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How to credit a work-for-hire article?
LisaWeber




msg:930611
 5:35 pm on Aug 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

If I commission an article to be written for me by a freelance writer, and then I use that article for promotion, how would I credit the article? I wouldn't want to say I wrote it, but I'm not sure if crediting a work-for-hire person is proper either. Any thoughts?

 

richlowe




msg:930612
 5:37 pm on Aug 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

Personally, I wouldn't credit anyone, and I'd be sure that my contract with the writer was specific on this.

Syzygy




msg:930613
 10:53 pm on Aug 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

Is the 'freelancer' that you've hired for their ability to write quality content on a specific subject any of the following:

* an expert/authority on the subject
* a high profile freelance writer
* has previously written for authoritative mediums
* writes regularly for the sectors you're in (or aligned sectors)
* is a published author (ie, book author)
* has won industry/sector awards for their contribution to the sector
* features highly on any mediums other than web
* has their own commissioned (or syndicated) columns
* was, before they went freelance, any of the above?

Or, are they:

* an insignificant 'work-for-hire' who can write 'cost-effective/cheap' content?

What do you know about the writer you've commissioned?

Just for my benefit:

...I use that article for promotion...

I'm not quite sure what you mean by that - can you clarify a bit?

How you credit writers is an art form - and all related to how 'you', the commissioning editor (for that is what you are in this scenario) value your contributors...

Syzygy

Content Writer




msg:930614
 2:12 am on Aug 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

I wouldn't want to say I wrote it...

Why not?

Is your inhibition based on legal concerns, or do you just not feel *right* about crediting yourself for someone else's writing?

If the concern is legal, then, well, I personally wouldn't be concerned. According to the government [copyright.gov]:

Works Made for Hire. — In the case of a work made for hire, the employer or other person for whom the work was prepared is considered the author for purposes of this title, and, unless the parties have expressly agreed otherwise in a written instrument signed by them, owns all of the rights comprised in the copyright

And anyway, do you really need to have a name on it? Chances are "no" but if you "just gotta" then why not claim authorship and get all the self importance and fame that comes with having a ghostwriter [en.wikipedia.org]?

[edited by: Content_Writer at 2:29 am (utc) on Aug. 10, 2005]

richlowe




msg:930615
 2:18 am on Aug 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

My assumption, based upon the term freelance writer, was that this was simply a person hired to write. Not a big name or anything like that. Just someone to write an article. In that case, I wouldn't cite him as the author.

But of course, if this was more than a freelance writer, a well-known name, for example, then I would most definitely cite the person.

meg8




msg:930616
 1:52 pm on Aug 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

All magazine and newspaper journalists are surely work for hire and they get their name, or their intials under the work. If I did a piece of writing for a website I would certainly expect this courtesy - not a link or anything just recognition that the work was produced by me.

If you have an ongoing relationship with this writer then you couldbuild their work into a collection, 'another in our successful series by...' kind of deal.

However, if they are writing your 'about us' pages or product descriptions then I wouldn't expect to see a credit under the work, but it still might be courteous to mention their name somewhere, with thanks to XXX for their hard work, something like that. I think that just makes you seem like a nice person which will help win trust in your site.

Syzygy




msg:930617
 1:58 pm on Aug 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

My assumption, based upon the term freelance writer, was that this was simply a person hired to write.

Ah, but the freelancer who makes/is trying to make a living out of writing obviously contributes articles to many other sources.

Even if they write for your competitors, or sources totally unrelated to your sector, you can turn this to your advantage through the use of a positive biog/credit:

* The writer, Arthur Wordsmith, writes extensively on the subject of Widgets and his articles regularly appear on WidgetReviewWeekly.com, WidgetsToday.com and many other respected information sources.

* A former Marketing Director at Widgets PLC, Arthur Wordsmith nows works as a freelance writer specialising in the latest developments in Widget technology.

