Back in the late 90s, a wide-eyed and hopeful teenager (me) watched this magical new thing — the Internet — grow up all around him. Suddenly, for the low cost of an AOL subscription (remember those 80,000 free hours discs that came in the mail?) and the use of a 56k modem, seemingly the entire world was at your fingertips. Information, sports scores, movie clips (that took forever to load), more pictures, Pam Anderson in (and out of) a bikini, email… it all spoke to a world much bigger outside my windows than I had previously experienced.
And the first time I ever used the Internet — in my Freshman year biology class at Manual High School in Denver — I was instantly hooked. I don’t remember the details of that day; some scientist somewhere had discovered something and we were discussing it with other teachers and students around the country in real time in something called a “chat room.” There was something so amazing about talking via computer to someone in another state, another country. Some people immediately took advantage of the anonymity of the internet and “became” the best version of themselves.
Around this same time, I had a paper due for my History class. And while my teacher and the subject matter were both favorites, I’d wasted entirely too much time on the internet (uh, learning things) and on the phone (talking to girls) [May not be a factual statement. -Ed.] and came up against the deadline for my paper on some ancient civilization. I turned to the internet, and I lifted, wholesale, entire passages of text, thinking I was the smartest guy in the world.
Of course, I was caught the very day I turned in my paper like the amateur I was. Apparently my teacher had Internet, too.
Sadly, the two worlds intersect now. Sure, there’s the usual bombastic rantings of those who would have you believe they’re intellectual heavyweights or in flawless shape or could kick your ass if you happen to disagree with them about whether or not our Commander in Chief is a Muslim. But now they’re the same people who steal content from reputable sources and post it on their own sites or on content farms like Associated Content (now Yahoo! Contributor Network) or Examiner.com or eHow or About.com.
Steal content. Claim it as your own. Then make yourself sound like you know what the hell you’re doing.
Witness the interesting case of RBLSportsNet.com. The proprietor of this site, a certain “Sports Babe Brandi,” first came across my radar a few months back. She’s from Florida, a Tim Tebow fan, and made it very clear via Twitter that she did not like John Elway for sending her running buddy packing to New York. I defended Elway, as he was doing what he felt was in the best interest of his team. This is what you and I call “doing his job.”
She seemed pretty harmless, and I was bored on my flight to Boston, so I interacted with her a few times on teh Twitterz, glanced briefly at her poorly-laid out site, but didn’t really pay much attention.
That was until last week, when I once again called her out for weak sauce, terrible writing, and barely salient points beginning with THIS, wherein she blames Broncos owner Pat Bowlen making the comment, “It was a good season. What I want is a great season,” for being the reason her hero was sent packing. In this “article,” which has no sources, identifies zero evidence, and is basically just 10 paragraphs taking a piss (with poor grammar and punctuation and capitalization), She claimed it must be good, “because of the 2.7 million people who get our content.” Ye Olde Two & A Half Men defense. Popularity = quality.
It was then that I dug a little deeper. Did a little opposition research. Tried to find something, anything, pointing to the idea that this poorly laid out and poorly contentized site was something more than pure garbage; the Ruffles Sour Cream and Cheddar of online content.
The comments on their site? Pure spam. And it appears that the biggest referrer of page views is from something called TrafficForYou, which we researched. $25 will get you thousands upon thousands of site visits and horrible comments from such commenting luminaries as dosage of ativan and mountain bike and paid surveys and Lis Pendens and what causes ringing in the ears and rick ross here I am lyrics and what is lis pendens. house floor plans said “I’m glad to be a visitant of this gross internet weblog ! , regards for this rare information !”, while on an article about “The Two Tebows,” a commenter named lose weight had this to add: “Thanks for the distinct tips contributed on this blog. I have seen that many insurance firms offer buyers generous savings if they choose to insure more and more cars together. A significant quantity of households include several cars or trucks these days, in particular those with elderly teenage children still dwelling at home, and also the savings on policies could soon begin. So it is good to look for a good deal.” Nobody fucking talks like that.
What would lead someone to lie about their site, its traffic, and its place in the online hierarchy when any old moron with a computer (that’s me!) can find out the truth? Is it any surprise that the person with delusions of grandeur about the plight of Tim Tebow would also have delusions of grandeur with regards to their own website? No, not really.
Now. You may be wondering why I give a damn, and you’d be right to question my motives. “Geez, Sam… just because she likes Tim Tebow?” That would be silly. It only started because she turns a blind eye to Tim Tebow’s significant weaknesses while I was bored in an airport; that’s just what put her on my radar.
What gets me is two fold. First, that she blatantly steals content from reputable sites with paid staffers who work beats and write solid content. This article was posted in its entirety on the front page of RBLSportsNet.com (it’s since been removed), without attribution to the original source material. And the dumbass who posted it? Put the original link in as the “related content.” Solid investigatory journalism, chief.
And second, she holds herself and her god-awful site up as some paragon of hard work and consistency that can deliver you the same type of quality traffic and information you and your company have always wanted.
HERE, she gets all inspirational on that ass: “Be bold. Be different. There are billions of interested people. But they’re not interested in more of the same. This is what Sports Media needs. This is what Sports needs. And it’s what the people who give us the internet are looking for.”
Yes, what sports media needs, you guys, is to have people stealing content from legit websites to put it on link farms masquerading as sports content. Then we’ll all win. Don’t forget bad grammar, comma splices galore and random capitalization!
There will always be cheaters. Always. People who don’t want to put in the work, or the time, but still want to claim they’re an expert of some sort. The Internet is their home, and SportsBabe Brandi is their leader.
Search Engine Roundtable has an excellent piece on the subject of stolen content, and it fits right in with Brandi’s claim that “sometimes we outdraw even Fox Sports for their own content,” and that they were okay with using the Charlotte News & Observer’s article because “we outrank them.”
As I was writing and filing this story today, The Bunk let me know that we crossed the 40,000 pageview threshold as of 9:39am, MDT. Amazingly, we did that with quality content, good writing (for a couple of mouth-breathers, anyway), and interesting stories. Not with paid-for hits to our website. This is what we call “doing it the right way.”