Copycat Articles Trample Bloggers: PWND By CNN
I woke up this morning to a disconcerting tweet. A musician I follow announced that his song was listed among the top ten geek anthems of all time. I remembered the message from over a month ago, when I’d written the top ten list on Popten and he’d expressed his gratitude. But this time, the link led to CNN.
The next click made my jaw drop. There under the CNN masthead was the title of the blog post I’d recently written, with a photo of the same frontman I’d used as my lead picture. Three of the article’s top ten anthems were identical to mine, and a few passages read eerily similar. The whole thing felt like deja vu.
Had the article I’d penned been something more general or topical, I wouldn’t have batted an eye. But I’d researched the topic before writing the post, and found almost nothing on geek anthems- and no articles at all in the past few years. It was a niche I was excited to fill. The post I wrote did well, getting picked up by Veronica Belmont and BuzzFeed among others, and garnering close to 20,000 visits at last count. Not Gawker numbers, but for our young blog it was a nice spike that’s resulted in substantially more regulars. CNN’s article, however, stopped the post’s momentum dead in its tracks.
Talking over my discovery with a prominent journalist buddy, she told me it was a common occurrence. More and more she noticed big media borrowing unique topics and ideas from viral blog posts in the hopes that they’d go unnoticed. With all the recent search-term omniscience being developed, it’s getting harder to hide that sort of thing. And what about the little guy?
The real issue here is search rank. For young blogs hoping for traction, SEO is king, and knock-off articles pose a much greater threat to scrappy bloggers than old media. We scramble to find topical/SEO niches and plant our flags with posts like “Top Ten Depressing Songs” or “How to Prepare For a Steampunk Prom”, using each as a foothold to climb higher up Mt. Blogosphere. But a copycat article by one of the big guys immediately supplants that flag, and incinerates it with the ensuing ripple effect. In this case, CNN’s article wrested the top “geek anthems” search spot from mine, and the flood of blogs linking to it filled up the rest of the first page.
Now I’m not contending that one owns a topic, much less a top ten list, that most ubiquitous of blog formats. And in this case, the CNN article was well-written and despite its brow-arching similarities, interesting in its own right. But Google doesn’t sort searches by originality, and once you’ve been toppled from the top of a niche search, you’ve disappeared.
This isn’t meant as a gripe. I want to shed light on it in the hopes that other big media journalists get wise to the effect of retreading on a blogger’s post. Because who’s going to click on more than one article written on a niche topic when the first hit is CNN? The least you can do is link to the blog post that inspired you.
My only consolation? My anthems are far geekier.
And then [In the Garage] drops, and suddenly I hear “Kitty Pride” and “Nightcrawler” coming out of the speakers- and Rivers Cuomo pretty much sums up my brother and I’s lives in rhyme. I knew immediately that this was The Geek Anthem.
“I’ve got the Dungeon Master’s Guide./I’ve got my 12-sided die./I’ve got Kitty Pryde and Nightcrawler, too./ Waiting there for me./Yes I do.”
Any geek of a certain age instantly knew front man Rivers Cuomo spoke their language after hearing that opening line.
The undisputed king of geek music- I could get away with putting 5-9 of his songs on this list. Whether you consider White & Nerdy or Dare to Be Stupid the anthem is almost purely a generational thing… And to add to its geek pedigree, Dare to Be Stupid was in the original Transformers: the Movie soundtrack. Ba weep grana weep nini bong!
2. “Dare to Be Stupid,” Weird Al Yankovic
“White and Nerdy” or “All About the Pentiums” would also have been obvious choices here from an artist with probably as loyal a geek following as anyone…
The song would be used in the 1986 “Transformers” animated movie and, years later, be covered by geeky rapper M.C. Chris.
8. MC Frontalot’s Entire Ouevre
Every song in Frontalot’s catalogue — sung by the father of nerdcore hip-hop — would be comfortable on this list.
What did I miss? So many great geek anthems lost to the power of 10.
This easily could have been a Top 20. Which ones did we leave out?