4 Ways to Catch and to Prevent Plagiarism

catch and prevent plagiarismNobody wants plagiarism on their blog or online publication, but it can be tough to prevent and harder to catch. It's tempting for some to plagiarize with the ease and wealth of information out there, and a misunderstand of what plagiarism is can mean false positives (and false negatives) upon your editorial review. To make this process as painless as possible, here are four ways to catch and to prevent plagiarism.

Use Google Instead

Instead of relying on those services that not only cost money to use extensively, but aren't as reliable as we need, use Google and search engines instead. Not only is it free every single time (and it probably searches more sites than those services), but it's also a lot easier to check for attribution, to check if the text even needs attribution, or to see if the text should remain as is (such as a direct quote or a definition). It's also easier to check for those other forms of plagiarism, such as taking another's idea and passing it as one's own.

Encourage Writers to Create Original Stories

If  all your publication is doing is rehashing the news and stories of others, then you risk more plagiarism then you may think. As we said our introduction to plagiarism article, just because the text doesn't match anywhere else online doesn't mean that it's not plagiarism. If you're writing about a hot topic, and simply reciting the analysis of others, that is plagiarism unless the ideas are properly cited. To avoid this problem (and to avoid looking like you need to piggyback on everyone else's news stories to build an audience), encourage your writers to find their own news stories, or to come up with their own angles and analysis to current news. It may feel like you need to content out there as soon as possible, but doing that doesn't mean anything if it's just the reinvention of someone else's content and ideas in the first place.

Trust Your Writers

If you make it known that your going to screen every article that comes through, only to send it back because one sentence happens to match another somewhere online (or it includes a phone number or a book title, both of which these services will catch and mark as plagiarism), then you risk scaring away good writers who do good work but are afraid of being accused of plagiarism. You will then be stuck with the writers who will game the plagiarism-catching services to make sure the content passes, or you will get writers who write so poorly that it's not anywhere online (it's so bad that no one else would take their work)  Also understand how easy it is to game the plagiarism software. All one needs to do is change every third or fourth word and it passes. If you trust your writers to do the right thing, then you'll get the writers that are worth trusting. Of course, if you suspect something, use Google.

Also understand that having a sentence or two in one article match another's content somewhere out there isn't going to hurt your search engine rankings and isn't going to get you blacklisted. Your site isn't going to make anyone mad by doing that. Relax, and worry about providing awesome content to your readers instead of pleasing the search engines. Search engines don't read your articles or buy your products anyway.

Set a Policy and Make Your Writers Aware of It

It doesn't help if only you know what plagiarism is and your writer's don't. This will only lead to misunderstandings. If you don't yet have a policy on plagiarism, set one and let your writer's know what this policy is and what counts as plagiarism. If you do have one, then make sure this is something everyone understands and is held accountable for when they join the team. Not holding people to the policy is just as bad, if not worse, then not having one at all.

Twitter Strategies for News Agencies

twitter strategiesResearch from the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism found that 93% of tweets from major news organizations contain a link to their own site. Only six percent of tweets didn't have a link, and a dismal one percent contain a link to another news site. The study looked at over 3,600 tweets from 13 news institutions in a one week period, finding that their use of Twitter is primarily to disseminate their own information and content. Although this isn't a bad way for news agencies to use Twitter, the microblogging tool can be more than a soap box for your own news stories. Here are a few additional Twitter strategies for news agencies, so more of those tweets aren't just links to articles:

  1. Enhance Reporting by Asking Questions - Twitter is full of experts, and full of ideas. If you need help finding sources, or finding story angles, then let the Twitterverse in on it. This can save you a lot of time and headache if yo're stuck , or add more quality to your stories by finding more sources with personal experience related to your topic. Of course, Twitter shouldn't be a replacement for good 'ole legwork and talking to people in person. But, it doesn't hurt as as supplement.
  2. Listen - Make sure to listen to your followers and get a sense of what is going on. You may be able to find a few things to report on, or make contacts with your reporting or your news in the long run. A good way to listen is to consider what your followers would like you to write about, or to ask them for story suggestions. Another way is to look at trending hashtags, or see what sort of stories they are tweeting. Perhaps you could do something that ties into those hashtags or popular stories. Either way, you know you'll be delivering a product that your readers will actually want.
  3. Encourage Your Writers/Journalists to Use Twitter - It's important for news organizations to showcase a personal side as well, and your writers and journalists are some of the best people to do that. Let them share their stories (and the stories of other journalists and news organizations). Let them share tidbits from their lives and to have conversations with followers over the platform. Not only is this a little more personal, but it's also one more way for your followers to engage with your online publication or news agency. Make sure to encourage them to do more than just tweet their own stories, but to engage with their followers and to share the content of others as well.
  4. Have a Strategy - Simply tweeting links for the sake of tweets and having a presence isn't going to help you. It's easy to get carried away with tons of accounts, and tons more tweets. You need a bigger purpose than that. What sort of news will you be tweeting? Who are your readers? Who's your competition? Will you have other Twitter accounts working in conjunction with this one? Answer those questions, and then you can tweet with purpose.