* Arthur Wordsmith is a regular contributor to websites such as WidgetReviewWeekly.com, WidgetsToday.com & WeLoveWidgets.com and specialises in articles focusing on the Widget sector.

* The author, Arthur Wordsmith, is a freelance writer with xx years experience. Arthur writes on a wide range of areas including Widgets, Wodgets, Wadgets and cookery.

Presenting a bio/credit of the writer in a positive way adds authority/gravitas to:

* the writer
* the article
* the source carrying the article.

This authority/gravitas (call it what you will) is projected to the reader/visitor, who will be much more convinced of the merit of something if they can appreciate that the writer has some sort of 'status' (doesn't mean they'll agree with it, of course!).

Syzygy

Content Writer




msg:930618
 8:07 pm on Aug 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

The writer, Arthur Wordsmith, writes extensively on the subject of Widgets and his articles regularly appear on WidgetReviewWeekly.com, WidgetsToday.com and many other respected information sources

Or how about:

* The writer, Arthur Wordsmith, regularly contributes to all of my competititors, and, for a small fee, lets me know about their sites, their competitive niche topics, and anything else he can glean about their operations. What's more is that he doesn't divulge my trade secrets to anyone else...why would he?

Sorry. I'm being sarcastic. And okay, you're right, we're talking about two different things...me: confidential niche markets and you: i dunno, something like an online trade magazine that wants to become famous?

But even if it's the latter, how necessary is it to name an author? You have to think, is that why people are coming to my site? To read the next article by Arthur Wordsmith?

Could be...but probably not. Much more likely they're looking for info on widgets and could frankly care less about who wrote it: they just want answers to their questions, or to learn something. After all, people are searching for widgets, not Wordsmiths.

Even if they're not searching, they're going straight to the source, and still, they're typing in the url--not the author's name.

So if you want to build up a cult following, why not brand your site name--have that be the "definitive source"? Many major online publications (Lonely Planet, Economist) typically don't use bylines.

After all, writers come and go. The site, however, remains.

And then you have to think: how much can a name do for the quality of your content anyway? Yes, I gravitate toward certain writers online because I know, from their name, that I'll get something entertaining--but I also make the sign of the cross whenever I see certain other names.

I'd say; make sure your site is what people gravitate to, and make sure it's good.

Content Writer




msg:930619
 8:33 pm on Aug 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

I wanted to post my question separately, but I think it's very pertinent to this thread:

So, I was thinking that including a writer's byline might help in negotiations (ie writer gets more fame but less fortune) or could be useful if a web publisher really wants to develop individual personalities on the site, or whatever...

...but here's my question: how do you make sure your authors don't go and re-publish their work somewhere else (especially problematic on the web, considering duplicate content)?

What does that work-for-hire contract look like?

Something like:

yes, your byline is on your article--no, you don't own it;

yes, you can cite it in your portfolio--no, you can't publish it anywhere else.

Has anyone participated in such a contract? What's a good example text for this type of contract? What else is involved?

Thanks!

Syzygy




msg:930620
 11:14 pm on Aug 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

Sorry. I'm being sarcastic. And okay, you're right, we're talking about two different things...me: confidential niche markets and you: i dunno, something like an online trade magazine that wants to become famous?

Lol!

You are correct; you do not know..:-)

As for the unfairly maligned Arthur Wordsmith giving away trade secrets, well, whether working in a confidential market sector or not, it might be better not to tell him any secrets in the first place. And, I'm not quite sure how the decision to include or not include an author biog is going to turn the writer towards industrial espionage!

The discussion here is based on how to credit articles provided by freelancers. The issue of whether a 'named' writer can increase traffic to your site is another matter methinks and likely worthy of a new thread...

...how necessary is it to name an author?

Much more likely they... [the visitors] are... looking for info on widgets and could frankly care less about who wrote it: they just want answers to their questions, or to learn something. After all, people are searching for widgets, not Wordsmiths.

