Was this a case of RSS hijacking?
I had the opportunity to have an impromptu chat with George Lambert, creator of Podkey.com and the gentleman accused of hijacking the RSS feed belonging to Erik Marcus from Vegan.com. What I found out was very interesting to say the least.
First of all, the feed in question was actually a free service provided by Mr. Lambert at Podkey, and Mr. Marcus was using that service. It was picked up by Yahoo Podcasts and iTunes, and had amassed a decent sized listenership. Mr. Marcus decided he no longer wanted to use the services at Podkey, so he asked Mr. Lambert to discontinue them in this email:
> > On Mon, 14 Nov 2005, Erik Marcus wrote:
> > > Dear George,
> > >
> > > Please remove my show from your podkeyword site. Currently
> > > cooking.podkeyword.com gives the RSS feed
> > > for my Erik's Diner show. The only authorized RSS URL for my show is on
> > > Vegan.com .
> > >
> > > Thank you.
> > >
> > > Erik Marcus
Mr. Lambert replies the same day with this:
> On 11/14/05, George Lambert wrote:
> > Dear Erik.
> > someone registered cooking, vegetarian, vegan, nutrition, meat, and
> > animals.
> > I have removed them all.
Mr. Lambert did what he was asked of. He removed the feed and it was no longer valid. But then he gets an email again from Mr. Marcus stating this:
> Dear George,
> I wanted you to know that my Vegan.com podcast has taken a big chunk
> of my efforts this year. My show has now lost about 75% of its
> traffic. I was not aware that the RSS feed for my show taken by
> iTunes was pointing to podkeyword rather than to my site. When you
> honored my request to delete the pointers to my show at Podkeyword's:
> cooking, vegetarian, vegan, nutrition, meat, and animals listings, my
> show's entry at iTunes stopped working and my listenership plunged 75%
> I therefore ask you to temporarily reinstate all these keywords to point to:
> My webmaster and I are doing everything we can to get iTunes and Yahoo
> to change over to the above URL. But in the meantime, we would both
> greatly appreciate it if you temporarily reinstate those keywords.
> This debacle has taken away much of what I've worked for over the past
> year, and I'm counting on you to make things right. We will notify
> you when Yahoo and iTunes complete their switch to the show's
> Vegan.com URL, and at that point we will ask that our relationship
> with these keywords be permanently terminated. Also, we ask that your
> company makes no more submissions of the above keywords for our show
> to other directories and services while we are working to resolve our
> difficulties with iTunes and Yahoo.
> Please notify me when the links are reinstated. Thank you.
So Mr. Marcus told Podkey to reinstate the feed because they did not realise that the majority of their listeners were from the Podkey feed. A bit short sighted on their part. My opinion of course. The problem is that Mr. Marcus has also asked that Podkey not allow the feed to be picked up by any other directories or services. I'm sorry, but is that possible? Can you just switch off the ability of other services to pick up a feed on their own without shutting off that feed? Mr Marcus seems to think it is. But Mr. Lambert wrote this back:
>>Date: Wed, 23 Nov 2005 13:30:58 -0500 (EST)
>>From: George Lambert
>>To: Erik Marcus
>>Cc: Joshua Warchol
>>Subject: Re: please reinstate erik's diner keywords on podkeyword.com
>>Dear Erik - apparently we have a misunderstanding.
>>While it makes me happy to think that your show is doing so well, and
>>while I am sorry that you lost your traffic, I am unable to accept
>>your terms. If you would like to be in my index, you must accept MY
>>We have never made any explicit submissions on our keywords to anyone
>>but our opml directory is parsed routinely by other services.
>>Pointing to your rss feed for those keywords is an explicit courtesy. Our
>>index has credibility based on my work to make it highly visible, and
>>However, for some reason (that totally escapes me) it has not occured to
>>you that your show benefits from the credibility and convenience that
>>has been created as being part of MY INDEX.
>>I removed your keywords per your request, but remember vividly, that
>>I went out of my way to insure that I had met your request.
>>Someone on your behalf, (I presume you, but am not sure) requested use of
>>those keywords, and I have never asked you for a thing.
