Unboing Unboing

Long time readers may remember my post from early January of 2007, The Secret Formula for Making Boring  Porn, Part 2, and may also remember that it ended up linked to a Boing Boing post entitled “Media overestimates porn industy’s girth.”

The reason we got that traffic-driving, google-rank improving link is because I spoon fed the information in the post to Boing Boing editor Xeni Jardin. I sent her the link to my post. I sent her the links to the ADT post she quoted, I sent her the link the the Luke Ford post she quote. I gave her the Forbes links. And I put them all in context so it would be easy for her to turn it into a news item. This is how the modern world of media works. You send out notes to gate keepers like Xeni Jardin or Andrew Sullivan, or Richard Corliss, and sometimes you get a mention. This is how a guerrilla operation like the Comstock Films public relations department (i.e. yours truly) monetizes expertise, experience and cunning.

This morning finds me checking out some stats using Google’s webmasters tools, and I’ve noticed some unexpected shifts in rankings. Nothing earth-shattering, but certainly worthy of further investigation. A little more typing and clicking and suddenly I’m in the middle of the Great Boing Boing disappearing post controversy.

Apparently the story I researched and then handed to Xeni Jardin has been “unpublished” because it also quotes Violet Blue. Apparently Boing Boing has “unpublished” any story that mentions Violet Blue,  which would seem to include the Google sex search bug story I handed Xeni Jardin in December of 2006.

Naturally I’m not happy about Boing Boing’s decission. The loss of the inbound Boing Boing links translates into a loss of the time and effort I put into getting the press pick up in the first place. Further more, it puts me in the awkward position of a) saying nothing in the hopes of preserving whatever relationship I might have with Ms. Jardin and Boing Boing; or b) writing about it and hoping that there’s some value adding my voice to the discussion of what implications and real world effects  Boing Boing’s decission has.

Back in late 06/early 07, when we realized just how vague, eratic, and fallable Google’s ranking methods could be, we moved to uncouple our fortunes from the whims of Googlebot. This Boing Boing “unpublishing” things suggests that it’s time for a re-evaluation of our PR tactics.

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  1. Posted July 3, 2008 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    the reaction to boing boing’s decision to unpublish any post that has the name “violet blue” is very interesting to see. based on the comments at bb and metafilter, it’s clear that blog readers care about this a lot more than bb guessed. it will be equally interesting to see how they proceed, and how the unpublishing move will affect their future policies.

  2. tony
    Posted July 3, 2008 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    Ms. Jardin’s response to criticism “It’s just a blog” reminds me an awful lot of how folks in the “adult industry” respond to criticism with “It’s just porn”

  3. Posted July 3, 2008 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    I’ve just been watching all this without commenting because it feels like… well, some kind of weird high school vendetta writ large (and I learned in high school to run away! run away! during such arguments).

    When I saw the listing of removed posts on violetbluevioletblue.com and saw your site mentioned, I did think that the deletions had dragged all sorts of other people into the argument. There were plenty of interesting posts that were binned even though they had nothing to do with Violet. Even if we assume it was somehow OK to wipe her from the blog like that (and it’s not), it’s pretty rude to wipe everyone else in the process.

    OK, I should go back to radio silence now.

  4. tony
    Posted July 4, 2008 at 2:12 am | Permalink

    I dunno, the whole thing is weird. Until this morning I had regarded Xeni Jardin as a journalist and Boing Boing as a ligitimate media outlet. Now I’m told, “No, I’m an artist who can and will destroy, alter, hide my work as I see fit; and Boing Boing is a personal blog.”

    Okay, fine, whatever. Your life, your blog, your call. But I don’t think I’ll be sending over any more “paint” to make your “art,” and certainly don’t expect to interview me for anything. We’ve certainly said “no thanks” to larger media entities than Boing Boing, and we’ve mangaged to keep making profitable films. We can certainly do that without Boing Boing. I wouldn’t guess that I’m the only (former) Boing Boing source that feels this way.