It's not necessary to credit those that help your site become a success. They can be anonymous 'staff writers' should one so desire it. I believe it really helps if you can show that the writer knows what they're talking about. Credibility and trust counts and is essential if your site depends on return visitors. After all an article is a unique means of communicating with an individual, and maybe lots of them.

Lonely Planet is a great example of a brand that has become trusted because of the quality of it's content and the fact that they certainly used to hype up the names and profiles of the contributors a few years ago. They built their reputation on the reputations of the quality writers they commissioned - a wonderful job done.

Syzygy

Content Writer




msg:930621
 3:12 am on Aug 11, 2005 (gmt 0)

What's the importance of named authorship? Do you need to credit your authors who sell you content? Well, these are good questions...

For starters, I'd say quality and site branding trump bylines, by far. If you want to take another step and turn your writers into minor celebrities and then capitalize on the fame you've created for them, then by all means, go for it.

But even in the case of Lonely Planet, it seems that from the very beginning it was pretty much a good angle (just go!) followed up by recruitment efforts described by a former Lonely Planet publisher--quoted in this recent new yorker article [newyorker.com]--as a process in which “Tony and Maureen would pluck these people out of a bar, or somewhere, and have complete confidence in them”...

It doesn't seem like author name recognition was the key to making lonely planet big. Yes, you could argue that author recognition might have helped here and there, later, like random star formations in the universe--but the Big Bang was the angle + quality content.

I just don't think you really need by-lines when your writers work for hire.

And I was given to hyperbole by describing >>>the unfairly maligned Arthur Wordsmith<<< as a spy...but then again I think his severe naivete could turn him into one, inadvertently.

I guess there's just something that really bugs me about Arthur Wordsmith--maybe it's the fact that he would work for a publisher dumb enough to link out to competitors...or perhaps it's his apparent willingness give up info about other clients' niche markets.

But you see, Syzygy, for many in the SEO industry (most of the people reading this forum, I suspect), it is really important to stay competitive by not having your writers divulge your content topics to a third party, much less include them in a biog. In SEO, niche topics are tantamount to trade secrets.

larryhatch




msg:930622
 3:32 am on Aug 11, 2005 (gmt 0)

One device, commonly used and accepted in print media is something like:
"by Sam Sponsor with Casper Ghost."

The 'with' implies a ghostwriter to those who even notice. Lots of people do this

There are several benefits.
1) Nobody can accuse you of not crediting the actual writer.
2) Both your name and his appear.
3) Honesty and fairness always appeals.

If you are afraid of ostentation (showing off too much) use small print
for the credits, and/or put them at bottom of last page. - Larry

Syzygy




msg:930623
 4:09 pm on Aug 11, 2005 (gmt 0)

For starters, I'd say quality and site branding trump bylines, by far.

I don't believe anyone stated that bylines and/or biog's are better than quality and branding...

I just don't think you really need by-lines when your writers work for hire.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. In my world - magazine & web publishing - we always provide authors with a credit. As I stated earlier:

This authority/gravitas (call it what you will) is projected to the reader/visitor, who will be much more convinced of the merit of something if they can appreciate that the writer has some sort of 'status' (doesn't mean they'll agree with it, of course!).

I've just been around the office looking for any magazines not published by us and I now have in front of me titles covering sectors such as international trade, business strategy, banking & web marketing.

Every article that has not been written by a staff writer gives credit to the author.

I don't believe that articles on the web should be any different. That's my opinion.

As for hyperbole/dumb publishers/trade secrets, and more... this is a thread concerning opinion on whether one should credit writers or not. Lol!

My opinion is that giving a writer a credit/biog is a good thing to do, regardless of whether the article is published on paper or the web. I have also provided a few examples of the type of credit that can be used. If someone who likewise believes that crediting writers is good thing to do and finds my comments of even the tinniest bit of value, I'm happy.

Syzygy

The author, Syzygy, works in magazine and web publishing and is an occasional 'contributer' to Webmasterworld - usually Foo late at night after too much red wine.

