Do Content Aggregators Take Advantage of Food Bloggers?

Mar 252014
 

A guest post by Sally Cameron

Sally Cameron

Food Blogger Sally Cameron, proprietor of A Food-Centric Life, questions who benefits from her content appearing on other sites.

I log in to the admin page of my site and there they are: the pingbacks. These are links to websites that use my content and recipes, usually without permission.

One type is from newbie bloggers who do not understand the courtesy of crediting my site. I inform them politely. Usually they are apologetic and add a link and credit.

But lately I’m getting pingbacks from the other kind: content aggregators. These are big groups, big sites, with tens to hundreds of thousand of followers. They take my content for free, for their own benefit, sometimes without notifying me and without asking for permission.

They may not take the full post. Maybe it is my photo and a list of the recipe ingredients, with links back to my site for the recipe directions. Here are my experiences with two aggregator sites, and I’m wondering whether it’s worth it:

1. RecipeChart.com

I joined the RecipeChart.com community by invitation. It sounded good. They say that they want to help bloggers grow their traffic. And who doesn’t want to grow their traffic?

Recipe Chart calls itself “an engaging photo and recipe sharing site for foodies” and a “recipe hotspot.” It has over 200,000 likes on Facebook. I wish I did! And they got there by using my content for free, and that of many other food bloggers.

I can tell by using Google Analytics that the site has posted 31 of my recipes. I appreciate that they leave my site’s watermark in place on our photos. Do readers click on that button and go to my site? Yes, a little. Overall, those recipes have generated less than a thousand clicks for me.

Now I wonder: By driving a very small amount of traffic, do they really help me with visibility? Is being on their site mostly benefiting them? Am I diluting my content by having it on this site, or helping it?

2. Bembu.com

A new aggregator, Bembu.com takes loads of content from other sites and aggregates it into groups, like booklets, by subject. They give slight credit to the content creator.

The Power of Green

The Bembu site used this image from Sally’s site without permission, but gave a photo credit without a link, and removed a watermark. Once she contacted the site about the situation, the photo disappeared.

When Bembu used our photo of green juice, editors placed a small credit under the image, which was not linked to the site. Readers would link to my recipe if they clicked on the title of the paragraph describing the green juice. I have no agreement with Bembu, and I did not give them permission to use our photo. The link brought a few hundred people to my site.

There is no “about” information on the Bembu site and no contact info. The only way to contact them is to leave a comment, so I did so, asking for a link. I received a prompt reply. They informed me that they feel they do give credit and that there was no ill intent when they posted one of my photos. They said the watermark was cropped out to maintain a consistent image on Bembu.

They would take my photo off immediately if I wanted, they said, but most bloggers appreciate the visibility. That’s the standard line all of these sites use, right? I tried to get into more of a conversation, like asking where they are located. I also asked that they link my image to my site. They did not answer my questions.

I was careful to keep the tone of my email correspondence friendly. Rather than provide a link, the response was to remove the image and content. It seemed such a small thing, to ask for a link.

Based on my experience with these two aggregate sites, I will not accept invitations to new sites. I will continue to follow my pingbacks, kindly contacting the offenders if they do not give proper attribution. For now I plan to stay with Recipe Chart in the hope that I get an increase in traffic.

If you’re a food blogger, do you feel that traffic from aggregators like these two are better than nothing? If your content and images have appeared on aggregator sites, have you benefitted, or are they taking advantage?

Professional chef, health coach, speaker, educator and co-author of The Daniel Plan Cookbook, Sally Cameron publishes the popular blog A Food Centric Life. Her passion is encouraging people to get into the kitchen and cook healthy food that tastes terrific. Sally’s work has been featured online at BlogHer, Bon Appétit, Women’s Health, HuffPost Food, The Nest, and Ladies Home Journal.

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  32 Responses to “Do Content Aggregators Take Advantage of Food Bloggers?”

  1. Many bloggers don’t really take time to fight these sites since they are only grabbing partial feed (or a list of ingredients) with a link to the original recipe to get the whole scoop. I try to fight these sites if I can because I don’t care for the fact that they are creating an income-driving site by using blogger’s recipes (without their permission). It’s just not right.

    Do I benefit in terms of traffic from these sites? Not enough to matter. And yes, they are definitely taking advantage.

    These days, there aren’t enough hours in the day to zap them all, but I send off a few emails each week trying to fight them.

    • Good to know, Lori. So you would vote for Sally to ask both these sites to remove her content, I’m guessing.

    • I can only imagine on a site as large as yours, Lori, that your content must constantly be taken. it must be hard to keep up with it. Agreed. It is not right, yet people do it all of the time. It is refreshing when someone actually asks permission. Interesting to know that you see little benefit as well. Thanks.

  2. I fight the major offenders by reporting them to Google, but that’s tiresome after awhile. I also use a canonical link element, in the hopes that if anyone gets a penalty it won’t be me.

