Put on your hip waders and your shoulder-length rubber gloves, people. We’re going back in.
Last month, some of you may recall, I wrote about Utah People’s Post, a “news” website supposedly based right here in West Haven, Utah, and staffed by some of the most attractive “journalists” this side of a Calvin Klein underwear ad.
But as it turns out, almost everything about the site is completely fabricated — from the company’s address, to the contact phone number, to the editors’ and reporters’ identities and photos. I say “almost everything,” because one thing wasn’t fabricated: The stories.
Those, of course, were simply plagiarized — stolen from legitimate news outlets. Including at least one story lifted from the Standard-Examiner.
To be frank, after writing about this sleazy website I felt an overwhelming urge to go home and take a long, hot shower. With any luck, I figured I’d never have to give UPP another thought. But alas, it’s time for an update …
After that column ran, several readers who are much more computer literate than this old journalist tracked down the domain registry and forwarded that info. (Thanks to Jason, William, Steve, Earl, David and Ann!) The utahpeoplespost.com website is registered to one Ken Courtright, with Todays Growth Consultant, in Minooka, Ill.
In an email exchange, Ken Courtright identified himself as manager of the site. However, he said he was traveling and could only communicate via email, and asked me to email any questions about the site. Which I did, including:
• What's the history/genesis of the utahpeoplespost.com site? How did it come about, whose idea was it?
• What is the purpose of utahpeoplespost.com?
• Who currently runs/maintains the site?
• Who creates the content for the site?
• Who is the current editor of the site? I'd love to be able to briefly interview the editor, and perhaps even one of the writers.
• I've been unable to contact the company directly; the telephone number doesn't seem to work. Do you have a working number for the company?
• It also places the company in West Haven, Utah, but I was unable to locate the company's offices from the provided address. Do you have a better address for Utah People's Post?
• Anything else you can tell me about Utah People's Post?
Ken immediately replied:
I'm actually out, i'm a bit ill this week.
Your questions are a bit odd and concerning actually.
I co-own the site with a few partners. We are a two-time Inc. 5000 company that manages close to 500 websites.
I'm told i can probably return to work next week. Before we set a call next week, I'll need to know the following before I schedule a call…
1. Specifically, why all the questions?
2. What exactly do you do for your company?
Please check out our website www.incomestore.com to get a feel for the 490 websites we co-own.
So I apologized for the “odd and concerning” questions, but admitted I had some equally “odd and concerning” questions about his website. I shared my concerns about the apparent falsifications and plagiarism at the site. Ken then wrote back and explained:
We bought the site in December or January.
I own a content writing company that writes over 3000 uniquely written, 100% quality pieces of content each month. We've been slowly weening our own authors into this site the last 2 months.
I can work a couple hours each morning.
Happy to do a call and show you that we are legit and a very solid company. 90% of our sites are Authority Websites like www.wine.net,www.theplumbinginfo.com and www.todaysfitnesstrainer.com in which 100% of the content is written by the Authorities in their unique spaces. if you do some digging you will see that Ross Halleck, a very famous vintner writes almost all the content for the wine site, along with Dan Berger, an AP syndicated writer for 25 years on red wine. The plumbing site is written by sean kavanaugh, a well known chicago plumber and the fitness site is authored by Andrea Oh, an olympic volleyball hopeful.
We started buyings sites last year to balance our portfolio and fill some gaps. i can assure you that most of the content in the last 60 days on utah people's post was written by real people on real stories.
I've just assign our COO to run copyscape on UtahPeoplePost.
The site looked pretty solid when we bought it.
Courtright explained that “4 to 5 different folks” write the content for UPP. He then instructed his assistant to set up a time for an interview. On Friday morning, we were scheduled to talk. However, three hours before our phone interview, his assistant sent me an email:
Good morning. Ken is still out with shingles but he wanted me to email you that we've taken utahpeoplespost.com down until it is fixed.
Hope you have a great weekend!
When I went to the Utah People’s Post, I got a “Website currently under maintenance” notification. So at least for now, it would appear the site is down.
However, while it’s tempting to claim journalism’s good guys won this little battle, the sad truth is we’re not-so-gradually losing the war. These sorts of cancerous “news” sites, which steal both content and readers from legitimate news organizations, are on the rise. Temporarily shut one down like this, two more pop up in its place. It’s downright disheartening, is what it is.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I feel the need to take another shower.