:-)

Content Writer




msg:930624
 11:40 pm on Aug 11, 2005 (gmt 0)

I think it's important to determine the actual type of writing that we're talking about.

Syzygy's made some strong arguments about how it can be helpful to credit authors: not only is it considerate to the writer, but it can also be helpful to promoting a site, and so on.

Sure. But what kind of writing are we talking about? Specialized trade or travel magazines, columns that develop writer's individual expertise, online newspapers?

Whatever: bylines are a relic of print that have, yes, successfuly carried over to the web.

But that's far from everything happening on the web. SEO content can be similar to journalism, but carries many significant differences.

We need to understand the importance of these differences (like, one of your biggest fans is a robot!:-) and apply a careful approach to producing content for this medium.

Another big difference is the pace at which production occurs on the web...it's fast. This means that once a good idea is set upon, it's very easy for the originator to get scooped, duped and...yeah.

Like, have you ever heard of a confidentiality contract?

I sign these all the time: my clients trust me because-unless they say otherwise-I simply don't talk about the niche markets they cater to.

Pretty standard fare. And while this isn't a fixall solution, it's part of a wise and reasonable approach to maintaining the leading edge.

Indeed, the best path for most SEO publishers--the path my clients often take--is to keep their niche markets under wraps, aim for anonymity as much as possible and avoid having sites linked to their names.

Including a byline goes against all this.

richlowe




msg:930625
 12:39 am on Aug 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

I've hired many writers in the past for hire, and whether or not they got credited depended upon many things. If they asked for credit I'd give it, for example. I've paid more to get a known name than I would have for a ghost writer, and in that case crediting the author was part of the deal. On the other hand, for an "about" page, well, it's really not important to either me or the author. Personally, when I write I want credit and I ask for it, regardless of what I've written. But I've found "ghost writers" simply don't seem to care, at least those that I've dealt with.

I've hired perhaps thirty writers over the years, and about half were credited and half were not. The reasons why or why not depended upon the project, the concerns of the writer and the audience.

Richard

Content Writer




msg:930626
 1:28 am on Aug 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

...half were credited and half were not. The reasons why or why not depended upon the project, the concerns of the writer and the audience.

Could you elaborate? Epecially on the "audience" part...?

Thanks :)

jamos




msg:930627
 2:42 pm on Aug 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

As a professional writer, who runs a team of freelance writers, many writers are willing to work for lower rates of pay if they're credited, in order to get their name and profile "out there". This isn't always the case though.

In my own case, I'm a published author with books in print in many countries, who now mostly writes web content. I charge more to have a client use my name on an article than if I write it "unbranded" as my name generates over 25,000 google hits and I figure any material with my name on it is likely to be worth more than without.

The standard work for hire arrangement is that you basically "ghost write" - a term that's become confusing to many people. Writers write stuff and sell it, they sell the copyright and you can put your name on it and pretend you wrote it yourself. That's essentially what work for hire means in practise.

Julie-Ann

reli




msg:930628
 5:05 pm on Aug 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

Yes, if you pay for it from a ghost-writer, you can and I say should put your name on it, if only to notify everyone who owns the content. Many sites simply will add: "(C) 2005 SITENAME.COM" at the bottom with no byline. A double-billed byline is also a nice touch.

In a general sense, go with what you want to do - what your gut tells you makes sense.

On the negative side, if someday you or the writer is individually involved in something negative, then you/them are joined in a way that gets sticky for the other side. The publicity could be something you want, or want to avoid. Or if the writer gets credit on another website that you don't like, or their latest article takes an opposing view to your own, you then may feel that you want to remove the byline.

On the positive side, if the writer gets famous later, or becomes a known authority in your niche, you can always add a missing byline in.

If your goal or likely scenario is to sell your website and it's content, you may choose to either not have the byline to keep it simple, or to include the bylines to show the strength of your authors (I guess that opens up an issue of transfering the rights, which is off-topic here).

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