You know the saying that bad facts make bad law. That’s what came to mind when I read Jay Fleischman’s response to my original post, Just Say No to User Generated Content. Whereas I’d argued that providing user-generated content to others is exploitative, Jay responds that there are benefits to be had by guest blogging. And further, he says that there’s also value to platforms like HuffPo that aggregate and broadly disseminate content. Of course, if all bloggers provided as much value as Jay – both at his site and when he’s guested here, I probably would have never complained.
For starters, Jay’s blog entirely different from HuffPo. Whether or not Jay includes guest posters at his blog or not, he’s got enough content and then some for it to stand on its own two feet. What I can’t abide are free riders like HuffPo – which do nothing more than aggregate free content off the backs of the desperate – and then turn a profit. Maybe those who participate do accrue some benefit from exposure, as Jay suggests – but it’s surely not making them as rich as the platform that they’re benefiting.
The other problem with aggregated-content models is that the good ones rarely survive and the lousy ones stink. The aggregate sites that draw high quality content never last because the authors eventually prioritize paid work over free. As a result, aggregated-content sites become a nest for sales pitches and inanity.
When I started MyShingle back in 2002, I’d opened the site to guest posters. Back then, however, lawyers who liked to write either started blogs themselves, or simply didn’t read them. Even so, I received some wonderful pieces. But as time went on, guest submissions were few and far between – and when I later opened my blog to guest posts, I was inundated with some really bad stuff, with Jay and a few others being exceptions. That experience too colored my views of guest blogging.
Ultimately, I agree with Jay more than not: guest posting can offer enormous benefits, and if it’s an occasional gig and the quality’s good, then it’s win-win for the blog-host and the guest blogger. But when a blog relies entirely on free or crowd-sourced effort and doesn’t bring anything other than a platform to the table (and with technology, platforms are cheaper than ever), then it’s time for the guests to pack up their content and go home.