Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Wellsphere / Healthblogger Doesn't Like Me?

Along with many other health-related bloggers, I have received numerous invitations to join the Healthblogger / Wellsphere network from a Dr Geoffrey Rutledge.

Here is an example (copies of Dr Rutledge's mail-merged posts are commonplace on the Internet, so I do not think I am betraying any trust by reproducing his email here):
Hi ,

Congratulations again for being invited to join the HealthBlogger network. You are just one quick step away from becoming part of the premier network of the best health bloggers! All you have to do is click here:


Set your account name/password, and we'll take it from there. We'll connect your blog and begin republishing your articles so they are available to the entire Wellsphere audience.

If you have any difficulty with this process, or if you have any questions, don't hesitate to send me an email to EMAIL REMOVED, or call me at TELEPHONE REMOVED.

I look forward to welcoming you to the HealthBlogger network!


Geoffrey W. Rutledge MD, PhD
Chief Medical Information Officer
The HealthCentral Network, Inc.

Here is a copy of the invitation we sent you last week:

Hi ,

My name is Dr. Geoff Rutledge, and I am delighted to invite you to join Wellsphere’s HealthBlogger Network, the world’s premier network of health writers, including nearly 2,000 of the Web’s leading health bloggers! We carefully reviewed your blog, and based on the high quality of your writing, the frequency of your posts, and your passion for helping others, we think you would be a great addition to the Network. As a member of the HealthBlogger Network, you’ll enjoy the greatly expanded reach and exposure to Wellsphere’s more than 4 million monthly unique visitors, innovative special features and functionality for your blog, and an exclusive badge to recognize you as one of the Web’s leading health bloggers. You’ll also have the opportunity to share tips and advice about blogging with your fellow health-focused bloggers. Once you join, we’ll begin promoting you and your blog as a great source of health knowledge and support, featuring you in rotation on our homepage (, republishing your posts on Wellsphere, giving you special status on Wellsphere and linking back to your blog. THERE IS NO COST FOR YOU TO JOIN and YOU RETAIN OWNERSHIP of the content that you allow Wellsphere to republish. To be clear, your content is yours, and you are free to do whatever you choose with it.

Let me tell you a bit about me and about Wellsphere. I'm a physician who has taught and practiced Internal and Emergency Medicine for over 25 years at Harvard and Stanford medical schools, and am passionate about helping people get the information and support they need to be healthier. I'm now the Chief Medical Information Officer at, where I manage the HealthBlogger Network. Wellsphere, the fastest-growing consumer health website, is revolutionizing the way people find and share health and healthy living information and support. We’ve recently merged with The HealthCentral Network, Inc. (, and together we’re now serving more than 10 million people a month!

I would like to invite you to join the HealthBlogger Network as a featured blogger in the General Medicine Community. Once you join the HealthBlogger Network, we will automatically republish the blog posts that you’ve already written and the ones you write in the future (so you don’t have to re-post them yourself, and there’s no extra work for you!). We will feature them not only on the community pages of the site, but also on numerous relevant WellPages, where we give users a comprehensive view of expert information, news, videos, local resources, and member postings on topics you write about. Each of your articles that are re-published on Wellsphere will include a link back to your blog, and your Wellsphere profile page will show your special status as a featured blogger on Wellsphere (and will include another link back to your blog). By connecting to the Wellsphere platform, you will greatly expand the audience for your postings, attract additional readers to your blog, and receive much deserved recognition for your efforts to improve peoples’ lives.

You will also receive from us a special badge for your blog recognizing you as a Top Health Blogger, and gain access to features and functionality for your blog that we’ve created especially for members in the HealthBlogger Network, including a custom tailored Health Knowledge Finder search widget, a Wellevation widget that provides daily motivational tips for your members, and a Wellternatives widget that offers nutrition information and healthier suggestions at popular chain restaurants.

It’s easy and free to join the Health Blogger Network! Just reply to this message to let me know you would like to participate.

Congratulations on being selected to participate in the Health Blogger Network! If you have any questions, please feel free to send me an email to

Good health,
Geoffrey W. Rutledge MD, PhD
Chief Medical Information Officer
The HealthCentral Network, Inc.

Sounds pretty good, hey? Well, I have done some poking around and Healthblogger does not seem all that popular amongst some health bloggers. For example:

So I decided that if I were to consider syndicating my blog I had better be clear about what I was willing to agree to. I sent Dr Rutledge an email:

Dear Dr Rutledge:

Thankyou for your invitation to join the HealthBlogger / Wellsphere Network. I would be willing to allow the HealthBlogger network to use my blog content on a number of specific conditions.

1. For the purposes of this agreement, YOU refers to Dr Geoffrey Rutledge, HealthBlogger, Wellsphere, and any related parties engaged in business with the above organisations. MY BLOG refers to material published by me on the blog site at

2. All communication with me should be conducted via this email account. I can give no assurance that correspondence received via other means is from me. Any payment to me should be conducted via a secure anonymous escrow facility which I will advise via this email account on acceptance of this agreement.

3. YOU may only use the first paragraph, or approximately 255 characters, whichever is shorter of any post and must place a direct link back to MY BLOG post entry at the end of that excerpt. This is the limit of my Blogger RSS feed and YOU may not use any other means to source content from MY BLOG.

4. YOU may be granted a temporary non-exclusive license for 6 months to use such content where it is used only on the WELLSPHERE.COM domain. Such license is not transferable and material cannot be republished outside the WELLSPHERE.COM domain or further licensed to another third party.

