Study: Stolen Web Content Sees More Traffic Than The Original

Newspapers struggling to find an online life may not like the sound of this: When it comes to mainstream media sites, far more people read unauthorized online copies of stories than read the originals, according to some interesting new research being released today.

The study indicates content illegally republished on third-party sites gets two-and-a-half times the traffic, on average, that the original and official version does. The most extreme cases, it says, happen in stories about cars, travel, and movies. Dupes of those sorts of stories were found to get as much as seven times the traffic as the originals.

The report (PDF), conducted by Attributor Corp., suggests online publishers are losing out, on average, on $150,000 in ad revenue from those unauthorized online copies. Some bigger Web publishers could stand to lose as much as $1 million a year, it claims.

So can publishers really take advantage of this information, or is it just a reminder of how much they’re getting screwed? The obvious implication is stepping up copyright enforcement, and it’s worth noting that Attributor — the group that did the study — is a copyright enforcement company, so it may have had its own reasons for doing this research. (The company sells software that hunts down copyright violations on the Web.)

Attributor also suggests the idea that companies could “figure out a way to mine advertising revenue” from these stolen copies. It’s a nice concept, sure, but I don’t know that the sort of blogs that are outright stealing content will be open to the idea of an external company placing ads on their pages.

If someone can figure out a way to make that happen, though, they’ll be not only a millionaire — but also could be credited as being the genius who gave struggling mainstream media companies a new lease on life. Think it’ll happen?