I am a Contributing Editor at BlogHer, currently writing about Personal Finance. In this capacity I follow scores of blogs on the topic. One standout and very popular blog is Boston Gal's Open Wallet.
The author of this blog posted for about a year under the Nom de Blog "Jane Dough" until she was quoted in a New York Times article. After the article appeared she received a cease and desist order for trademark infringement and changed her Blog Name to "Boston Gal." In the stream of supportive comments to her post announcing her name change and the reason prompting it, Boston Gal's readers noted the changes they would have to make to their blogs to fix the many links they had made to her previous name and they also figured out who the company was that served the cease and desist order and expressed their displeasure with the company's tactics.
This week brought some good news, though - Boston Gal is Jane Dough again, sort of. The company who owns the trademark contacted her and invited her to blog for their site using the Jane Dough name. Sounds like a win-win, right? Not so fast.
The company in question here is Womens Wall Street and they have the name "Jane Dough" trademarked because they have another feature on their site called "Ask Jane DoughTM." The person who writes the "Ask Jane Dough" however, is not the same person who is now Jane Dough the blogger on their site. And, Jane Dough the blogger is only Jane Dough on their site not on her own site. Confused yet?
When you visit the Womens Wall Street site the bloggers are listed in the section called "W Club" which you are invited to join. Because it's exclusive and gives you access to premium content including access to the blogs and monthly donations in your name to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Membership costs $9.95 a month or $119.40 a year and $11.94 of that going towards your donation. In comparison you could subscribe to both the print and online versions of The Wall Street Journal for $99 a year and have $20.40 to donate to the cause of your choice for the same price as an annual subscription to this new website.
Let's say you found Womens Wall Street not through Boston Gal's blog and you wanted to get an idea of what their blogs were about and whether or not it would be worth your while to pay for access, especially since all the bloggers have pseudonyms. (While not using your name on personal finance blogs is common so that you can blog openly about financial details, when a site is charging you a hefty fee, I personally would like some indication of why I should pay to read what someone is writing.) Could you, say, just add the word "blog" to the WomensWallStreetClub.com URL you notice at the top of the sign up page and access the premium content? Why, yes, yes you can.
I give Womens Wall Street much credit for recognizing the power blogging can bring to you business. But not using tracking feeds to monitor your multitude of trademarks, lawyering up against a popular blogger, annoying her readership, confusing visitors to your site with multiple "Jane Doughs" and not calling it out, charging a massive amount of money for content that could easily be had for free or less elsewhere, not providing value to your paying customers by securing the premium content they are paying good money for, and, worst of all, charging to read a blog is so not the way to go. Sounds like someone could use the BlogHer Business Conference!