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Behind-The-Scenes Linkjacking

One of my favorite film writers, Eric Vespe, has been painstakingly putting together amazing behind-the-scenes photos in a daily feature at Ain’t It Cool News. When I spoke to Eric about this collection awhile ago during his most recent appearance on the /Filmcast, he mentioned that he assembled these photos from a variety of sources, including submissions from readers and his own personal collection. Here’s an example of a post in this awesome series.

Today, I was disappointed to find that a blogger (Angus Shamal) had assembled a bunch of Quint’s photos and republished them into a new blog post. This post was then submitted to Reddit, where it quickly became a popular story. Later, popular blogger John Gruber linked to Shamal’s post on his site as well. As a conservative estimate (based on my knowledge of the incoming traffic these two sites receive), Shamal’s blog post probably received at least 100,000 visits today, only a small fraction of which led to visits/hits for Ain’t It Cool News. Currently, the offending site is down from the massive amounts of traffic, although you can visit a mirror/cached copy of it by clicking here.

When I saw the story on Reddit, I was angered that someone had repurposed Quint’s work and was using it to get a ton of traffic. I was about to take to the comments section and insist that Redditors visit the Ain’t It Cool News site directly…except I couldn’t find an easy link at Ain’t It Cool News that assembled a bunch of the photos together in one place. Heck, I couldn’t even find a link that led me to all the columns that Quint had written for this series. Ain’t It Cool makes it difficult to surface this content, even for people who are looking for it. Chastened, I realized that as quasi-sleazy as it was for Shamal to copy all those images onto his blog, it actually served a purpose: it presented a bunch of Quint’s content in an easy-to-read format that Ain’t It Cool News either cannot or does not want to replicate.

Thus, there are several lessons I personally glean from this incident:

Always assume your work can/will be stolen – If you produce awesome material, it’s possible that someone else on the internet will repurpose it in some way, then receive all the credit/pageviews/advertising/money. You can bitch and moan about this, or you can adapt and prepare for this eventuality as best as possible.

Make it easy for social media sites to link to your content – To promote virality of your work, these days, it is not enough to simply produce great content; it is also important to assemble it in such a way that facilitates easy linking from sites such as Reddit. If you don’t do it, someone else will do it for you.

Protect your images – Some kind of watermark ensures that if your work is totally jacked by another blogger, you’ll at least get some free advertising from it.