So here's the situation.
In one corner we have The Power. We have RTE. The national broadcaster. And it has a huge website and upon that website resides a subsite: RTE Fashion. It is heavily funded by advertising and a license fee; it has the clout of a huge organisation and paid writers.
In the other corner we have The Talent. We have the fashion and beauty bloggers. A diverse group with widely different personalities, interests, taste and talent. We are as different individually as chalk and cheese and have no power really except that of words. But we are kind of good at what we do. And we do have a lot of people reading us. So ...
How can the two be married for the benefit of big business? How can The Power get The Talent to work for them for free? How can the The Talent be persuaded to increase traffic by providing tons of scrumptious content and thus make more money from advertising?
Simple! Send them an email, presenting the aggregation of their content as a fantastic opportunity to "increase exposure," don't mention the dirty filthy money word and watch them come flocking. They'll be flattered you see by the word RTE and won't realise that this is essentially exploitation of their talent, their time, their ideas and their originality. They won't realise that they will be contributing to the RTE website's vice-like grip on online advertising, which plays a large part in stifling the growth of Irish business online. And nor will they realise that aggregators don't work in terms of driving traffic to individual sites.
Well that was the idea anyway, but as Irish bloggers can smell bullshit from two miles downwind, it didn't take long for shrieks of disbelief to be heard resounding around Twitter yesterday.
Here's the email:
The RTÉ Fashion site is relaunching with a whole new look, and as part of the redesign we will be featuring Irish fashion and beauty blogs in an aggregated feed.
This will be a great way to showcase the best of Irish online fashion and beauty content. If you would be interested in being part of this feature on the site, please email back and I can give you further details.
This will be a great way to give your blog more exposure and get your content across to new readers!
Notice the phrase "the best of Irish online fashion and beauty content"? That's because our fashion and beauty blogs have fantastic content, incredible originality and enthusiasm for their subjects in bucketloads.
Aggregation is old hat on the Internet and has largely fallen out of favour. It doesn't work for anyone - it won't increase your traffic (in fact it has been shown to actually decrease traffic to individual sites. Instead of visiting your blog to check for updates readers will just go to the aggregator and check multiple sites in one go). It won't do anything except drive advertising for the aggregator - which in this case is RTE Fashion.
Beaut.ie is 100% against this arrangement and will never allow our content to be used this way. We work long and hard to put this site together - as I know all of you do who have blogs that are your pride and joy. Unless there is a revenue split - a fair one - there should be no question of you contributing to this arrangement.
The email sure stirred up some feeling. Just a couple of responses are detailed here, but to demonstrate the reaction, this tweet "RTE Fashion planning a fashion and beauty blog aggregator. Are they also planning a revenue share with publishers?" was retweeted to over 20,000 people. I emailed RTE to ask what was the revenue split in the arrangement to be. I got no answer.
Tuppenceworth penned a worthy response - he didn't get an answer either. Rosemary from Fash Mob was annoyed and pointed out "who'll click through to your blog? Most people read & move on - it'll seem like RTE's content." Hannah at Hello Beautiful was firm: "Everyone needs to boycott this together." Aideen from What Will I Wear Today was "RAAAAGING about that email too. we do all the work and they get all the benefit? get out!"
So what do you think? Let's hear your thoughts.