Photo: Illustration: Ellis Hamburger
Dear Marco Arment,We’ve read your criticism of our site, and we’d like to respond.
You don’t like our headlines, our slideshows, our sharing buttons, and a bunch of other things. That’s fine, we don’t mind that our taste isn’t your taste. Millions of other people like our site, so it’s not a big deal that you don’t.
However, there is one criticism that we think is unfair. You say we’re engaging in “mass replication” of your writing, and we’re reprinting your articles.
While it’s true that your articles occasionally end up in the bowels of our site, we’re hardly engaged in “mass replication” of your posts. In fact, the link you provide to prove your point shows that your posts almost only end up on our site as snippets of Techmeme links.
How do your posts end up on our site at all, you may ask? We have a feature on our site called “The Tape.” The Tape is just an RSS reader that’s on our site. It’s meant to be a resource for readers. It links directly to sites.
If you’re not seeing a lot of traffic from the Tape, it’s because it’s not a very popular feature. People don’t visit it all that often.
You may find those RSS snippets through search. That’s an unfortunate side effect of the Tape, and RSS. It is not a core part of our business. It does less than 8,000 pageviews every month.
To criticise us based on The Tape betrays a lack of understanding of what we do at Business Insider.
Now, all that said, we have a question for you…
Instapaper is built largely on scraping the content of publications like Business Insider, BusinessWeek, or the New York Times. You take long form content, strip it of ads, then serve it to the reader in a nice clean format.
It’s awesome! We love Instapaper. (Heck, it’s on the front screen of my iPhone.)
But how do you reconcile accusing us of mass republication with the fact that your business is built on mass republication? Especially since there’s a reason BusinessWeek, et al chop up their stories in pages, and you want people to do 1/3 as many clicks, which hurts impressions, which hurts revenue.
And, to be clear, it’s not like Instapaper is the first business you’ve worked at that had mass republication.
Tumblr, another fantastic service, is helped by mass republication. (You were there as a CTO for years). It scrapes content from all over the web and spreads it virally. Nothing wrong with that! We’re just curious how you make the delineation between what Business Insider does, what Instapaper does, and what Tumblr does.
We’ve emailed you, but you didn’t write back, opting instead to merely tweet, you got “two nasty emails from BI high-ups accusing me of worse offenses, betraying a lack of understanding of what Instapaper actually does.” [Emails are below.]
When you get a moment, let us know what we’re getting wrong about Instapaper, and what we can do to rectify the wrongs we’ve committed against you.
Oh, and so there’s no confusion for the general public, below are the so-called “nasty emails” that we sent you:
Just wanted to reach out about your criticisms of Business Insider.
Primarily your assertion that we’re reprinting your articles. When I read that, it suggests that we’re A. Taking your entire article, and B. Sitting here manually copying and pasting entire articles from you.
Neither is true.
When you see parts of your posts on our site it’s because we use RSS to create a “Tape” feed that’s like any other aggregation service. You can see it here: http://www.businessinsider.com.au/sai/thetape
Our tape feed sends direct links to your site. If you’re not seeing much traffic from it, it’s because the Tape isn’t that popular of a feature on our site. We’d like it to be more popular so we can send traffic to sites, and provide a service to readers. We’re still developing the feature, though. If you’d like to be removed from it, that’s no problem, we can remove you.
The tape is not a core part of our business or our strategy. The pageviews it generates are pretty minimal (7,983 in a month). We’re a startup trying new things, seeing what will work and what won’t. The tape is a good idea, but so far execution is lacking.
Therefore, I think your tweet about us reprinting your article is misleading, something I know you hate. We just had the automated RSS pull in a few lines. It was buried in our site.
I do find it interesting that you are critical of our company for doing an RSS feed. After all, Instapaper’s core business is scraping full content from media companies and stripping out the ads. You also want to prevent them from serving up the page views they need to survive by making users click on single pageviews or find print outs of articles to get a single pageview. With your social features you’re even trying to cut back on people’s need to visit sites at all.
How do you reconcile what Instapaper does with what Business Insider does? (I’m not trying to be antagonistic here, I’m really curious.) The RSS thing is a tiny part of our operation. Our main business is doing original reporting and writing, sometimes even long form stuff than can be Instapapered.
If you have any other questions or complaints feel free to reach out to me.
This one is from Nicholas Carlson:
You’re a pretty rich guy because you’ve created two beautiful apps that are almost entirely based on content scraping.
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