Earlier this year, I looked at the issue of giving away content for free to sites such as Seeking Alpha. (Giving Away Content, Part I and Part II). The feedback from readers was invaluable. You made your ideas clear to me, and it helped me clarify my position with Seeking Alpha.
Well, dear readers, its time once again to ask you for some advice.
The management at Seeking Alpha added a tab for their macro-economic commentary. As you can see from the graphic above, they named that tab The Big Picture. Yes, its macro economic commentary; No, it has nothing to do with me or this site. I learned of this when several of you wrote into me about your
confusion. And, management at Seeking Alpha informed me
(in writing) that numerous readers of theirs were confused by this also.
As soon as I learned of this, I fired off an email or 3 informing Seeking Alpha’s CEO that this was unacceptable to me. I insisted it be changed immediately. They refused. I find this intolerable.
Why is this so problematic to me? Well, aside from the obvious confusion (can they be that politically tone deaf, or are they that dumb?) its an issue for other reasons. Whether or not they have the legal right to this is not my beef — it is besides the point — instead, it is simply wrong for them to do so.
I have the following problems with SA grabbing my blog name:
1) It shows how little respect Seeking Alpha has for bloggers. If they would do this to my blog, one of the most trafficked in this vertical space, then what’s to stop them from doing something similar or or worse to any other blogger? I have a platform, a few million monthly page views — what is going to stop them from screwing anyone else? It is my opinion that they would not hesitate to do something obviously inappropriate, misleading and similarly obnoxious to other bloggers;
2) This demonstrates how horrific senior management’s judgement is. Its hard to fathom that they do not understand my problem with this, or how totally wrong it is on their part. In my correspondence with them, they were almost coy about it. (Too bad they ain’t publicly traded, cause I would be shorting the hell out of it);
3) The actions of Seeking Alpha show they completely disrespect me, and all of the work I put into this blog over the past 5 years. If they did respect for me, they would have chosen any of the remaining 500,000 words in the English language instead of using the precise three I named my blog 5 years ago, and my email newsletter 5 years before that;
4) Lastly, this reveals to me the inherent problem with what I call the LEECH BUSINESS MODEL. When you build your entire business on the efforts of others, fail to compensate them, pay them a share of the advertising revenue their content generates, or give them an equity interest in the firm — then it subtly impacts your views of the world; Its as if you think its okay to take whatever you want. At least, that’s my theory about this.
Now, let me be clear: I do not own the trademark to The Big Picture — its too common
a phrase for that. And, there are several other blogs with
similar names — however, most are photography related, and the few financially
related sites that borrowed the name generate very little traffic. Some newspapers use it as the title of a section. HOWEVER, NONE OF THEM ARE FINANCIAL BLOG AGGREGATORS THAT I CONTRIBUTE TO. Or at least used to.
So once again, dear readers, I ask you for your advice.
What is the appropriate response to this? What shall I do, and how far shall I take this? My initial instinct was to go Clockwork Orange on them, but quite bluntly, they are not worthy of that much attention. They are obviously judgment impaired, lacking in a sense of appropriateness, and as managers of content providers (i.e., bloggers), they are piss poor.
Here are my first (obvious) responses:
1) Stop submitting my content to them (Done)
2) Request readers email the CEO (David@SeekingAlpha.com) telling him what you think of this (Yes, readers, please do!)
3) Send a Cease & Desist letter; File an Unfair Trade Practices lawsuit. (Under consideration)
Now comes the audience participation part — what do you think I should do?
What response does this act deserve? How should I handle this affront? How aggressively should I pursue these weasels?
Please use the comments to tell me your most clever ideas — don’t worry about being too nefarious — I will run everything by our crack legal team first.Get medievil on their asses.
What say ye?
UPDATE: September 9, 2008 1:15pm
Thank you for the many great ideas and emails — over 200 comments overnight, and almost as many emails.
