Live Blogging Is Stealing From Speakers

Mar 29, 2012 • 9:08 am | comments (24) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Search Engine Industry News

PiratesA Search Engine Land Column is a good piece of content, but if you skip it and go to the comments, the discussion, you will see a really interesting debate going on about live blogging conference sessions.

You have Shari Thurow, a long long time speaker at SEO/SEM conferences, call live bloggers plagiarizers and a "bad habit" that has to stop. Yea, it is insulting but really, is what we do really stealing and plagiarizing content?

(1) We always attribute, always.

(2) We never are able to write it word for word, we summarize what they are talking about.

(3) We miss a lot of what they say because it is almost impossible to cover it all.

Plus, we don't live blog because it brings us crazy amount of money and makes us rich and famous. I personally do it because it gives back to the community who aren't able to go. In fact, the event organizers encourage us to live blog through press passes and front row reserved seats with power. They do it for:

(1) Publicity for their conference.

(2) Speakers, 99% of them, love the coverage.

(3) It gives the event organizers great feedback on speaker talent and content.

Like I said, most speakers love that we live blog them. Heck, I speak a lot as well, and I so appreciate it when there are live bloggers capturing what I say. I also run conferences and try to get live bloggers to attend. I want live bloggers there.

Rand Hugging Barry
Image credit to Tamar Weinberg

Yea, that is a picture of Rand Fishkin hugging me while at a conference. A speaker who is in high demand around the world, hugging a live blogger! How dare he!

Again, I organize conference, I moderate panels, I speak at events (both keynote and normal speaking) and I live blog. I have done it all. Organizing conference is by far the hardest. But I would say live blogging is harder than speaking or moderating panels. Why? Well, 3-4 day conferences, 8+ hour days, it is exhausting and sometimes boring, covering the topics. Live blogging is just not a fun job and is really tiring. I put a ton of time organizing live blogging schedules and live bloggers before and during the conference. And then the non stop listening, typing and publishing is tiring.

Shari Thurow is someone I respect but I disagree, as a speaker and event organizer, on her views of live bloggers. She wrote:

If I can read the live blog or article and basically get nearly the entire presentation, that is plagiarizing and darn near a copyright violation, especially if it is a paid event (I consult with my attorneys on this, and it is always best to consult with intellectual property attorneys on this matter.) Why should anyone pay to attend an event when they can get the goods for free?

Plagiarizing is not only disrespectful to the speaker. It is also disrespectful for the event holders.

So let me quote event holders:

Danny Sullivan who runs the SMX shows said:

I certainly don't see it as somehow plagiarizing our events. For one thing, most live blogging I see fairly attributes what's being said to the speaker. If you have attribution, you don't have plagiarism. As for a copyright violation, again, so little relatively speaking is being reported that I wouldn't see this as an issue.

And in terms of other speakers complaining about live bloggers? Danny would know, he said:

In my experience of running events for over 10 years now, I've never had any speaker see this as an issue but Shari. If live bloggers at our shows want to respect her wishes not to be live blogged, that will probably save you hassle with her. But it's not something our shows insist upon.

Chris Sherman who runs a ton of the SMX shows said:

Conference presentations are public events. We have absolutely no ability, legally or ethically, to stop people from liveblogging, tweeting, texting, phoning or expressing themselves in any other way while they're attending the conferences. And frankly, most liveblogging almost of necessity consists of incomplete snippets or interpretations of what speakers say. That's not plagiarism. Traditionalists typically don't consider it "reporting," in the journalistic sense, either. In most cases it's just stream of consciousness interpretation of what the liveblogger is hearing.

Barry Live Blogging Image credit to Search Engine Land

I've been insulted before when it comes to live blogging and asked if I should give it up. I really should because it is tiring and honestly I dislike doing it. But I know there are so many people who can't afford to come to a conference that do get a bit of help from the live blogging I, Lisa, Marty and others do. We don't do it to rip off speakers, we do it to form a bond in the community and help the industry just a little bit.

