Content Scraping and Patchwriting – The Existential Threat

When the blogosphere really took off it, it carried with it an implicit promise: If you are interesting enough, you may get rich. A lot of people saw it as the next great frontier of writing without the gatekeeper of publishing houses and editors.

There’s a bit of a problem there. Those gatekeepers exist to keep the malarkey out. Those gatekeepers provide a framework to deliver money to you in exchange for your intellectual property. They pay to protect it while you happily take your pennies on the dollar to a publishing party (of course wearing a turtle neck).

So the blogosphere was the people’s approach. Anyone can do it, man. Yeah, seriously.


Once people began to realize you could make money off this, they started typing their little fingers off. Other people, lazy people or non-writers, did other things.


This article specifically highlights the ideas of patchwriting. In short, it’s when you write your own words, but don’t think your own concepts. In this article, an example of patchwriting in the professional world of journalism plays across the pages. A journalist from a lesser paper wrote about the same topic covered in an NYT article. While nothing was directly plagiarized, you can clearly see that the lesser writer stood on the shoulders of a giant so to speak.

Patchwriting is easy. It’s pervasive. It’s impossible to persecute. In the digital writing world, it’s akin to stealing right out of someone’s pocket.

Bloggers get paid by views, meaning they get paid on the strength and uniqueness of their content. With no governing bodies controlling these things, patch writers can simply pilfer content bit by bit to establish themselves as a contemporary with no penalty.

It gets worse though. Content scraping algorithms can deliver countless articles right to an enterprising thief’s hands.

Wait. What is content scraping?

Real quick. Content scraping is the process where “bots” travel across the internet, gather information, then bring it back to a central repository.

In our example, nerds can create a content scraping algorithm that will go out and actively copy all blog posts of a certain genre with a certain amount of followers and deposit the content on their own site.

Here is an example. This WP plugin requires almost zero technical know-how to steal content. It is made for migrating your own content, but you can definitely use it for nefarious purposes. The more tech-savvy you are, the more you can do.

The owners of the blog will have no idea you did it. Even if they figure it out, it’s likely they aren’t actively copyrighting their work. Even if they are, it’s unlikely;y they have the resources or wherewithal to make you stop.

Meanwhile, you collect the clicks, the revenue, and the glory.