If news agencies and online publications make a switch in their Twitter strategies and make an effort to include follower engagement, then they could pull ahead of the pack on social media. Social media is not longer perceived as an untrustworthy source, as something that only jokers and teenagers do for fun. Social media sites like Twitter provide a lot of opportunity for news agencies and online publications to find news, to improve the news they deliver, and to deliver the news of others (news that otherwise wouldn't have been covered by your organization).

4 Things NOT to Do as an Online Publication

online publication best practices These days, it's so easy for anyone to get up in the morning and decide that day to start their own online magazine or publication. The tools are out there, making it simple, fast, and cheap to do so. however, just because anyone can start and do anything he or she wants doesn't mean that an online publiation should do anything it wants. Here are four things online magazines SHOULD NOT do because they are bad practice to do so:

  1. Copy and Paste Entire Articles Without Credit - This is the cardinal sin of publishing. Copying and pasting without attribution is a huge no-no. Sometimes, copying and pasting with attribution can be dangerous. This is very tempting for online publications to do, especially if there are pressures to publish everyday or to make deadlines. however, those goals can be met if online magazines plan ahead for their content, or takes on enough writers to cover breaking news appropriately. If you are reprinting someone else's work, make sure to make it clear that it is a reprinting and not an original work of the magazine.
  2. Vague Sourcing - This is when a quote or a piece of information is purposely sourced in an unclear or general way. For example, vague sourcing be saying "according to a business magazine," or "industrial magazines have said." Vague sourcing is bad practice because it doesn't help the reader, and it doesn't led credibility to your magazine since this type of sourcing makes it look like you're making things up or doesn't know where it's getting its information. You may be doing this vague sourcing for SEO purposes ('business magazine' or 'industrial magazine' are terms you'd like to rank for), but it looks awful from a reporting standpoint.
  3. Covering Trending Topics Instead of Your Niche - It seems like a good idea to write an article about the latest iPhone for the sake of a few more hits, but if you're an online publication covering environmental news, do your readers care? Probably not, unless you discuss the iPhone and its environmental impact, or the sustainability policy of Apple. Then, it's okay because the topic has been tailored to your audience. But, if you're only covering a topic because you want to jump on a wave and to score some extra web traffic, you're only making your online magazine look bad. How many of those wanting to know about the latest iPhone are also going to care about the latest in the solar industry or how companies are implementing energy management? Probably not many. So, that spike in traffic may not last or be sustainable. How many of your current readers care about the new iPhone? Maybe a lot, but they are expecting environmental news from you, and are expecting to learn about the iPhone elsewhere.
  4. Disguise the Identity of Your Writers - I used to write for an online publication that didn't want me to go by my professional byline. My professional name would bring up all the work that I've done for other clients in search engines resutls. The publication only wanted their articles to come up, so they wanted me to go by a different name to ensure that happened. The problem? It's shady. At least under my professional name, my identity and credentials can be verified. With the unique name, you won't find a LinkedIn profile or a professional website. You won't find any claim that this person exists beyond those articles for the one publication. That's fishy. Why wouldn't a publication want to acknowledge the accomplishments of their writers, or let their writers add the articles from this publications to their portfolio? Sounds a little greedy, as if the publication doesn't have much regard for their writers.

Doing any of these four things may seem like a good idea because it benefits the publication, but consider that your readers are your customer, and that you ought to do things that benefit your readers. If something that benefits the publication creates a negative reader experience, like the vague sourcing or the inability for your readers to verify the identity or the credentials of your writers, then they are considered bad practice and shouldn't be done. Without your readers, you wouldn't be much of an online publication.