An LA-based firm called Perfect Market is helping newspapers and/or websites cash in on their archived articles through a practice that’s curiously close to spamming.
When blogger and popular sex columnist Violet Blue set about combing through SFgate.com’s archives for research on a post, she came across something that would have made any blogger turn… cerulean? Blue discovered that the site had been copying and distorting her online archives, stripping her posts of all links, commas, bio information and comments and spreading the content across several pages. Additionally, and rather disturbingly for the famously sex-positive columnist, the URL for her column had been changed to “ashamed porn star.”
Perfect Market works by saturating “shadow” web pages with SEO-friendly outbound links and ads. You’ve likely happened upon similar pages at some time or another while searching for terms online, or, if you write online, you may have received emails from companies promising to “boost traffic” through “keyword optimization” or the like. The mission statement on the company’s website, however, places a slightly more positive spin on their practices:
Perfect Market helps newspapers, magazines, and broadcasters with a web presence and other online publishers grow their revenue with little effort and no risk. Our proprietary technology solution better fulfills the needs of intent users â€” people who arrive at their sites through keyword searches seeking specific information â€” with exactly what they’re looking for in our customers’ online content. Optimized content with relevant ads generates higher click-through rates for advertisers, and dramatically more revenue for publishers and their ad network partners.
But this is dishonest, at best. This technique does not, after all, benefit “internet users,” but, rather, the companies that seek to make money through garnering clicks from readers wrangled to these useless, often unreadable web destinations.This practice has also proven lucrative for Perfect Market itself, which has received over $20 million in venture capital.
So: Is this illegal? No. But it is both dishonest and highly annoying to both the authors whose content is mangled so that a larger company can profit from it and for readers who are led, misleadingly, to sites that are useless to them.