Rogers syndication practices called into question by Canadian Writers Group
Derek Finkle who runs the Canadian Writers Group, an agency that represents some of Canada's most successful magazine freelancers, has called into question how one large magazine publisher, Rogers is syndicating articles to third party websites. Essentially it is that magazine articles are being posted on third party websites such as Yahoo and MSN by Rogers despite signed contracts with writers and without the writers (or their agent) being aware of it. This practice is apparently widespread, although frontline editors are sometimes also surprised by it.
On Friday, Finkle reported on the Toronto Freelance Writers and Editors listserv some of the details of conversations he has had with Rogers as a result of representing his CWG clients and perhaps the best course is simply to reprint what he said (we did a screen grab of one of the pages in question (above).
I recently discovered an article that a writer with the Canadian Writers Group had published in Chatelaine three or four months ago had been syndicated on Yahoo's "Lifestyle" site. I was a bit surprised by this as we had not ticked the box on the Rogers contract that gave the company the right to publish the work "on the Web sites of third parties" (we never tick that box).
I then searched for another Chatelaine story by another of our writers, and it, too, popped up on the Yahoo site. What was even more surprising was that Chatelaine had only been permitted to publish this particular story on its web site for 45 days according to our agreement. It had been removed from Chatelaine's site for many months, so I was curious how it came to be resurrected on Yahoo.
When I spoke to the handling editor for both stories, she was also surprised - no one had ever told her that Chatelaine was syndicating content with Yahoo.
Finally, I was put in touch with the online editor responsible for syndication at Chatelaine. She told me that "legal" had come in and told her and her online colleagues they could syndicate whatever stories they liked. When I pointed out to her that the contracts related to these stories didn't permit such usage, she had the Editor of Syndicated Content, Robyn Shanks, pull them from Yahoo.
Around the same time, I queried the person with whom the agency has been having discussions related to the new Rogers contract, and he mentioned somewhat sheepishly that this usage might be covered under the "promotions" clause in the contract. So I asked Robyn Shanks, the editor of syndicated content, what the point of syndicating Rogers content on Yahoo was. She told me that it was meant to drive traffic back to web sites owned by Rogers and presumably, therefore, increase ad revenue. Not exactly promotional use as most people would define it.
I then discovered more stories by our writers from other Rogers publications on Yahoo. Here is an example of a story that first appeared in Flare and is now on Yahoo (it may not be there much longer):
Shanks told me that she is responsible for syndicating content from eight Rogers publications with both Yahoo and MSN: Flare, Chatelaine, Today's Parent, Lulu, Moneysense, Canadian Business, Maclean's, and Canadian Parent.