Musicians have easily taken the brunt of the abuse around the notion that content should be free. There is never ending irony in the idea that something sought out by people is simultaneously declared as having no value. Photographers seem to win second place in this realm, and a range of content creators, mostly on the Internet, make up the rest.
Today, a PR agency representing a major travel service was working on some kind of bullshit "listicle" piece that they were pitching to their client, and they wanted to use the data from the CoasterBuzz 100, which is the top 100 roller coasters in our database. This content is valuable to me for a lot of reasons. There was effort that went into calculating it and aggregating the data automatically, it's very frequently viewed by users, it has great search engine juice, etc. It's one of the few times I've actually achieved any of that by design. In any case, this is how the conversation went via email around the use of this content (some light editing for clarity). Watch how the change in tone happens...
Agency: Happy Tuesday! We were reaching out for permission to mention CoasterBuzz.com in our upcoming [client name removed] press release around summer travel. Please let us know if you need anything from us to make this happen! Thanks!
Me: I'm not sure you really need permission, but what's the context?
Agency: Ok, that's easy! We just want to cover our butts. We're putting together a summer index list that'll cover summer travel that includes beach destinations, national parks and amusement parks. We're using the CoasterBuzz rankings to figure out the amusement park rankings by number of top coasters.
Me: That's not a mention, that's reusing content. You'll have to be more specific about what you're going to do and how you will attribute the data to CoasterBuzz.
Agency: We're taking a list of top 50 cities in the US and using the CoasterBuzz rankings to help us identify the cities with the most top rated roller coasters. We'll mention that we used information from CoasterBuzz and link the list to the press release. Do you need further details?
Me: That's still vague and unsatisfying. The attribution doesn't really help me... you're just using content for free. I'm not OK with that.
Agency: I explained exactly how we're using the data in my previous email. [gives example]
We continue this for all 50 top cities in the US. We also pulled top rated beaches, identified whether or not they have a national park, their average weather, etc. From all of this data, we create a travel index for consumers to reference as they're thinking about their summer travels. Does that make sense?
We're also pitching this content to top tier consumer and travel media as well as distributing a national press release (which isn't cheap). We're essentially driving more eyeballs to the CoasterBuzz website and increasing potential traffic.
What terms would you be OK with?
Me: If you want to pay for use of the data, that would be fine, but I'm not interested in eyeballs. They don't pay for the hosting services or software. If that's something you can budget for, do let me know, otherwise, I'm not willing to allow the repackaging of our content.
Agency: We'll look elsewhere.
Awesome, right? When you want something for free, there's nothing quite like making it sound like you're doing me a favor. I can assure you that after 17 years of doing this, it's not a favor. I've had mentions in the LA Times and on NPR, and I can assure you that there's no flood of traffic that comes from these mentions. And in those cases, at least it's around something newsworthy, not generating content for the purpose of marketing. What started as a "mention" was really redistribution of content for free.
Content has value. If it didn't, you wouldn't be asking for it.