Content Behind Bars

Perhaps that title is hyperbole, but hear me out.

I was on not long ago, reading an opinion piece Steve

I commented on the article, as did a few other people. Then, a few days later, I went back to the site to see what other people had said.

Guess what? When I returned the article was walled off, and I encountered a screen that said “To read this article you must be a Ragan Select member.”


The reason why I was on Ragan in the first place is that I’d just been to one of their conferences, and was looking for a bit of follow-up information. The conference, on web content management, talked about how social media is a conversation, that it’s side-to-side instead of top-down, and all that happy, wired Web 2.0 stuff.

Despite this brave new era of corporate communications, the Ragan site still has gated content (even though the New York Times and the Wall St. Journal are taking down their gates). Which is fine—except that part of that gated content includes my comments!!

This is admittedly murky water here. After all, they didn’t say they were going to wall off our comments, so I (like most people, I ‘spect), imagined it was a conversation … and the thing about conversations is that no one owns them. So I proceeded as if the piece was like a blog post, where the conversation is sometimes as important or even more important than the initial post.

But no, this is proprietary content in the guise of a blog.

It seems like a violation of the social contract. After all, if I add a comment that’s subsequently available only to Ragan Select members (and not even to me!), aren’t I, in effect, working as an unpaid writer for them?

And if that’s the case, does that mean they think they own the copyright to my comment? I’d be curious to see that case tried in court.

If Ragan’s going to close the door later, they should say so. In the meantime, piddle on them for a Web 2.0 bait-and-switch.