Well well wealth...and health. In case you haven't heard, HealthCentral has acquired Wellsphere.
Wellsphere was well-known for its obsequious and persistent recruiting tactics that convinced many naïve individuals to join its "network of the web's leading health bloggers." Dr. Geoffrey Rutledge, the Chief Medical Information Officer, used direct e-mail pitches and flattery to gain access to free content from over 1800 blogs, as reported by Helen Jaques in this recent post:HealthCentral Acquires Wellsphere Creating the Largest Organically Driven Online Health and Wellness Communities Deal Adds Nearly Four Million Unique Visitors per Month to HealthCentral Reach
Arlington, VA / San Mateo, CA (January 28, 2009) – HealthCentral, the leading collection of online condition-specific consumer health and wellness experiences, today announced the acquisition of Wellsphere, a leading health technology company, adding nearly 4 million monthly unique visitors to HealthCentral’s audience. The acquisition combines HealthCentral’s high-quality, condition-specific interactive experiences, content and audience with Wellsphere’s aggregation of over 1,500 health and wellness bloggers and unique Health Knowledge Engine™ technology that deciphers highly specific health information. HealthCentral also will leverage Wellsphere’s health community enterprise technology which powers Stanford University’s BeWell@Stanford site to deliver valuable health information and wellness tools for Stanford employees. The deal raises HealthCentral’s audience of its owned properties to ten million unique visitors per month, and makes the company the largest organic aggregation of online health and wellness communities.
Health bloggers bite back as Wellsphere sells on posts provided for free. . .Dr Geoffrey Rutledge, Chief Medical Information Officer of Wellsphere, generated content for his site by sending flattering emails to thousands of medicine and health bloggers (sample text “I want to tell you I think your writing is great”, “we are building a network of the web’s leading health bloggers - and I think you would be a great addition”). Bloggers gave Wellsphere permission to publish the entire RSS feed of their site, i.e. posts they had already written, in return for exposure for their blog and more traffic.However, the small print of Wellsphere’s terms and conditions states that by giving Wellsphere permission to reproduce their posts, bloggers automatically grant the company “a royalty-free, paid-up, non-exclusive, worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual license to use, make, sell, offer to sell, have made, and further sublicense any such User Materials[.]” (Thanks to Symtym for checking this out)Bloggers who allowed Wellsphere to replicate their posts have suddenly realised that content they happily provided free is no longer theirs and has been sold off to HealthCentral for a profit, and boy are they mad.However, many bloggers were skeptics from the beginning, including The Neurocritic:
What's With All This Scamming for Free Content?Sandra from Channel N was the one who alerted me to Dr. Geoff's obnoxious recruiting campaign (and to this amusing post from Jeanne Sather, The Assertive Cancer Patient):
A number of fellow bloggers and friends have recently received appeals from seemingly unscrupulous individuals at for-profit startups and more established websites "to join their rapidly growing network of bloggers." In other words, they are trying to recruit bloggers to provide free content for their companies so the owners can make a profit.. . .Wellsphere, eh? You don't have to dig very far to find the dirt on that company. Let's start with Valleywag (Silicon Valley's Tech Gossip Rag) and a post titled Failure (from Tue Jul 31 2007):Wellsphere, an Internet-health startup, gets the velvet-glove treatment from TechCrunch — and a savage expose from Uncov [summarized here]. An ex-employee emails Valleywag to add this about Wellsphere CEO Ron Gutman: "The most despicable human being I've ever come into contact with."
Wellsphere: Use the Content of My Blog for Free? (I Don't Think So ...)Even if you politely declined their initial invitation (as Sandra and many others did)...
Every so often, I get an e-mail from someone who is starting up a new Web site and wants to use the content of my blog, for free.I'm always pretty amazed by these folks--they want to use my blog, which I've spent countless hours writing, and not compensate me for it. This is my intellectual property, after all. It's how I make my living.Their pitch usually includes something about how MY blog will benefit from the wider readership of THEIR Web site, but in fact, the reverse is probably true: Their Web site would benefit from having my content.So I always say no, but, just for fun, I always tell them first that I'm willing to discuss it if they are willing to pay. I think a retainer of $3,000 a month is about right for the use of any and all content on my blog.
Date: Wed, Jul 30, 2008...resistance was futile! The opening pitch was followed by at least 6 more e-mails from Dr. Geoffrey Rutledge MD, PhD offering "awards" and honors (and widgets) unless you opted out by unsubscribing to the updates.
Subject: Re: Invitation to feature your blog on Wellsphere
To: Dr. Geoffrey W. Rutledge MD, PhD
I am glad to see that Wellsphere is asking bloggers for their consent before reaggregating them (some sites don't). But no, you can't have my content for free.
Thanks anyway. :)
Date: Tue, Sep 23, 2008The funny thing is, the invitations were sent almost indiscriminately, even to the obvious cynics. Much hilarity ensued.
Subject: Useful, free widget, and a link to your blog
Date: Mon, Oct 13, 2008
Subject: Boost your online reputation, increase your visibility!
Date: Sat, Oct 18, 2008
Subject: (Video due Sunday 10/19) YOU ARE OUR HERO - Be Part of History
Date: Fri, Oct 24, 2008
Subject: Yes We Care! Campaign honors you as our "Everyday Hero"
Date: Mon, Nov 17, 2008
Subject: Invitation to become a Health Maven and reach 100,000 Health Seekers every day
Date: Wed, Dec 17, 2008
Subject: Enter the People's Health Blogger Awards today - you can WIN!
Sock puppets frequented the comments sections of other critical bloggers, including those with varying ideologies. Particularly laughable is this exchange at Different Thoughts, because the author (Marian) is opposed to biological psychiatry, an agenda she considers rather incompatible with joining Wellsphere. It looks like Dr. Rutledge (and "Bill") are the ones who did not do their homework:Bill said...
A lot of people have written about #wellsphere; the links below provide a sample. Feel free to add more to the comments.
How The Health Blogosphere Was Scammed
All’s Not Well Sphere
About that whole Wellsphere debacle...
Will Health Bloggers Foil the Acquisition of Wellsphere by HealthCentral?
My Wellsphere saga and the recent acquisition
Wellsphere and Medical Blogosphere Collide
Health Central Buys Wellsphere: Let the Exploitation Begin!
Phone Conversation - an Overview
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