Blog Fodder: Content Inspiration, Hot Topics and Just Plain Scraping

In the blogosphere we are not wanting for information. Daily, we find tips, ideas and issues that may get you think about a post for your site. But where is the line between being inspired by a topic and basically stealing content?

One recent example is the Facebook/social media expose brouhaha over the Facebook page called The Crock Pot Girls. Within 2 weeks the fan page EXPLODED with numbers unheard of on FB. Pretty much everyone, plus their mother and sister, liked this page, growing the fan base to well over 1 million in just a few days, outnumbering other popular and favorite sites that have been around for years. This got people a bit curious... Do we all just love our crock-pot that much, or is someone or something working the system? I've now seen a variety of expose' - style blog posts written on the subject, all basically stating the same thing; regurgitating the same conspiracy theory if you will.

Here's the thing: it's news. It's interesting, and it has people fired up, why not write about it? Or, are all these sites basically just stealing content from someone else's post to use for their own gain since they realized it's such a hot topic; i.e. basically "link baiting?"

We write a lot about news and hot topics on the MOMfia site, we want to be able to provide a valuable informational source for people, but I also don't want to be out there scraping content from other people's sites, so I've set few guidelines for myself when writing:

1) If it's a hot topic / current event, is MY point of view different from what others are saying and is my POV something that offers value to my readers that is different from the value of the original blog post? Basically, why am I feeling the need to write about it if it's been written about before?

2) If I am using a lot of information from other sources, am I quoting/linking back? And even if I do link back, am I still using someone else's "intellectual property" - their ideas and their insight?

4) Am I providing enough interest on the original post to encourage others to click through on the link (providing traffic for the original blogger) *good thing* or am I just copying what they are saying word for word, giving the reader no need to read the original article *bad thing*?

3) Is it clear which information I have gathered from other sources, and which information/thoughts are coming from me? Have I used block quotes with interesting lines that I feel show why I was inspired by the original post and that will hopefully encourage click throughs to the other writers post?

4) And lastly, if the author of the other blog posts reads my post, how do I think they will feel about it? Will they feel that I added a point of view that they didn't think about or will they feel that I just plagiarized their thoughts and content?

We as bloggers have enough hurdles to jump on our road to journalistic integrity without stealing content from each other. Inspiration is all around us, and it's wonderful to elaborate on what others are already expounding on, but it's never okay to rip off someone else's content by basically just republishing what they have already said. If you find an article or a post topic that inspires you to share the information, share the original post by tweeting, linking on Facebook or even by posting a small excerpt on your blog with a link to original blogger's site. The blogosphere has grown to where it is today based on community, and sharing other people's posts is what continues to grow the industry and make our voice as powerful as it has become.