  5. Posted July 4, 2008 at 4:35 am | Permalink

    “This morning finds me checking out some stats using Google’s webmasters tools, and I’ve noticed some unexpected shifts in rankings.”

    SEO superstition strikes! The Boing Boing posts were “unpublished” many months ago, not recently. So it’s highly unlikely the effect on your rankings would have just shown up this week.

    Though I’ll grant the “unpublishing” certainly doesn’t help.

  6. tony
    Posted July 4, 2008 at 5:05 am | Permalink

    Seth, hello and welcome back!

    I didn’t say I saw sudden shift in the days since the story broke. In light of this BB revelation I think I see an explanation for shifts that have puzzled me for a while. We are a small player, so inbounds like The Dish or BB (seem to) have an effect on ranking out of scale with the size of the mention. But with the Googlebot, who can know for sure. LIke I said, nothing earth-shattering, but the time line roughly fits, and it’s certainly not helpful.

    More annoying that the loss of the link is the loss of the time and energy that went into cultivating the contact. This is the meat and potatoes of PR work, and it takes place within the context of certain understandings about relationship between journalist and sources, and the (sometimes) subtle difference between actually newsworthy information and hype. Granted Xeni/BB operate on a new frontier of these boundaries, but this episode casts Xeni/BB in a new light, at least for me. We’ll take our tid bits somewhere else.

  7. Posted July 4, 2008 at 6:18 am | Permalink

    I am hugely disappointed in BoingBoing, although I recognize they are within their own right to do what they want with their own content. Looking back at that article, it’s frustrating to have such a poignant piece “unpublished” for a small part of it. It makes BB a less interesting place to be.

  8. tony
    Posted July 4, 2008 at 6:43 am | Permalink

    Hello Eileene, and welcome!

    Here’s a thought. As I mentioned at the bottom of the post, the biggest lesson we learned from our Google mishap was that we couldn’t be so dependent on Google to make sure people could find us and buy our films. One of the biggest things we did to change that was to go to a trade show last year (no, not AVN.)

    Top to bottom it cost us about $10K to go to the show, and I’m not to proud to say there was more than a little fingernail nibbling about spending that much money. But once we got there it was clear we made the right decision.

    In three days we put ourselves in front of about 2,000 buyer and there was a lot of interest in our films. We came home with nearly enough orders to cover the cost of the show, and since then we’ve more than turned a nice profit on the initial investment.

    The lesson for me — a fellow who’s exploited the digital era, from digital post, to digital acquisition, to digital marketing and PR — is that the internet is a big world, but it’s not the whole world, not nearly.

    Boing Boing and Google might be a big fish, they’re still a big fish in a small pond; and it’s a pond that small enough that personality or mere technical mistakes make outsized ripples. For us, long term survival means being ready for those ripples, but more importantly, being willing to sail in other waters.

  9. Posted July 4, 2008 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    OK Yes, “explanation for shifts that have puzzled me for a while. We are a small player, so inbounds like The Dish or BB (seem to) have an effect on ranking out of scale with the size of the mention” – you may be seeing “trust”, which is very different from Pagerank. But when did you see the shift? It also could just be Google algorithm changes.

    It is indeed a very good idea not to depend much on Google or BoingBoing.

  10. Posted July 8, 2008 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    Your post is dead on and your above comment “is that the internet is a big world, but it’s not the whole world, not nearly.” is even more so. I cannot comment directly on the Boing Boing thing as I am just now getting read into the story – I’ve been following links all morning that lead me here from other posts on this topic.

    The broader point you mention here is probably more relevant to all of us than the single topic of Boing Boing removing articles.

  11. Posted July 14, 2008 at 12:03 am | Permalink

    Seth, have you got any source for your belief that the unpublishings happened a long time ago except for Xeni’s statement, as repeated in the LA Times and elsewhere? I haven’t been following this all too closely, but I’ve wondered if anybody had confirmed the timeline after Xeni asserted it.

    Not trying to stir shit here, I don’t have any specific reason to doubt Xeni’s timing assertions, she’s just not very high on my list of trusted sources right now.

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