So, WordPress.com has targeted one of my favorite bloggers and book reviewers. I tried to access her blog two days ago to read about a book she reviewed and I got the following message:
[name of blog] .wordpress.com is no longer available.
Upon looking at WordPress.com’s Terms of Service, I noted they had highlighted one clause:
the Content is not spam, is not machine- or randomly-generated, and does not contain unethical or unwanted commercial content designed to drive traffic to third party sites or boost the search engine rankings of third party sites, or to further unlawful acts (such as phishing) or mislead recipients as to the source of the material (such as spoofing);
Why is this clause potentially problematic to authors, publishers and reviewers?
1. Authors are a huge family. We stick together. We promote each other because we want to see each other succeed. When one of our author friends has a new book or short-story published, we chat it up. We talk about it. We tell everyone we know about it and where they can find more info. Many times there are youtube videos, vlogs, book trailers, in which case, there is invariably a link to a third-party site. Wordpress.com even allows for linking to youtube videos; however, it is still a third-party site, and if those with the power at WordPress want, they can stop allowing WordPress.com users from posting these videos that authors rely on.
2. Authors, especially debuting authors, and many of their publishers (often small, indie houses) rely on blog tours to promote their authors. These tours usually consist of one or more the following: book reviews, cover reveals, giveaways, etc. I’d like to focus on the giveaways here, as most of them point to Rafflecopters. Since WordPress.com doesn’t allow ‘flash’ files on their free blog hosting site, the giveaway appears as a Rafflecopter link in the blog post. The reader clicks the link and is taken to a third-party site.
3. Most authors have Goodreads and an AuthorCentral Amazon.com page. Most blog posts supporting authors and their works have links to both Goodreads and Author Central pages, thus taking the readers to a third-party website.
4. Most bloggers promoting an author and/or a book provide links where the reader can connect with the author. These links usually include social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc.), the author’s blog site, the author’s website, and other sites where the reader can find out more about the book and the author. These are all third-party sites.
5. Authors rely on reviewers to help get the word out about a book. Many readers rely on these reviews and they want quick, easy links to the authors and the books. If WordPress.com views all of these links to third-party sites as being in violation of their Terms of Service, book reviewers like the one I mentioned above, will soon be targeted and their blogs suspended. I can only imagine that authors will find themselves in the same position.
6. SEO-driven blogs will falter without links to third-party websites. Good blogs loaded with information will almost always have links to third-party websites because that is where the blogger got his/her information to begin with. They need to link to that site so it is not claimed as their own information.
#Wordpress.com, if you’re listening and reading, please take note: your blog hosting site is a HUGE hub for authors, reviewers, publishers, etc. These blogs not only give personal insight into what the person liked or didn’t like, but they also turn the entire populace in the world onto some works they may have never heard of. That is the purpose of a blog. To enlighten. To share. To be a part of a global community. Artists need these blogs, they need these websites to let the world know about them. The links provided to the reader enlighten, and connect individuals in a way that is personable and fun. Yes, it drives traffic to other sites, but that’s inevitable. Artists need traffic. They need word of mouth. They need to connect on a personal level with their readers/followers. If you decide that all authors/reviewers/publishers who promote the artists are guilty of violating your Terms of Service clause because there are links to third-party websites, then I’m afraid you might lose a huge number of bloggers. I know I would be one of the first to go.
I will definitely keep my eye on my fellow blogger/reviewer’s site to see what happens. She has sent several e-mails to WordPress.com contesting the suspension of her book review blog. I will keep you posted on what happens. If, indeed, they suspended her book review blog because of this ridiculous 3rd-party clause, then I will slowly move my blog to another site (maybe my own website or Blogger), and say good-bye to WordPress. I hope that doesn’t happen.
Then again, I might switch anyway. Blogger has some really cool templates. 🙂