Well, look at romance books. It’s the same generic product every single time with a facelift. Same for Hollywood movies. We all know how thrillers work. We all know that Angela Lansbery is going to go to a posh place where someone will murder someone and we all play guess the murderer and it’s not the obvious evil guy but maybe the–shock, it was the antagonised butler whose motive was revealed 10 minutes towards the end! I could go on.
When I speak of devalued writing, I’m talking about people who can’t write, getting paid to write junk–or simply just outright plagiarize other content without even bothering to edit it, all for the sake of $5. My position is that if it’s well written and edited, it will be a fresh new piece. Derivative from the original–sure. I usually add in a couple of new opinions (because I am opinionated!). These clients don’t want to pay full rates for fresh content, but they do want good content. This is a way to give it to them. Beyond that, the ethics and morality is down to each person. It’s not writing an academic paper (not for pay–that I do disapprove of) where quotations, bibliographies and all the rest of it are the norm. I guess the online equivalent is the good old hyperlink, but if you’re rewriting smart, you’re not going to do that–you’ll find some other sources, and better sources. Not that I do this when I rewrite–that’s the client’s job, though I doubt many considered it.
Plus, there are a few people out there who just want a rewrite because while they’ve written something, they just feel that it’s not good enough and that a good writer can breathe some fresh new air into what feels like stale content.
I mean, we’re talking “Top 10 Ways Cats: The Musical Changed The Way We Eat” internet crap here. Nobody really cares, do they? Even with more business stuff like “Why You Need To Sit Up and Take Notice of Big Data’s Big Brother” is just going to be some tech article that gets rehashed. Press Releases these days: just throw that up on the site.
I mean, this is probably more to do with Google’s insistence on better quality content–I’m sure we remember the days when any old crap was thrown up and somehow ranked despite being as informative as a broken toaster. Now, they’re at least written in OK English (generally) and although it’s one of many very, very similar articles, it’s a step forward.
Perhaps Google will further develop its ability to detect similarities in rewrites and penalize newer spins/rewrites/etc (to the howls of anguished website owners across the globe). But until the day that doing this actively harms those website owners, they’re not going to stop. Ethics isn’t going to win here–but it rarely does outside the ivory towers of academia.
Here finishes the sermon
EDIT: @fastcopywriter’s correct about the news-jacking. Hm, could be a gig idea…