>>You may use that same process to re-request those keywords - however using
>>my service is subject to my terms, which are very simple.
>>My Service Belongs to Me.
>>I can discontinue it at any time.
>>I can terminate anyone I want at any time for no reason at all.
>>You can register to request use of a keyword.
>>anyone who sees the opml index can use the keyword.
>>this is a service for making life easier for listeners.
>>this service was designed to create enough momentum to become
>>a real reveue generation mechanism.
>>If you would like to request something else I would be happy to consider
>>it, but only when I can actually have a reasonable chance of accomplishing
>>your goals, or if I am substantially compensated for doing so.
>>You actually might take a moment to consider the following.
>>You might save yourself considerable hassle by using the momentum
>>and not fighting it. There was a perfectly valid set of reasons for my
>>developing this service. It was to make it easier for podcasters to
>>evolve, and to make watercooler conversation about podcasts bring new
>>visitors. These mechanisms also create opportunities for
>>When I started this service over a year ago, I put a great deal of thought
>>into where the demand would come from, and what would be the problems that
>>come with that growth. This service is all about solving those problems.
>>People who have already put links into there devices will not know about
>>your changes to the urls, and even if you convince yahoo and itunes and
>>whomever to make the changes you may not get your listenership back.
>>The non-technical listener to podcasts does not understand the first thing
>>about urls, they understand they will type what they are given... So the
>>theory goes, lets make it easy to type... Lets make it easier to share.
>>It occurs to me that you are trying to put the g''enie back in the
>>bottle, and fight the momentum - the thing that appears to have escaped
>>your thought process is that you might want to use this as a mechanism
>>for directing the g''enie.
>>Not once have you asked why is this service here.
>>Not once have you asked why it works.
>>Not once have you asked what are the real benefits.
>>Not once have you asked what are the real benefits.
>>Not once have you asked how I might be able to help you.
>>What you have done it told me what I will do for you.
>>You have also told me on what terms I will do that for you.
>>Some things that you have not considered....
>>podkeywords are a perfect advertising mechanism.
>>podkeywords are phonetic, which means spelling does not count ;)
>>podkeyworks are the phonetic google of podcasting, since people
>>(myself included) can not spell.
>>If you would like to use my service on my terms, please re-register
>>If you would like to license the long term use of those keywords that
>>could certianly be arranged. If you have additional questions or would
>>like to discuss these topics in more detail, please feel free to call me
>>at (xxx) xxx-xxxx.
Now I don't know about you, but that does not sound like a man trying to extort money. He basically says that what is asked cannot be done. It isn't part of the service. He then goes on to say what his service offers, and the benefits of using it. Anything needed past that, is extra, if he must make time to do it. He did not say out right that he would charge, he said if he had time to do it, or if he was compensated for his time. I don't know about you, but I would prefer to get paid for my work. Mr. Marcus was already getting something for nothing, now he wants more than he agreed to, all because he did not pay attention to what he was doing. I assume that Mr. Marcus was the one who submitted for a feed on Podkey, or someone in his organization.
Needless to say, Mr. Lambert is now getting accused of something he has not done. I do not know if the news organizations that are reporting on this are skewing the information, or they are getting fed the wrong details, but I encourage them to do their job and get the whole story. I also ask that Mr. Marcus contact me and at least tell me his side of the story. Either via email, or doing an interview on my podcast as Mr. Lambert has done.
Mr. Lambert has been very forthcoming in this situation, and has had nothing to hide. In fact, the emails I received where from his blog on Podkey. And at the end of that last email, he asks Mr. Marcus to call him so that the situation can be fixed. Did he call back? Not according to Mr. Lambert. How about it Mr. Marcus, how did that phone conversation go before you decided to go to the press?
Shame on the press for lying, shame on them for reducing themselves to a half assed version of a 24 hour news network. And shame on Mr. Marcus for not wanting to take care of this properly with some civility.
My opinion of course...........
For the other side of the story, listen to the interview with Mr. Lambert at www.unsignedpodcastnetwork.com.
For more information about podkey and their services, go to www.podkey.com.
For more information about Vegan.com, go to www.vegan.com