Responsibility in writing content is not something that many people are talking about these days, especially for content that you write for a business blog.
The thing is that if you have a blog on your website where you are posting articles, then this is something you should be interested in because the rules for writing published work apply to online content just as much as they do for any other form of written work or published media of any kind. This actually benefits your business, which is what we’re going to get into here.
It’s Easier than Ever to Be Careless
The massive wealth of information that is now available on the Web doesn’t come without its consequences. This is the issue: Anyone can write something and post it on the Internet, and then people will blindly rely on that information as fact that they will assimilate into their lives, as they would with an article they read in a magazine or other publication.
But the online content they’re reading may not be worthy of that trust. There are no barriers to entry for putting content on the Internet; there are no guidelines or parameters to speak of; and writers don’t have to go through any publishing house to get their work out there. People aren’t stupid, so they may take some of the content they find with a grain of salt, but there’s just no way to know for sure that what they’re reading is accurate.
The result of these current circumstances is a ton of completely unregulated articles that may or may not be on the up and up, with thousands of them added every day. Anyone can claim that their information is accurate, but there is no organization to check it, no peer review process.
This is exactly what has led to issues with “fake news” and all kinds of fake, inaccurate information, way beyond just the news. It’s more important than ever to be a part of the solution and to create the most responsible content that we possibly can.
The New Library
As content creators and blog writers, we are now the builders of the source on which everyone relies for pretty much any sort of information. Under the present circumstances, the Internet is essentially the new library because it’s the place people go to educate and inform themselves on any subject.
If your blog is centered around subjective material and mostly editorial, then people generally know not to take it immediately at face value, so that’s one thing. But it’s another thing when you’re making actionable content which is meant to inform someone about how to do something that they will use in their lives. No one is venturing out to the library to do their research (at least, most are not), they’re not grabbing an encyclopedia, and they’re not even asking people who know what they’re talking about in a given field.
We happily accept Internet sources as our “experts” on any subject. If this is the first time that you’re seriously thinking about the ethical ramifications of online content creation, then that’s fine. None of us even think about it very often.
We do have a real responsibility, though, to create well-sourced, accurate articles which we’re posting in our blogs, for all of these reasons. If you’re considering changing the way you approach your blog content at all, you’re already in a good spot because most don’t think it’s even necessary.
Content Curation Amplifies the Issue
A large portion of content creators have opted for the alternative to original work, which is curated work. There’s obviously nothing wrong with it if you do it right; however, there are way too many creators who aren’t doing it right. There are a lot of benefits to curating online content.
It helps you to build inbound link relationships with other sites, and it greatly enriches the content pieces in your bog. It’s a challenge to do this properly, though, and most creators don’t consider it a challenge at all because they’re not taking any steps to do it responsibly. The main problem you run into when you’re a curator is that, first of all, you’re barely adding something original to the Web. You’re basically building articles around excerpts from other blogs.
The second problem is that this exacerbates the spread of unreliable content because many curators who do this take no time to check the accuracy of the other bogs that they are including in their articles. If those sources were disreputable and inaccurate to begin with, then all they’re doing is spreading bad information even further. Then, even more blogs curate your content, which you already took from those other bad sources.
Do You Still Need to Cite Your Sources?
An interesting question, no doubt, but the answer is pretty simple. The short answer is, yes, of course you have to cite your sources. But this is the heart of the issue because how many of us actually do it? Content writers don’t usually feel it necessary to show from where they’re getting their information, unless they’re linking to another blog, fishing for a backlink from them.
This practice creates an epidemic of massively unreliable content on the Web. Just because you’re not working with Random House doesn’t mean that you can forget about your responsibility as a writer. What we easily forget when posting blog content is that we’re still publishing work for public consumption. This is why plagiarism is now rampant on the Internet, and for some reason, creators don’t think it matters because it’s a blog.
The moral of the story is that, yes, it’s still absolutely necessary to cite your sources. The whole reason that we all learned this in school was exactly for this reason; people have to be able to trace whatever information you’re taking and using back to the original source that came up with it. Now, sourcing information has become totally convoluted.
As a content writer, you actually need to be really careful with this because if you don’t pay attention to your sources, you could end up being sued or fined by a site for plagiarism.
As a Business, Why Should You Care About This?
So, if you’re a small business owner reading this and wondering if you should even be bothered by it, the answer is yes, for multiple reasons. There is, of course, the moral imperative of conducting yourself as a responsible contributor to the collective of online information sources, but that probably isn’t the thing that gets your Irish up, let’s face it.
Firstly, if you consult with your attorney, you’ll find that you can protect your business legally if whoever is writing your content always properly cites their sources and never plagiarizes anyone’s work. Secondly, creating content as responsibly and accurately as possible is a great way to gain the trust of your blog subscribers and wider audience.
This is extremely useful because people will greatly respect your site if it’s original (especially if it’s original), well-sourced, and accurate. Not only that, but people will also come to you first for certain information because they know that they can trust your site for quality information. Your blog will be the place from which content curators will want to pull information, and hopefully, they will cite you as their source. Just sayin’.
Just the act of citing your sources puts you head and shoulders above most business blogs out there today. The point is simply that it makes a difference when you create content responsibly. It’s good for your business, and it’s good for every person who reads what you write.
Check out all of the articles in the series, Building Your Business Blog 201:
Stephanie is the Marketing Director at Talkroute and has been featured in Forbes, Inc, and Entrepreneur as a leading authority on business and telecommunications.
Stephanie is also the chief editor and contributing author for the Talkroute blog helping more than 100k entrepreneurs to start, run, and grow their businesses.