This isn’t an article that I enjoy writing up. I met Nicole Scott briefly years ago at a CTIA Expo press event. She seemed like a very nice person. Today, I’m not sure I can make the same attribution.
I awoke this morning to check our internal metrics, see who’s talking about our reports, see what comments I need to respond to. I find that NetbookNews.com cited one of our articles. At first, I was interested, and loaded up their report.
It’s quite common for people to in-line quote others in their editorials, but this is plagiarism. Nicole took portions of our article and directly copied-and-pasted them as her own, such as the following:
Wireless connectivity is also a major issue in areas where the next billion are lacking devices. In many areas, due to bandwidth, lack of local loops, and other issues, SMS may be the fastest data out there. MeeGo can offer services that allow for small data bursts to be turned into an app-rich environment, and then quickly toggle over to low-power Bluetooth or Wi-Fi when faster data is available.
Other portions of the article were plagiarized by re-wording, but essentially point-by-point re-testaments of my report.
Nicole did ultimately add a “via PhoneNews (sic)” link at the bottom of her editorial. I’m sorry, but this is still plagiarism, plain and simple. Nicole used portions of my editorial as her own work, without differentiating between which parts of the editorial were her words, and which were mine.
Online journalism is a tough business. It has gotten far tougher in a social search era. Believe me, I know. This is not the first time I’ve been a victim of plagiarism, it won’t be the last either. But NetbookNews.com is an equal in the business. They tout on their about page of being cited in Time Magazine, and other big-box members of the tech media. They boast a Facebook following several times that of PhoneNews.com. These aren’t things in and of themselves that draw attention to this problem, but in their totality are emblematic of what people are doing to get their word counts up to pass muster.
I haven’t talked to Nicole before writing this up. I haven’t emailed NetbookNews.com. Quite frankly, I shouldn’t have to. If NetbookNews.com wants to make this a business, they should have standards in place that make plagiarism impossible. We always hesitate bringing onboard writers because of this, and when we do, we tell them one copied sentence without a quote will be your going away party… sans the party.
I’m sure they’ll modify the article, I’m sure they’ll apologize, but, I am writing this to talk to you the reader.
I want you, the reader, to understand that it’s tough out there right now. Search engines demand sites write longer articles, especially mid-size sites like this one (and yes, NetbookNews.com too). Those same search engine companies are paying less, catering to their big-box pressers. They’re also picking favorites and expecting favorable coverage in return. In short, sites like this one depend on you, the reader, to stay loyal. And, in these tough times, we do have to point these things out while asking that you follow us even more. In the end, the best thing I can ask is you to drop us in your feed reader (if you use one), follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook. And, if you’re in the Bay Area / Silicon Valley, hop on our upcoming local meetups.
And please, media, it’s PhoneNews.com not PhoneNews.