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Repost: Why Article Embedding Has an Uphill Battle

Repost LogoEarlier this week, Repost, formerly known as Repost.Us, had launched with the goal of making articles and other text content as easily embeddable as YouTube videos or Soundcloud clips.

The initial response seems to be great and even includes a series of glowing articles including onesby Anthony Ha at TechCrunch, Megan Rose Dickey at Business Insider and Ken Young at The Next Web. This is helped by the fact that Repost, according to its site and its press release, has amassed nearly 3.5 million articles for embedding from over 4,000 publishers.

But while the excitement around Repost is new, the concept of embedding articles is not. Repost is actually a relaunch of Repost.Us, which itself launched in March of 2011. Free Range Content, the people behind Repost and Repost.Us, also operate a separate site embedding service, Curate.Us, which began life as Clp.ly (Previous Clp.ly coverage). which actually got its start in mid-2010.

But the idea of embedding articles was around before that. Embed Article, which would eventually become Embed Anything, got its start in March 2010. That service, however, closed its doors in November of 2012.

But even before that service, Voxant Newsroom started in 2008 and offered bloggers and others a means to embed content, including articles, from news sites in a similar manner (Note: Voxant now seems to be providing exclusively video content).

This means that for over five years now, various companies have tried to make embedding of text works mainstream and all, so far, have failed. Does Repost have what it takes to succeed where others failed?

Sadly, there’s a lot of reason to be skeptical.

What Repost Does

Repost ImageThe big idea behind Repost is fairly simple. Publishers, including everything from large news agencies to individual bloggers, can install a script on their site that makes it possible for users to copy an embed code, similar to a YouTube embed code, and put the original article, in its entirety, on their site.

The content appears in an iframe, meaning that it’s a separate page loaded within the page, and it contains the full text of the article, any images that came with it and advertisements that help earn the original content creator money.

According to Repost, the benefits to content creators are obvious. The content creators gets to reach a new audience, additional ad views and, since the content is loaded from an iframe, no duplicate content issues.

On the other hand, the webmaster doing the embedding gets to use the full content without fear of infringing copyright and will always receive the most up-to-date version of the article automatically.

In that regard, article embedding is a win-win for both original authors and republishers alike. But is that enough to create widespread adoption?

That question is much more up for debate.

Living Up To Its Promise

The problem Repost faces is that, while we’re all used to embedding YouTube clips and other multimedia elements, we’re not used to the idea of embedding text.

When it comes to articles, blog posts and and stories, most people tend to simply link to the source. While this is a great practice, as Repost points out, very few people click links and, while they are important for users, often times are more there for the search engines than they for human visitors.

But the reasons article embedding haven’t taken off are three-fold:

  1. Little Reason: Outside of some spam sites, there’s almost no reason to copy and paste a full article. Most want to summarize, aggregate and/or comment on other articles, not just reproduce them.
  2. Little Awareness: Where YouTube Embed codes are placed under every video, very few sites carry embed codes for their articles, including many of Repost’s biggest uers.
  3. It’s a More Complex Solution: Getting a video or a sound clip into your blog without an embed is a pain. However, with article, embedding is more difficult than the alternative, simply copy/pasting. While it is most likely infringing (if not a fair use), it also doesn’t come with style issues and concerns about the content breaking later.

Repost can help a great deal with the second problem. By promoting its “Repost” button to its’ 4,000 publishers and getting them to use it actively on their sites, they can create awareness about the option and get users to try it out.

The other problems, however, are much deeper. As great as Repost is, it’s going to be hard pressed to solve the other two issues.

The first issue has more to do with how bloggers and publisher like to approach other content ont he Internet. Usually, even when it’s legal and encouraged, parroting is not desired. I have offered all of PT under a Creative Commons License for years but the most common uses of my full text are still spammers and scrapers.

Furthermore, as you can see in the example article below, as easy as it is, it’s not as neat or simple as copying the relevant quote and linking to the source.

Repost is going to have to do more than offer a compelling service to succeed, it’s going to have to change the way the Internet works on a more fundamental level to make its service more than just a tool for fringe users.

Bottom Line

Can Repost do change the Web? I personally doubt it.

To be clear, I think article embedding is a great idea and I liked it when I first heard about it in 2008 and I still like it today.

But article embedding simply has not caught on and others that have been in this field have either gone out of business or given up. While I’m excited to see the wave of good publicity Repost is getting, when that wave is over they’re going to be left with the same challenges that other companies have faced.

If they could team up with their partners and really push the idea forward, they could increase usage and make it a more common practice.

If they can’t and the wave passes without greatly improved awareness, Then they’ll likely be stuck as a service that, other than a few fringe uses, doesn’t see widespread adoption.

In the meantime though, I’m going to conduct an experiment. For the next few weeks, I’m going to leave Repost enabled on this site and see how many, if any, uses of it I see. I’ll report back my findings at a later date.

This is important because, while article embedding can be a win-win for content creators and publishers alike, if Repost can’t convince more of the world of that possibility, then it unfortunately won’t matter.

Sample Article

A PR guy calls out the flacks and the hacks (via Pando Daily)

By Marco Greenberg On April 1, 2013 No kid dreams of being a PR person. And trust me, no PR practitioner wants his kids to follow in his footsteps either. Instead, most of us, I suspect, discover the field by accident. You graduate college, then what? Apply to graduate or law school and take on more…

Video

Repost – Imagine Your content Everywhere from Free Range Content Inc on Vimeo.

4 Responses to Repost: Why Article Embedding Has an Uphill Battle

  1. Adam says:

    Doesn’t look like it’s working quite right. I see the word “advertisement” where I probably should see….well, an advertisement.

  2. Gjergji Kokushta says:

    While some services let you embed their content, would it correct saying hot-linking an article? What about bandwidth? I understand that embedding articles will raise the exposure but it will eventually raise costs on hosting or other service’s plans.

    • The articles appear to be hosted on rp-api.com, which appears to be Repost’s server. They would be paying for the bandwidth though I’m not clear how this helps the duplicate content issue (other than the page can’t be indexed by Google) or how it tracks stats through this. I’ll ask them and find out.

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