That being said, I welcome live bloggers to the iSEO panel at SMX Advanced, which I am moderating and to SEMSEO Conference in Germany which I am keynoting at.

Forum discussion at Search Engine Land Comments.

Image credit to ShutterStock for skull and cross.

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Roger Dooley

03/29/2012 01:35 pm

The conferences I speak at don't always attract live bloggers, but at the last Pubcon my neuromarketing spotlight did.  That may have been due  more  to my session-mate from Microsoft than an upsurge of SEO blogger interest in brainy marketing, but I greatly appreciated the effort and additional exposure.  I can't see how live blogging is theft or plagiarism - it's just good reporting, and takes a lot of effort on the part of the live blogger.  (I'm lucky to get a handful of tweets out if I'm in the audience, much less report on most of the major elements of the preso.)  Keep up the good work!

03/29/2012 01:37 pm

"...But I know there are so many people who can't afford to come to a conference that do get a bit of help from the live blogging." - - I couldn't agree more.

Stockbridge Truslow

03/29/2012 02:12 pm

I think it's up to the speaker and/or conference coordinators.  If you ask me, the Grateful Dead had it right - actually allowing bootleggers to buy a direct line into their mixing board. That wouldn't be an option at most shows. Is it stealing to bootleg a concert? If you ask many bands, yep. If you ask(ed) the Grateful Dead and many other like them, nope. It doesn't matter what we as consumers feel about it, it's what they as producers feel about it that defines whether live blogging is good or bad.


03/29/2012 02:48 pm

Live blogging is no different from filming an event or recording an event for later news reporting, or from broadcasting live. It's journalism, dummy!

Dali Burgado

03/29/2012 02:54 pm

Hey Barry, I have yet to attend a major SEO conference in person, so I definitely do very much appreciate your coverage of these events.  It definitely provides a service to the community, and if I were speaking, I would surely appreciate the live coverage.   In my opinion live blogging: 1) Brings the speaker visibility that they normally wouldn't have gotten 2) Provides a service to the community 3) A blog post can not replace the experience of a live conference session - things will naturally get missed  I appreciate you, Barry!  Thank you for all you do!


03/29/2012 03:29 pm

Oh please. She's so off base it's frightening. It's like the sports disclaimer on every radio and television broadcast ("any publication of the pictures, descriptions, or accounts of this game without the express written consent of ... "). It doesn't even mean what it says; it means "you don't have the right to rebroadcast our existing signal". But YOU can certainly "describe it". Particularly if you are a journalist, which many bloggers believe themselves to be.


03/29/2012 04:28 pm

that has to be a dumbest remark about live blogging I have yet heard. so when news reporters are reporting from the war, they should pay each fighting side royalties?


03/29/2012 05:29 pm

>>>. If you have attribution, you don't have plagiarism. Surprised to see Danny Sullivan say that. Fair use is quoting a small amount for discussion purposes, not the entirety of a published work.

Barry Schwartz

03/29/2012 05:43 pm

Do you want me to not live blog your sessions?

Nick Roshon

03/29/2012 05:48 pm

I've heard plenty of bloggers say "don't share/tweet/blog this" and the live bloggers typically honor that. Seems like it's a fairly simple solution to this issue, much like adding a meta noindex tag if you don't want a search engine to index your content, add a "please don't live blog" disclaimer to your deck if you don't want folks live blogging...  Personally, I love both reading the live blogging and occasionally being part of it.


03/29/2012 07:09 pm

Comment Removed

Barry Schwartz

03/29/2012 07:11 pm


Takeshi Young

03/29/2012 08:37 pm

I personally enjoy live blogging, even for conferences I do attend (who can attend all the sessions?) so I appreciate all the hard work you guys put into it.  Plus, there are so many more reasons to attend conferences than a couple of snippets from speakers... Shari is just way off base here.

