This morning, we published a post on Offbeat Bride featuring some amazing Disney centerpieces. My editors hope every post does well, but there are certain posts that due to a combination of factors, we suspect might do a little extra well. In the case of this post, pop culture references + gorgeous execution + excellent photography = possible viral win!
Today our hunches were right, because within a few hours I got this email from a writer at Buzzfeed:
My jaw may have physically dropped when I read this. Buzzfeed has exploited Offbeat Bride content without our permission dozens of times, most recently repackaging our post “I got left at the altar: turning heartbreak into artwork” (December 29, 2014) as “After Her Fiancé Left Her At The Altar, This Bride Took The World’s Best Photo Shoot” (December 30, 2014). Yes, they secured the photographer’s permission to use the photos, but in terms of attribution for breaking the story, while Offbeat Bride got a “h/t” (“hat tip”) mention at the end of the post. We got a few thousand clicks, while Buzzfeed got 10,062,786 views and identified the post as one of their top of the month.
Historically, Buzzfeed’s business model has been essentially repackaging the internet. (They’ve moved away from that recently, but repackaged content is still a large chunk of what they do.) That’s not this particular writer’s fault. This writer is just doing the best they can to crank out content hour after hour, day after day. I sympathize with doing your best in the digital content mines. So while I’m not going to be rude, I did need to stand my ground:
Hi, XXXXX. Honestly, I’m a bit shocked by the gall of your request here. As an independent publisher, I live and I die by my pageviews. I have had my content slurped up and repackaged by Buzzfeed for years, sometimes (but not always) with a tiny “h/t offbeatbride” or “source: offbeatbride” at the end of the post. I get a few thousand clicks while Buzzfeed racks up millions of views.
I understand that this is usually (…usually) done with the photographer’s permission, so it’s not technically shady… But it’s extremely frustrating, and no: I’m not going to help you do it.
I want to be clear here: Offbeat Bride doesn’t own the photos in any of our posts. Photos are submitted to us by photographers who grant us explicit permission to publish them, and the photographer always retains complete ownership of the images. That’s why other publishers (like Buzzfeed, or anyone else) can go straight to the photographer and secure permissions to republish photos we’ve featured.
It’s absolutely legal for Buzzfeed to do what they’re doing… I just consider it bad form. It’s not stealing, it’s just pretty blatant exploiting. Run an excerpt, sure! Publish a couple photos with the photographer’s permission and a link to our original post, rad! But get permission to republish all the photos, and then just give us a small nod at the end? Or worse, ask us to HELP YOU DO THIS?
No. Absolutely not.