CNN "geek anthem" post is implausibly similar to scrappy blogger's earlier article

Victor Pineiro put a lot of work into a funny, popular post about the "top ten geek anthems of all time." Shortly after, CNN ran an extremely similar article, which replicated many of Victor's picks and had extremely similar copy. But the CNN article didn't credit Victor with the inspiration.

Victor doesn't think that this is a copyright violation (I think he's right), but it does smack of plagiarism and intellectual dishonesty. It's possible that CNN was inspired to write the extremely similar piece at the same time, but the more likely explanation is that CNN just ripped Victor off. Victor couldn't find any contact info for the author and when he posted a question about it to the article's comment thread, it was rejected.

We often hear big media companies talk about how bloggers rip them off by posting fragments of their articles, but there's a well-developed practice of linking and crediting in blogging that often doesn't go the other way, and it sucks that media companies don't play nice in link economy.


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.

Copycat Articles Trample Bloggers: PWND By CNN (Thanks, Victor!)
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