  3. If i join a site like recipechart I want to have a part of their traffic to my page. Then we have got a mutual interrest in which I agreed. But I don’t like it when sites borrow my images just for their own purpose and don’t give something back. IT should be interesting for both parties.

    • Agreed, Andrea. It should work both ways. Key point, mutual interest, as in they invited and you accepted and there is benefit for both. If it ceases to be beneficiary, I guess it can be ended. I have not gone that route yet. Have you?

  4. Very useful information. I am so unsophisticated that I never understood pingbacks before reading this. Many thanks -

    • Glad that tidbit was useful Liz. I’ll bet you will be following yours now. Hopefully it will be to site that is using the link correctly. If not, you will quickly find out and have to choose how to respond. It amazes me how many sites there are that do nothing but use other peoples content. Nothing original.

  5. I do not worry in the slightest about the sites that send me a pingback. Google is getting far more sophisticated and recognizes that you are the original. Google is also giving me more credit for having another site link to me, making my authority in the subject greater.

    The problem I have is when sites take images and recipes and offer NO credit, no link, nothing. That is outright infringement and that (in my opinion) is where any battle should be waged.

    • That is the battle Amanda, you are right. I got into quite a correspondence wtih the Bembu guy. He told me he was not stealing my content. I never accused him of that. I kept the tone polite, yet he accused me of being confrontational. He never did answer my questions. He also said that he had hot linked my image. When I first found it, it was certainly not hot linked and the tiny gray “credit” under the image was not hot linked either. I checked many images on his site that he had taken from other blogger. Most were not hot linked. So he removed my image and the recipe description and link.

  6. One thing that’s missing from your analysis: Google’s take on syndication. While you might not be getting traffic from these sites, you are still getting a boost – in search results.

    The bigger the site that links back to you, the more the boost. We actively seek out syndication for Food Fanatic, because it helps us get onto the first page of search results. I have seen some of our posts go from the 3rd page to the 1st page just by one link back from the Huffington Post on the term/post that was linked to.

    You’re always going to get more traffic from google than any other source, so anything that helps to get you onto the first page of results is a good thing.

    • And I forgot to include, here’s the google blog on syndication vs. duplication:
      https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/66359?hl=en

      • Thanks Amber. Good info for everyone. I’ll read it. And yes, a boost is good with Google’s take on syndication even if it may not show up in traffic. I was actually going to leave it there (on Bembu). I did not ask them to remove it. All I asked was for them to hotlink the image to the site, to the post it came from. Rather than do that, which seems like a small request, he just removed it. He told me he had hot linked my image, which was not true. And when I checked may other photos from other bloggers, most were not hotlinked. Not too honest.

  7. In general I do follow down every pingback and it drives me made to see a tried and tested recipe reproduced elsewhere without contacting me first. Those offenders tend to be newbie bloggers. When it comes to syndicated feeds the biggest offender recently is “scoop.it” where they take my photograph & ingredient list then link below for the method. If I host the image – which is what normally happens then they are using up my site bandwidth by doing so.
    I appreciate that syndication is good for page rank in some circumstances. HOWEVER there is a case to be argued that they are stealing our intellectual property everytime they syndicate and don’t attribute/credit appropriately. Food for thought.

    • I hear you Caitriona. I am not familiar with Sccop.it. I know there are many sites on Facebook that take peoples content and photos and use them like they created it without any credit or attribution whatsoever. Facebook should have a rule on that but I doubt it will ever happen. It is frustrating, because we all work so hard on our content. Had not thought about the bandwidth issue. I host with a company, not self hosted. Thanks for explaining.

  8. Hey Sally! This is a great post! As you may have noticed I have taken a bit of a blogging break, concentrating on work for the Globe and a few clients. I’m also in process of revamping my site, but it is taking forever. I am glad you have highlighted these problems. I think it is a constant battle (which I haven’t bothered to fight) but it is worth pushing back. Once I get through moving house and redesigning my site, I suppose this is just another problem to take on and address consistently. Thanks for all this great information. Keep up the good work! XXOO Sally

    • So funny Sally. Love “the other”!. Been too long my friend. Nice to hear from you. I too am building a new site. Hope it will be done in a few weeks. It is so hard, and takes so much time and money. It’s going to be even more image-driven, so we will see how all of this goes with other sites taking or using content. Sometimes it’s worth the fight and sometimes not, I think we all agree on that. Your site is so lovely and you do a beautiful job. Congrats on all going so well wtih The Globe. Looking forward to seeing your new site!

  9. Thank you for sharing your experience relative to this critical issue. Having read many concerns of this nature, including items formerly identified on this, Dianne’s Will Write for Food Blog, I admit to holding my breath with a particular pingback on my food blog some weeks ago. It was a graphic design company in New York that used my recipe ‘as is’ though they did credit my blog and linked to it. I supposed this was OK. Searching out intruders I think, is difficult for newer, smaller size bloggers not always knowing what to look for, or having the time or savvy awareness to resource it.

