Maybe you saw my two stories this week on the fate of OJR.org, previously the website of the once-essential Online Journalism Review, which was turned into a spamblog by Marcus Lim, CEO of an Australian startup called Oneflare — one that initially fraudulently tried to appear it was still the old OJR, a product of USC Annenberg. (Since those articles, OJR.org has been blanked entirely. Sometimes sunlight really is the best cure!)
Well, kudos to Rhonda Roland Shearer at the website iMediaEthics, who found that another old journalism website, PoynterOnline.org, has met the same fate. Except in this case, it’s been a spamblog for years without anyone noticing, with someone named Evgeniy Varlashov apparently to blame. Check out all the details on her post.
(PoynterOnline.org was an alternate URL for Poynter’s website for much of the 2000s; they consolidated on Poynter.org around 2008.)
Shearer notes that PoynterOnline.org claims to have “won more than 100 awards in the past five years alone.” I’d also note that the language PoynterOnline.org uses to make that claim are straight lifted from Computerworld’s about page. And I’d also note that, unlike OJR.org, PoynterOnline.org is also running Google ads, so there’s likely a small-but-nonzero amount of money being generated off Poynter’s reputation here.
People: Don’t let your domains expire. In this case, unlike OJR’s, the decision was likely made on purpose — Poynter switched from PoynterOnline.org to just Poynter.org a few years ago. But particularly when you have a brand to protect embedded in that URL, it’s totally worth the 10 bucks a year to just keep renewing and autoforwarding. If you’re thinking about giving up a domain, ask yourself the question: Will I be okay with this domain becoming a spamblog in a few weeks? If the answer’s no, pay up.