EmbedArticle: YouTube-Style Embeds for Text

EmbedArticle: YouTube-Style Embeds for Text Image

Note: EmbedArticle is enabled on this content when viewing it on the site itself. If you are viewing this article in the RSS feed and wish to see EmbedArticle in action, please click through to the site.

Update 11/12/12: Embed Anything (formerly Embed Article) recently announced that it would be closing, all code has been removed from this page.

For copyright holders and content creators. one of the most difficult they face is finding ways to share their content while encouraging a symbiotic relationship with those who use it.

The problems with sharing content are legion. Content that’s reused too widely becomes duplicate content and that can hurt the original site in the search engines. This is especially true if Attribution is removed or applied inadequately, another common problem. Finally, many simply do not know how to properly attribute content or do so in a way that the original author does not approve of.

To that end, Kristofer Minkstein, CEO and founder of EmbedArticle.com hopes to fix that problem. For inspiration he turned to sites like YouTube that offer easy embeds of multimedia content, and devised a solution that he thinks will help content creators and those who wish to use their creations work together.

The question, however, is whether the system will be adopted by publishers and if those copying content will be willing to put up with what it requires of them.

How it Works

EmbedArticle: YouTube-Style Embeds for Text Image

EmbedArticle works by having the publisher either install a snippet of JavaScript code into their template or use a WordPress Plugin that embeds it for them. The code then sits idle on the site until a user attempts to copy and paste a modest portion of content (anything greater than about 10 words) or clicks one of the buttons (if used).

When a user makes a copy, either via keyboard press or right click, they are greeted with an overlay on the site, similar to the “Lightbox” effect for images, that asks if they are copying the text for use in a site or blog. If so, they are given the option of copying a snippet of JavaScript code for easy embedding.

The embed code contains four different elements, the first is an “in the clear” link to the source page, the second is the actual copied content, the third is an advertisement and the fourth is another link back to the source. The first item is outside the JavaScript embed, meaning it can be viewed by search engines. The other three are parts of the embed are all contained within the Javascript and are not visible to search engines and can not be altered.

To be clear, this code does not actually prevent people from copying content on your site and it is not DRM. If the user closes the popup notice, the content is on their clipboard as is and can be pasted anywhere it would be available normally. If the user doesn’t choose to copy the new code, then it will not be used.

That being said, EmbedArticle does feature a “kill switch” that lets the content creator disable any embed that they do not want. Publishers can also set a word limit for the maximum amount of content they want to allow to be embedded (though they can not set the minimum). The system also provides tracking and statistics for embeds that pass through its system.

However, perhaps best of all for publishers seeking to turn embeds into money, they get a 50% share of the advertising that is displayed along with their work. This allows publishers to earn at least some revenue off of sites that reuse their content.

Sample Embed (Screenshot)

EmbedArticle: YouTube-Style Embeds for Text Image

The Good

The process of installing and using EmbedArticle is pretty simple from both sides. If you’re a content creator, all you have to do is either install the WordPress plugin or add a single line of code within your body tags. Even the “Advanced” setup, which adds badges to your site, is trivial to do manually but can also be implemented with the WordPress plugin.

The process is equally simple for the user. They can either click the buttons, if available, or the tool will be automatically triggered by the action of them copying the content. It works equally well in Mac and Windows (I haven’t had a chance to test Linux) and across all the browsers I tried (Firefox, Chrome, Safari and IE).

The prompt is friendly and non-accusatory. It simply asks, as you can see in the screenshots above, if you are using the copy for a site or blog and asks you to use the code below if you are. If not, you’re invited to close the prompt out.

Everything is simple and transparent, there is no trickery, no hidden elements and everything seems to be out in the open. The influence from YouTube is clear as EmbedArticle clearly tries to make the process of embedding text content as much like embedding video as possible.

Still, there are a few limitations to the service that need to be acknowledged.

The Bad

My biggest gripe with EmbedArticle is the ad. Though I have no problem with the fact that there is an ad, the only size that’s available is the 300×250. This ad size takes up about half the width of the content area of Plagiarism Today and is often out of proportion for a lot of content that will be copied.

While that size might be reasonable for a full article that’s copied, it also shows up when you copy just a paragraph or two, as with my example. The ad, in those cases, literally takes up more screen real estate than the copied text. Though the JavaScript won’t be triggered unless the user attempts to copy more than ten words or so, there are still plenty of cases where the ad size is out of proportion with the amount of content used.

This could be fixed easily by adjusting the ad size displayed based on the number of words copied but that is not the case right now. Update: This is something that is being worked on and may be available shortly.

Of course, the system appears to be geared in nearly every regard for copying whole articles. For example, clicking the button embeds the entire article into the site (up to the user-defined word count limit) and that seems to largely be the goal. However, the prompt appears after any copying that is longer than the minimum required, including many that would likely be a fair use.

Another problem is that the longer the quote copied, the more unwieldy the use of JavaScript becomes. Though EmbedArticle uses the original formatting when copying, including links, it always looks a bit out of place when its brought into the site, in my case it’s because the border around the image (ad) is off and there is no way to adjust it.

Still, the system does work overall though there are sill lingering questions to if it will be used.

My Thoughts

My biggest concern has less to do with the system itself and more with if and how it will be used. If someone comes to my site to copy a quote, I don’t see them being pleased about the popup or the request to run an ad along a short snippet of text. The need to set a minimum for activation is clear. Update: Minkstein says that this feature has already been implemented for some sites they work with and may be expanded to all if the demand is great enough.

But more to the point, I’m not sure why someone copying content would prefer this over just pasting the work as normal. Though it adds attribution, it also hides the text from the search engines, forces an ad and the layout can’t be changed. It is easy for the user, but that doesn’t make it a great deal for them.

A good example of this problem is with EmbedArticle’s nearest competitor, Tynt. Though the two products have different goals, Tynt is more about tracking what is being copied and where it appears rather than embedding content, both work by altering the copy/paste functionality of users and asking them to include additional code.

Most, it seems, do not.

I, when copying headlines for my 3 Count columns, have to routinely cut out Tynt-added content because I want to add my own link to the headline. Others I’ve talked to have similar experiences.

This isn’t to say that this technology is useless, even if only a percentage of users actually participate it can do some good. But the question is whether the annoyance it bestows upon users is worth the benefit? For that I have no easy answer.

Bottom Line

Even though this service has several limitations compared to Tynt, the biggest being that it doesn’t work with images EmbedArticle does work with images but only if they are selected along with the text and the publisher approved the use, I actually find myself liking EmbedArticle better.

The main reason is that it is out in the open and transparent. The system, rather than altering your copy/paste functionality without warning, as with Tynt (at least for users that enable that option), EmbedArticle gives users the option to participate or continue as is.

However, if you’re using Tynt solely to see what is being copied and not to track where the content ends up, that is a different matter and Tynt is fine, but it also gives it a very different purpose, namely analytics as to what text on your site was copied. For tracking and controlling attribution, I prefer Embed Articles.

Still, I am not extremely optimistic about this kind of text tracking as it requires those who do copy the content to participate in the tracking. Neither Tynt nor EmbedArticle can track or prevent copying from RSS feeds (IE: Scrapers) or copying by users who refuse to use the provided code.

Though I can see some uses for EmbedArticle, especially news sites eager for a share of the ad revenue, it should never be your only content protection system. Then again, neither should anything else.

Note: If you’re eager to play around with EmbedArticle, I’ve added it to this post, both via the button below and via copy and paste. So feel free to try it out.

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