    • Did they use your entire recipe Peggy? Without asking first? I would not be happy about that. At least they linked to your site adn gave credit, but I still don’t think this is ok. They should know better, and I’ll bet they do, so they are taking advantage. If they used your photo and described the recipe with a loin so people had to go to your site to see it, fine. If they used your total recipe, even with a link, they are not helping your traffic. They owe you that much. Have you thought about going back to them?

  10. I have experienced the same problems and when I started Our Community Table I made it clear to all participating writers
    1. They own the content and it comes when they say it comes down.
    2. Everything they allow me to present must have their identity on it (including photos with watermarks please!)
    3) Only the first 50 words or so plus one photo will be published and the full article and recipe(s) will reside on their sites, page 2 if you will.

    So far the response and understanding has been great. Our intention is to become a full cooperative and share revenues based upon traffic %.

    • That sounds pretty good Barry. Nice name too. Hope to works for you and your contributors. I’m sure Dianne and all of us would be interested to hear more in the future, about how it is working.

    • That sounds pretty good Barry. Nice name too. Hope it works for you and your contributors. I’m sure Dianne and all of us would be interested to hear more in the future, about how it is working.

  11. I work now, to keep all of my content mine, on my site alone. I used to believe I needed the exposure… but now I believe the exposure I generate myself is the exposure I deserve and have earned. No one else needs to benefit from my work. I always believe in courtesy. I always ask for the information to be removed.
    I don’t fight it if they don’t. I just keep asking. Politely. Usually they get annoyed and remove it. There was a time we all thought aggregators generated traffic and made sense, but things have changed. Search engines are better, SEO is easier to use – and we are so much more able to succeed on our own with focus and excellent content. I really appreciate this post as I just asked my website developer a similar question a while back after being approached by a site. He found their site also on Facebook where they reposted everything as if it was theirs. No links to me – only back to them. Keep up the great work as that was a reaffirming moment for me.
    :)
    Valerie

    • Thank you Valerie. You make a good point. When I started blogging, now 4+ years ago (my how time flies), I wanted to build traffic and get my name out there. I was taught that was the thing to do, and many people still teach that to others just starting blogs. Use these sites. Really? Any blogger needs to think twice about it. I think we all start that way. On the journey, we learn. And things have really changed, you are right. Those Facebook pages are frustrating. I wish Facebook would do something about it. Set new rules, force them to change or remove the content, listen to the bloggers who could file a complaint and have the page taken down or I am not sure what. Good luck with your blog!

  12. I’m with Lori on this. Though it’s annoying when other content aggregators do this, there’s not enough time in a day to go after everyone. The sad thing is that some misguided folks seem to think that ‘just because it’s on the internet it’s free for all to use’. That’s exactly what some misinformed person told me when she wanted to link to my entire blog site and I gave her a piece of my mind. What’s happening here is that the internet and technology are growing by leaps and bounds and it’s getting harder to keep up with the changes.Thanks for sharing the names of these aggregators – I’ll be on the lookout for them. Great post idea, Dianne. Good to see you last week in Chicago — you had a great session :-)

    • You’re right Betty Ann. The “everything is free” on the internet attitude just makes me shake my head. No ethics today, not even a thought! Would have loved to have heard that conversation with that misinformed person. Ha! Good for you. Unfortunately more and more of these sites are popping up all of the time. I guess because they think they can (and some do) make money using other people’s content. It’s wrong. But today, most people think anything goes. Sad. I missed Chicago this year. Bet it was great. WDC next year?

  13. It’s sad how often this happens to all of us, but I agree with many of you that there just aren’t enough hours in the day to fight all of these battles. If people use only a photo or a short description and link to my site for the full recipe, I ignore it. If they pull my entire recipe and content, I go after them – sometimes successfully and sometimes not.

    In general, for the aggregators that ask me to participate by taking MY time to post my content there, I decline – too much effort for a very small return of traffic!

    • I do the same Michele and figure we must all choose our battles. Good point on the aggregators. Ha, I almost wrote alligators. Maybe the same! A lot of work for not a worthwhile return. All good food for thought. Thanks for commenting.

  14. As for me, I prefer to grow my traffic the slow and steady way. It seems to be working. As far as these traffic drivers? I think they’re not for me for the little I would benefit from the whole thing. It’s really all about driving their own traffic under the guise of helping our others.

    When it comes to infringing on our rights, I think is almost impossible for us small guys to really stop someone from scraping our stuff when they really want it. In the end WordPress and Google have a way of finding them out and they will be gone. In the meantime they are a problem. Just my thoughts. :-)

    • So true Susan. It is hard for us little guys, even the bigs guys, to battle the and guys. We can only do so much. We must choose our battles where we can and not give up. Slow and steady for growth is good. I am trying to be patient and remind myself of that, and not compare myself to other sites and ask why my traffic is not where there is. Good thoughts. Thanks for commenting.

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