarah Lovenheim sent the following in an email to their bloggers:

Hi Folks,

This week marks the soft launch of our new local blogging network. We're thrilled to include all of you in this new feature and hope the experience is rewarding and exciting for everyone involved.

To make this successful, we'll stick to the workflow plan we discussed earlier. Here's our proposed guest blogging schedule (to reiterate: if it's your week to 'host,' we'd like to rely on you to submit a little extra if there's breaking news):


Peter Galuska of Bacon's Rebellion: April 19-23 (Peter - please let me know if this is for any reason a bad week)
Sommer Mathis of DCist: April 26-30
Topher Matthews of the Georgetown Metropolitan: May 3-7
Kenny Burns of Maryland Politics Today: May 10-14
Paige Winfield Cunningham of Old Dominion Watchdog: May 17-21
David Alpert of Greater Greater Washington: May 24-28
Dan Malouff of Beyond DC: May 31-June 4

Regardless of whether you're hosting, please submit a quick original post during the week. Length is not important. Sometimes the shorter, the better. Even one paragraph is fair game (assuming it's poignant, punchy or provocative).
This is not mere reprinting and linking to the bloggers’ existing content. The Post is establishing a “workflow plan” and explicitly asking for “original” – that is, exclusive – posts.

On April 21, Lovenheim sent this email to the bloggers:

Peter, Sommer, Kenny, Paige, Topher, Dan and David,

I hope you all had a chance to check out our All Opinions Local blog this morning. We posted an introductory piece highlighting the goals of our network and showcased bios of all of you. We've received positive feedback from colleages at the Post and hope you have, too!

Please feel free to key to the blog on your own sites. As we did with Peter Galuszka's piece (Peter - thanks again for a great post and the reporting you did on the side for it!), we'll key to your Web sites on all posts submitted/reposted.

As a reminder, please send any submissions or questions to, rather than to just to myself or Mike. This way, we can be sure that someone always gets back to you in a timely manner.

Fred Hiatt, our editorial page editor, is enthusiastic about our kick off and as always, we'd welcome your suggestions on how to make this more robust moving forward.

Here is the Post congratulating one of the bloggers for “reporting on the side” and urging them to drive traffic to the Post’s site.

On April 28, Lovenheim sent the following email to the bloggers:

Hi Folks,

Just touching base to see what sort of opinion/analysis pieces you might have in the basket. Some topics that would be great to have someone write on --

Maryland may change teacher evaluations (they'd be based on student performance), perhaps setting up a conflict between academics and teachers unions. Are these evaluations fair?

Some D.C. Council members want to prevent police from joining a federal fingerpointing program that lets authorities check the immigration status of people they arrest. How could this impact the broader immigration reform debate?

Please let us know of any pieces you have in the works and hope all is well.

Now the Post is telling what the bloggers to write about!

On April 30, Lovenheim sent this email to the bloggers:

Hi, All,

Please let us know what you might have on tap for today. If you haven't contributed an original post yet this week, the earlier you can send your drafts, the better. As a reminder, a blog post can be as brief as a graf or two.

We have a new spot on the local homepage (see the Opinions hed) to promote your pieces and if we can keep the blog lively enough, that space could remain ours!

On May 12, Lovenheim sent this email to the bloggers:

Hi, Folks,

Hope you're doing well. When you can, please let us know what you have on tap this week. Particularly if you haven't filed an original post yet (please remember: these can be brief), we'd love to know what you have in mind for later.

And on May 17, Lovenheim sent out this email:

Hi, Folks,

Hope you all had a good weekend. If you haven't already, please let us know what you have on tap this week. We could really use some more content today -- whether you'd like to weigh in on a story from the weekend, pose a question to readers or file a paragraph or two on a new topic, we'd welcome your submissions.

Thanks so much,
It’s obvious what’s going on here. The Post has absolutely no intention of driving traffic to independent blogs. Instead, it wants the bloggers to concentrate on writing free, exclusive content for the Post. Under the terms of its contract with the bloggers, the Post would have the right to republish that work even if the bloggers terminated the contract. Furthermore, in the event of a lawsuit over the work, the bloggers agree to indemnify the Post and assume all legal liability! And the Post is getting all of this for FREE.

Every paid reporter at the Post should be up in arms over this. In an organization that has lost hundreds of millions of dollars and has had four employee buyouts since 2003, how long will their jobs be safe?