Technology

BlogBeat: Sharon Waxman Won’t Be Jacked by Michael Wolff

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In this week’s Monday BlogBeat, Hollywood blogger Sharon Waxman goes to war with Vanity Fair columnist and Newser entrepreneur Michael Wolff over getting her content stolen; a disgraced New York Times finance blogger suits up for the blog that disgraced him; a revered fashion blogger’s bizarre Mac flip-flopping with the New York Observer; and the curious Gawker byline with a Philip K. Dick character behind it.

Sharon Waxman vs. Michael Wolff: On Thursday afternoon Hollywood reporter and known nemesis of Nikki Finke, Sharon Waxman, took on Vanity Fair columnist Michael Wolff over the way he basically jacks the shit out of the content on her site, The Wrap, via his news aggregator, Newser. Waxman took issue with the way Newser took one of The Wrap’s stories, rewrote a headline and two paragraphs, and posted it with a barely visible link. Newser then cutely did the exact thing Waxman described in her post on the issue, to her post on the issue. Which, of course, also yielded Michael Wolff throwing down a post himself about the entire debacle.

Wolff’s primary argument is that he’s taking someone else’s words and getting them “resorted, rewritten, republished as soon as they are known,” the value of which is “the style and efficiency with which they are presented.”

Never mind that the opening for creative license to be taken with someone else’s writing when doing a straight re-purposing of it for “style and efficiency” is at the very least, disturbing, and at the worst, presents a stark danger to the way one’s words can be perceived once processed through someone’s efficiency machine. Take for example another proponent of re-purposing content for fast posting in the face of through reporting, Business Insider CEO Henry Blodget.

Over the weekend, they took a story by blogger Jeff Jarvis, and changed the headline. Jarvis took issue with it over Twitter:

Business Insider changed the headline over my iPad post: I”m no longer hating but now merely worried.

Of course, Jarvis allowed Business Insider to reprint his piece. Gotta wonder how the Financial Times feels about Blodget’s people taking three paragraphs of their piece, and posting it with less original context than block-quoted material. Or how David Carr and the New York Times feels about Business Insider reprinting the first three paragraphs of Carr’s piece with only an adjusted headline and a link, which on first appearance, would look like Carr wrote it for B.I.

We went to Waxman for quote to see if she’s going to be taking legal action against Wolff. She noted:

We have consulted with a lawyer about this, and the law offers only tenuous protection. There is a revival of something called the “hot news doctrine” that some are pursuing, which essentially has to do with these rewrites — and lack of proper sourcing and linking — constitutes unfair competition.

We will be writing a cease and desist letter to Newser. I want them to stop using (abusing) our content.

I found Wolff’s response not very convincing and childish in its insults (we’re actually not a small site, and i have no idea how big or small Newser is because it hides its traffic) — though I love being looped in with Rupert Murdoch.

Wolff’s comparison of Sharon Waxman to Rupert Murdoch came sometime after noting that she’s the proprietor of a “low-traffic news site about the movie business.” This is funny, because:

(A) The Wrap came within striking distance of passing up Newser’s foreign traffic in December.

(B) The Wrap’s domestic traffic — while yes, outsized by Newser’s domestic traffic — isn’t exactly being stomped by Newser, either.

(C) A traffic comparison argument could be noted as irresponsible, because Waxman covers a small well of news — Hollywood and media — while Newser pulls from all kinds of sources, and compiles them on their site (so of course their numbers are better).

(D) Wolff noting that Sharon Waxman’s site is “low-traffic” in this argument is about as snide and petty as, say, mentioning the fact that Michael Wolff once fucked a Vanity Fair intern would be in this post. He went ahead and did it anyway, and so did we! Though we did it for fun, and Wolff did it to minimize what he sees as insignificant harm to Waxman’s business on his part.

We’d like to see him aggregate that.

A Flip-Floppy Lean: Fashion blogger Michael Williams of A Continuous Lean has a byline with GQ, his own shop with high-profile fashion collaborations, and now, a New York Observer byline where he documents his first few days with an iPad, the introduction of which notes that he’s a “proud member of the Cult of Apple.” Wonder if the Observer‘s people are reading their own material: Last week, a photo shoot of New York men’s fashion voices heralding their usage of BlackBerrys over iPhones went up on the site. Williams noted of iPhone users: “Now if someone takes it out I just think ‘unemployed graphic designer.’ “

The Plagiarism Trap Hiring Gambit: When Dealbreaker’s star finance blogger Bess Levin set a trap for a New York Times finance blogger from Dealbook, Zachery Kouwe, and he got busted, she might’ve anticipated him being fired from the New York Times over it. You’ve gotta wonder, though, if she anticipating sharing a masthead with him shortly after, which is what’s happening now as Dealbreaker invited Zachery Kouwe to be a guestblogger for them, his gig for which was announced on their site today. The announcement elicited a few prominent and amused WTF‘s from the finance and blogging community. Then again, it could’ve been Bess’s genius plan all along. Nobody’s denied her talent thus far; why stop now?

Gawker’s Mystery Byline: Over the weekend, a nice, traffic-magnet of a post went up on Gawker about Bruce Springsteen’s divorce and his affinity for the derrieres of women who weren’t his wife. It was written by a Glen Runciter, whose contact information isn’t available. That’s because Glen Runciter is a character from Philip K. Dick novel Ubik. Gotta wonder who it is, and why they’re hiding behind a fake byline. If you know, we’d love to hear.

[fkamer@villagevoice.com]