5. I reserve the right to withdraw permission for my material to be used at any time. Should my permission be withdrawn all material must be removed within 2 weeks of my email notification being sent.

6. There is to be no censorship, vetting, modification, or limitation of material which is reproduced. All supplied material must be published as is, and not subject to editorial adjustment.

7. 25% of any income raised directly or indirectly from use of my content (eg advertising revenue on pages featuring my posts) should be forwarded to me or a charity of my choosing, with adequate evidence produced to my satisfaction of such payment.

8. YOU must not make any attempt to expose my identity or compromise my anonymity. Should such attempt occur then YOU shall make payment to me a sum of USD$100,000 and any consequential damages related to damage to my employment, career or reputation.

9. YOU must not make any claim as to my identity or qualifications, other than what is publicly available via MY BLOG.

10. YOU recognise that material featured on MY BLOG may be incorrect, untrue, fictional, or misleading, and that this may be either intentional, or unintended. It may also contain material which is sourced from other parties whose permission or right to reproduce may not extend to YOU. I do not take any responsibility for the consequences of reproduction or misrepresentation of material sourced from or via MY BLOG.

11. Should there be any breach of these conditions, YOU shall make payment to me or my nominated charity a sum of USD$100 on each occasion of such breach (eg each post which is reproduced after withdrawal of my permission, and each modification within each post against my direction, and each omission of a post against my direction). Each unique URL from which my posts are accessible giving rise to such a breach would be considered an individual breach.

12. I shall not be responsible for any liability, damages, or consequential loss incurred by YOU or any other party as a result of material reproduced on your network.

13. I retain the right to publicly comment on any arrangements made with YOU and reproduce correspondence between us both on MY BLOG and elsewhere.

14. YOU do not have reciprocal rights to publicly comment or reproduce correspondence with me without my express permission, unless such material has already been publicly reproduced by me on MY BLOG.

15. YOU will not require me to agree to any other contract(s) related to reproduction of my material, and that should YOU have records of any other conditions or contracts which have been agreed to outside of this email they will be invalid and considered null and void.

If you agree to these conditions, please let me know and I will make appropriate arrangements. Please note that in the interests of transparency I will be posting my conditions and your response to these conditions to my blog. Should you not wish me to directly quote your response to these conditions then please let me know.

Kind Regards,


Unfortunately, Dr Rutledge and his team have chosen not to respond to my email. Is this a sign of my unpopularity??? Or am I being unfair with my conditions???


Roy said...

While agree with some of the issues you raise about Wellsphere (as I brought up in Shrink Rap a few months back), I think that some of your terms are as unfair as Dr Rutledge's.

2. email correspondence: good idea.

3. seems fair, but what about permitting entire post (on your site) within their frame? Yeah, I hate frames too, but it works for some people. Then again, if they only get to use the same amount of content in an RSS feed, then why should they pay you at all? In fact, if you want 25% of ad revenue, then it behooves you to license the entire posts.

4. non-reassignability: good idea.

6. I agree about editing, but if they don't want to include your post about Barbados Butterfly's outing, for example, they should be able to pick and choose.

7. I think 50%.

8. $100k seems unreasonable, thought the bar is pretty high... you'd have to show that they made an "attempt" to expose your identity. If they did it accidentally, then that would not count here.

9. They will likely pay less money for blogs from unverified sources.

10. something here seems not right, but I'm too tired to figure it out.

11. good idea here, though omitted posts should not be a breach.

12. this is unfair. If you commit libel or slander, they reproduce it, and they get sued (cause their pockets are bigger), they need recourse to come after you.

13. asking a bit much here

14. ... especially if you don't give them reciprocal rights. Each party should have similar rights here, whatever they are.

Obviously, Wellsphere is not going to get very far because of their tactics. DrVal's Better Health is a much better way to go.

Bongi said...

im my opinion wellsphere are a bunch of sharks. just my personal opinion.

Anonymous said...

And that isn’t even the tip of it.
The real scam by wellsphere is that they tell you to put their widget on your blog which means you’re linking to their site while they put a rel nofollow on the link to your blog from their site… that is a nasty SEO trick.

Unknown said...

wellsphere repeatedly mentions that they are giving you a link. They then sneak in a no follow. This is very sleazy. Many sites operate similarly to wellsphere. But they all give you an actual link, at least in the byline. They are also up front. They tell you by line only or content but maximum etc. Anything beyond what is agreed to is no-followed. All other sites dont count the no follow as a link, because if it is not followed, it is not a link.

Further, wellsphere specifies that they will promote your blog to help gain you additional readers. No-follow by definition means they are not endorsing or promoting it.

I just joined them today. Luckily I caught the no follow. Their statements about giving out links made me think it was followed. Further, an SEO guy referred me to them and he stated that it does not have no-follow.

SO they took my content in exchange for a link and failed to deliver.

It is clearly content theft and breach of contract.

I have sent them emails demanding they do not breach the contract and provide a link.

These scam artists deserve to be taught a lesson. I will sue them if I need to.

Laser Hair Removal Manhattan said...

nice blog thanks dear

Gorgeous Beauty Tips said...

And that isn’t even the tip of it.
The real scam by wellsphere is that they tell you to put their widget on your blog which means you’re linking to their site while they put a rel nofollow on the link to your blog from their site… that is a nasty SEO trick.