Dennis Goedegebuure

03/29/2012 09:11 pm

If you have so much time on your hands to chase live bloggers and spend time in the comments on a follow up, you're doing something wrong! I love the live blogging on conferences, where the value I would bring to a company or a client would be so easily copied, I would have no business in this industry. Going to a conference for me, is more to hang out with likeminded people, where the conversations at lunch, dinner or at the bar give the extra added value on top of the presentations. And let's be real, reading a live blog is not the same to hear Marty deliver a great presentation. I even heard Marty reading the text of his book in my head while reading it. Both fun and scary.. Marty Mindcontrol! 

Ben Cook

03/29/2012 09:18 pm

I haven't seen any live bloggers quote the entirety of a published work. Did I miss it somehow?

David Cohen

03/29/2012 09:32 pm

Suggesting that live blogging should end would be like suggesting you ask your brand advocates not to tell others about your product or their experience. Makes no sense. Unless the speaker specifically asks that no live blogging take place, live blogging adds tremendous value and is a fantastic form of WOM for the speaker.

Karie Barrett

03/30/2012 01:03 am

From my perspective, live blogging is excellent PR for both speakers and conferences.  It is what brought me to PubCon and ultimately determined what sessions I attended and contacts I made. It is also what has a number of other conferences and speakers on my radar. I am truly appreciative of everyone who provides this service at conferences! As others have pointed out, if you are a speaker who does not want/need free PR, then simply make an announcement at the beginning of your presentation or slide deck and I'm sure the majority of people will accommodate your request. Just stop bashing those who provide this service.

Marty Weintraub

03/30/2012 02:35 am

Barry, thanks for highlighting this. The contribution you've made to our industry is huge. Dude, you thought it up. Thanks for all you do, and inspiring this generation of live bloggers. 

Farky Rafiq

03/30/2012 11:53 am

Isn’t live blogging just the same as a journalist sitting there and getting a story ready for print the next day? A modern form of journalism  


03/30/2012 01:41 pm

 I think live blogging is actually useful for people like me, who want to know whats happening around. Going by the statement that triggered this post, even newspapers should not exist ;) If a speaker says - don't live blog my talk (just as they put these messages in museums - Don't video shoot...or in some places, don't take pictures).. I don't think people will be so rude as ignoring his/her request.


03/30/2012 03:22 pm

I honestly don't see what the problem is here  Shari? People are live blogging your sessions to get you better known to a much wider audience who would not know of you or your knowledge if it wasn't for people like Barry! I can't afford to fly around the world to all these different conferences and so without people like Barry live blogging, I wouldn't get a chance to read half of what I do from valuable members on the industry and different communities who I hold to be a good base of knowledge thanks to live blogging. If your worried that when you place your sessions on your website google would have already found it from live bloggers or people will not want to read what was missed, why not take advantage of live bloggers and earn some links from them? You could simply ask them before you start if they wouldn't mind doing two things in return for you. 1. write in bullet points and 2. place a link to your site/page at the end so people may continue to read what you said in more details. Its the perfect way for you to gain some extra links and new readers! So again, I ask Shari, what's the problem here? Especially when you can make something good out of live bloggers for yourself!

Greg Beddor

03/30/2012 07:12 pm

People tweeting and blogging from events is huge! I've definitely learned a lot from people that were sharing from events I couldn't be at. I think if a speaker doesn't want something posted, and I've heard some do this - they can simply say "if your blogging don't post this part, and if your tweeting, leave this.... out of your tweets."

Shawn Collins

03/31/2012 11:46 am

I embrace live blogging and Tweeting at Affiliate Summit. We also post the decks and have recorded and publicly posted the session videos since 2006. In 9 years of Affiliate Summit, I can't remember any speaker demanding a cone of silence around their session. 

Mike Wilton

04/10/2012 05:52 am

I think live blogging is awesome both as the poster and for people interested in the content. I know when I did some live tweeting/blogging of SES a couple of years ago I picked up a lot of cool new connections that way.  That being said, I think presenters have the right to ask to not have their content live tweeted/blogged if they choose.  I know in a recent presentation during SMX, Debra Mastaler had slides and content she asked not be tweeted and I thought that was totally acceptable. That being said, I wouldn't call live blogging plagiarism and it's a bit of an extreme statement.

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