To answer a few questions from comments — Yes, I received an email from them, but it was after the fact
— I was on vacation when it was sent, I read it after the changes were
already made. They never
followed up, never made a telephone call, never sent any other emails
— AND NEVER RECEIVED AN EMAIL BACK FROM ME. I sure as hell never responded "Sure, go ahead!" (But they
In fact, their email said they were
"considering" doing this — and then they asked their readers for other name
suggestions. By the time I read it, the new tab had already launched.
And, I sent them an email immediately complaining, and demanding it be
I asked in writing for them to call me Friday — the never did. They jerked me around Friday morning, then late
Friday, until they said could not talk until after the weekend. They
are located in Israel and the Sabbath was starting. I asked again on Monday for a call — and got nothing. This was 3 words in a tab that would take no
time or resources to change — its a minor edit my retarded cat could
do drunk on catnip.
They did inform me they "might" change it whenever their next code update was — but never said when that might be — weeks, months years? They certainly never said "WE ARE CHANGING THIS IN 5 DAYS." By the time we got this far in the email discussions, I was pretty much done with them. Regardless, to change 3 words of text –THREE WORDS! — might have taken all of 4 seconds.
My entire sense of this was that I was being baited, tested, pushed to see how far I would go. Several other bloggers told me the SA CEO wanted a big fuss, anted the reaction. That’s why I did not link to any of their discussions of this. I did not want to give them the traffic they sought or any Google love. Its that simple.
And while the CEO of Seeking Alpha claims that most of SA’s readers never heard of my blog, all I can do at that is laugh and say "Bullshit."
Finally, as to their CEO’s comments — it is simply not worth it to take apart his post line-by-line. I could post his emails, but its not worth it. Its almost accurate (close, but no cigar) with just enough not-quite-true, but close enough to be misleading. I have no more patience for a hair splitting exercise that is irrelevant. As many of you have written, we all have bigger fish to fry.
UPDATE 2: September 10, 2008 12:0pm
A few people wrote in to tell me that SA’s CEO re-posted on this. I read what was a very disingenuous timeline. His version distorts reality enough that he should be working for the NAR.
Their CEO’s explanation was as misleading as it was smarmy. He mentioned Random Roger’s blog — Funny, here’s what Random Roger wrote to them:
"I hope all is well. A quick comment about the new ETF page layout; the new latest articles and today’s articles tabs seem a little less easy to navigate and would seem to overlap each other. Here’s one vote for the simple chronological listing of articles.
The other thing was the Big Picture tab. Sure a generic term like Big Picture may be fair game but when I first saw it I immediately thought Barry had been given his own tab. I could not win a debate and I have no articulate argument for telling you to change the name of that tab but it just seems odd. It is probably right to say that anyone who bothers to seek content on blogs and blog portals like SA knows who Barry is and is familiar with The Big Picture. Not trying to pick a fight just giving my cent or two."
Thank you, Roger!
Then there was this unsolicited and spontaneous outpouring of affection:
"I am not going to post any further articles on seeking alpha until you remove "The Big Picture" tab and apologize to Barry Ritholtz. I am going to publish a comment on same and will begin to encourage other bloggers to follow my example. I understand from Barry that you have committed to taking this action, so I apologize for rattling your cage if this change already is in process."
Christopher Whalen, Managing Director
Thank you Chris!
Two final points:
SA’s CEO mentioned their traffic is 20X mine. Well, it better be! They
have 500 contributors, and a staff of 40, and I AM ONE GUY. Their
traffic should be 1,000s of times more than mine. To be blunt, 20X me with a cast of 1000s is nothing to brag about — its embarrassing.
Lastly, SA’s CEO accused me of using a "Sledgehammer." That was a Nerf bat. I don’t pull out the sledgehammer until I get to around step 7; The piledriver is step 15 (it comes right after the barbwire dildo), the Sherman Tank step 25. But it will never come don’t to that, as the VC investment will be marked-to-zero long before we ever see step 10 or so (14 is my fave).
Trust me on this, I know precisely what I speak of here.
Thanks again for all of your emails, and the outpouring of support . . .