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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.

SIMILAR PASSAGES

Popten:

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.

CNN:

“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.

Popten:

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!

CNN:

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.

Popten:

8. MC Frontalot’s Entire Ouevre

CNN:

Every song in Frontalot’s catalogue — sung by the father of nerdcore hip-hop — would be comfortable on this list.

Popten:

What did I miss? So many great geek anthems lost to the power of 10.

CNN:

This easily could have been a Top 20. Which ones did we leave out?

26 thoughts on “Copycat Articles Trample Bloggers: PWND By CNN”

  1. Pingback: CNN "geek anthem" post is implausibly similar to scrappy blogger’s earlier article | dv8-designs
  2. Trackback: CNN "geek anthem" post is implausibly similar to scrappy blogger’s earlier article | dv8-designs
  3. rob sama says:

    Utterly appalling.

  4. rob sama says:

    Utterly appalling.

  5. Reithe says:

    O.o plagiarism is legal if you’re a bloated Jabba the Hut Corporate entity, apparently.

  6. Reithe says:

    O.o plagiarism is legal if you’re a bloated Jabba the Hut Corporate entity, apparently.

  7. Sam Fletcher says:

    Kids in college used to plagiarize all the time. With the level of talent and experience that probably gets hired to write these articles, it doesn’t surprise me at all.

  8. Sam Fletcher says:

    Kids in college used to plagiarize all the time. With the level of talent and experience that probably gets hired to write these articles, it doesn’t surprise me at all.

  9. Rob says:

    Honestly, I don’t really see a huge similarity here. Similar tastes? Now prove to me that you are not screening out negative comments and publish mine. 😉

  10. Rob says:

    Honestly, I don’t really see a huge similarity here. Similar tastes? Now prove to me that you are not screening out negative comments and publish mine. 😉

  11. absurdsequitur says:

    While that sucks (and I definitely think you are right, WAY to similar for coincidence), here’s a consolation prize for you: because Boing Boing featured you guys, and this story, I’ve now heard of you and have you on my feed reader (and like what I’ve seen so far a lot) — so maybe you’ll end up gaining some traffic from CNN’s blatant hypocrisy.

    -absurdsequitur

  12. absurdsequitur says:

    While that sucks (and I definitely think you are right, WAY to similar for coincidence), here’s a consolation prize for you: because Boing Boing featured you guys, and this story, I’ve now heard of you and have you on my feed reader (and like what I’ve seen so far a lot) — so maybe you’ll end up gaining some traffic from CNN’s blatant hypocrisy.

    -absurdsequitur

  13. Got Medieval says:

    @Rob — Prove to me you actually read the article you commented so provocatively upon. He didn’t say they’d copied his list, but that they’d copied his idea for the list, down to the title. Or did you mean, rather, to suggest that he and the writer for CNN have the same taste in top ten list titles?

  14. Got Medieval says:

    @Rob — Prove to me you actually read the article you commented so provocatively upon. He didn’t say they’d copied his list, but that they’d copied his idea for the list, down to the title. Or did you mean, rather, to suggest that he and the writer for CNN have the same taste in top ten list titles?

  15. Gospel says:

    So someone else had the same idea as you? WHAT!

    Do you really think you are the first or only person that thought of a top 10 geek song list?

    Get over your self!

    I looked over the “SIMILAR PASSAGES” section and just do not see it.

    Can you explain to me what is similar about this:

    “Popten:

    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.

    CNN:

    “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.”

    Sorry man but you are just making noise so more people with link to you and fell bad for you. So sad So sad.

  16. Gospel says:

    So someone else had the same idea as you? WHAT!

    Do you really think you are the first or only person that thought of a top 10 geek song list?

    Get over your self!

    I looked over the “SIMILAR PASSAGES” section and just do not see it.

    Can you explain to me what is similar about this:

    “Popten:

    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.

    CNN:

    “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.”

    Sorry man but you are just making noise so more people with link to you and fell bad for you. So sad So sad.

  17. Brick says:

    If that Doug Gross from CNN is the same as this Tweep, he’s pretty amusing. In one tweet, he’s proud of the feedback comments from the plagiarizing article, but in another some hours later (after the Boing Boing piece broke) it appears he’s backing away from his involvement writing the piece.

    http://twitter.com/douggrosscnn

    Loving the comments on our geek anthems story. And .. you know … shamelessly pimping it again- http://on.cnn.com/bIRXmZ 2:08 PM Mar 10th via web

    @edzitron Let’s just say my name in the byline on that one was generous. I’ll pass your info on to my colleagues for future. about 7 hours ago via web in reply to edzitron

  18. Brick says:

    If that Doug Gross from CNN is the same as this Tweep, he’s pretty amusing. In one tweet, he’s proud of the feedback comments from the plagiarizing article, but in another some hours later (after the Boing Boing piece broke) it appears he’s backing away from his involvement writing the piece.

    http://twitter.com/douggrosscnn

    Loving the comments on our geek anthems story. And .. you know … shamelessly pimping it again- http://on.cnn.com/bIRXmZ 2:08 PM Mar 10th via web

    @edzitron Let’s just say my name in the byline on that one was generous. I’ll pass your info on to my colleagues for future. about 7 hours ago via web in reply to edzitron

  19. Matthew says:

    Looks like the BoingBoing effect might garner you extra readers. I know I added your RSS feed after seeing the CNN copycat article posted today.

  20. Matthew says:

    Looks like the BoingBoing effect might garner you extra readers. I know I added your RSS feed after seeing the CNN copycat article posted today.

  21. Phill says:

    Gospel- “Do you really think you are the first or only person that thought of a top 10 geek song list?”

    I don’t think he’s claiming that. He did write about it first, or first as far as he knows from what I gather. Before CNN, surely. CNN ripped him off, in such a way that they of course are legally in the clear. It doesn’t mean they aren’t jerks.

  22. Phill says:

    Gospel- “Do you really think you are the first or only person that thought of a top 10 geek song list?”

    I don’t think he’s claiming that. He did write about it first, or first as far as he knows from what I gather. Before CNN, surely. CNN ripped him off, in such a way that they of course are legally in the clear. It doesn’t mean they aren’t jerks.

  23. Pingback: CNN Rips Off Blogger | Little Miss Attila
  24. Trackback: CNN Rips Off Blogger | Little Miss Attila
  25. citizenj says:

    Gospel- yer fulla shiat. Simple coincedence? I think not. Exact same headline, moderately diff body of content? Yeah, cnn jacked him. And if yer too blind too see that- so sad, so sad.

  26. citizenj says:

    Gospel- yer fulla shiat. Simple coincedence? I think not. Exact same headline, moderately diff body of content? Yeah, cnn jacked him. And if yer too blind too see that- so sad, so sad.

  27. Pingback: Old School Geek Anthems « The Spirit of the Staircase
  28. Trackback: Old School Geek Anthems « The Spirit of the Staircase
  29. Pingback: A Musical People’s History Of The Top Ten Worst Plagiarisms In The Course Of Human Events | Popten
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