One of the most interesting things about the internet, in my mind, is the way in which we are able to so easily share ideas. Over the last few months, I’ve been building up this site and experimenting with ways of spreading thoughts throughout the web. Some methods are more dynamic than others and all of them are basically lawless, since the internet has seemingly few restrictions. Whatever the avenue of sharing, I think it’s important to be transparent about these things (as a group) so we can figure out which are the best ways to manage our personal brands (buzzword!).
1. Posting a Link
Example: The 99%
The first large network to link to one of my blog posts was Behance’s 99%, an aggregator of articles, tips and ideas to help organize the creative world. On the home page of their site, they have a Submit a Link option, where anyone can submit information. If they deem the linked article relevant and useful to their audience, they post. For my article, this drove up traffic significantly and there were a total of 34 comments or tweets linked to me, according to Ubervu. This is, therefore, a benevolent practice on behalf of The 99%, in that they are giving voice to perhaps smaller blogs and even bringing them (us) new readers.
As an aside: The 99% regularly links to interesting if mainstream articles. For instance, they might link to a post by Seth Godin…but can’t we assume that any reader of The 99% is also a reader of Seth Godin’s blog? And if not that, Seth Godin has featured articles on the site. Why push more traffic to his site rather than show us something new? A new voice.
2. Appropriation of Content
Example: Brazen Careerist
Last week, I wrote an article about the age myth and it was picked up by the career-based social networking site, Brazen Careerist. By picked up, I mean that they featured it as a post for a few days, where registered users of the site could read it and comment. Interestingly, this was done without permission. And there was a link at the bottom of the article that said, “Read this author’s blog” but when clicked, the blog loads in the forum of Brazen, and you have to click again to actually reach my site. Little or no traffic was directed to my site and my total traffic actually decreased that day, though several comments were made on the Brazen site. This model is potentially problematic because it uses content without permission to increase traffic and user interaction. In other words, the statistics that Brazen uses to pitch their sponsors (who might pay, oh, $10,000/month to have a logo on the site) are used without benefiting the content creator.
A friend notes that any visibility on the web is good publicity, and I do feel conflicted (hence this post, comparing models). The major difference I see is that the Brazen model is not permission-based, as far as I can tell. Perhaps this is the nature of the internet, though I wonder if this particular community is sustainable, in the way that it generates revenue from others’ content. (Note: Penelope Trunk, co-founder of Brazen, sells her blog posts to places like Yahoo Finance, or used to…so would she allow me to post one of her articles here as if she was a contributing author?) Perhaps the benefits of spreading a brand in this forum has benefits in the long term.
3. Linking to & Adding Content
Most recently, I wrote a review of Ander Monson’s Vanishing Point and it was linked to by the excellent nonfiction blog, Brevity. And, in writerly fashion, they did something interesting. They introduced me in the post (flatteringly), gave a short background about the relationship, excerpted the article and linked to it. Like the 99%, this is a way of supporting an external voice, spicing up the dialogue within the site. It also builds community, mutually, through the sharing of ideas.
4. Juried Publication
Example: Design Observer
Some websites invite readers to contribute articles and then a jury decides what get’s published. (The jury might be the site’s editors or founders.) For instance, The Urban Grocer and Design Observer do this. Again, this is a way of supporting someone’s voice by essentially declaring the work good enough to appear among other, presumably well-known authors. (Think, you could have an article next to Jessica Helfand or Ellen Lupton.) This spreads your brand as a leader in your field, or fields, and helps to establish your thoughts and approach to the industry as worthy of attention. Further, this kind of juried publication links traffic to your site (via an author link, generally). This model is also kind of awesome in its commitment to the democracy of ideas. While there is a jury behind the submissions, there is an inherent belief that any human can have a decent, well-examined, well-communicated idea. I like this.
5. Paid Contributions
What’s this? Money for your ideas? On the web?! Recently, in the magic that is web-browsing, I found the site, Seed.com, a company exploring a really interesting mode of publication. Basically, any writer or photographer (why not illustrators?! designers?!) can sign up for an account and select topics to contribute articles to…in exchange for actual dollars. At any given time they have perhaps 20 articles offered (anything from Tips for Tank Tops to 10 Tips for Hikers), where a registered user can “claim” the offer. If selected, you earn anywhere from $10 – $200, and you can watch an article’s performance. This totally goes against the internet grain of collecting free content by placing intrinsic and financial value on its site’s articles. Even if in a small way, the site supports the efforts of creatives. And that is noteworthy.
To end this post (and start the discussion, one hopes), I send an enormous virtual hug to all of the blogs/sites/humans that have linked to my site (not just the ones listed here…everyone’s). Thank you. While we can discuss the platforms upon which we share – and I think we should – it’s still a lovely idea to know that someone’s work can so quickly and easily spread to others in a positive way.