Three of my favorite writers, O.Henry, Dr.Seuss, and Pablo Neruda, all used pen names. The utilization of pseudonyms is fairly common throughout the history of published material.
The topic of pseudonyms takes on a different life in the context of online content, however. Google + now allows pseudonyms, Twitter has always allowed it, but Facebook has held a pretty strong stance against the practice. Some social media marketers condemn pseudonyms as nothing more than sock puppetry, and their role in marketing further complicates the topic.
The issue is one we are now facing at CopyPress, and in every way this is an appeal to hear differing sides of the argument.
Our writers and connectors fall on both sides.
Connectors are people who work for CopyPress to connect great content with great websites. These people reach out to publishers and create relationships to publish their content. Some of them utilize pen names, as do some writers. Some do it because the content they are working with is outside of their expertise and they don’t necessarily feel it fits into their portfolio. Others use a pen name to separate their work life from their professional life in an online realm where the two can meld together.
Some customers ask for pen names or ghost writing, and thus the topic of pseudonym usage.
With both customers and employees utilizing different tactics, the topic has become top of mind for me.
I have generally thought that as long as we are being as transparent as possible outside of the protection the worker’s name, then we are doing what is best for the online community. My mind does wander though, about being a blogger who discovers the person they know as John Doe turns out to be Dave Snyder, and whether that makes you feel as though you have been used in some sense.
As a business owner, I have a responsibility to my clients and employees to protect their privacy and safety. This means that I must think about these two groups before the publisher.
This does not mean I advocate creating fake personas. In fact, some people within the CopyPress community have done this, and it is something we no longer will tolerate. Using a pseudonym is very different from creating a fake online life.
I think authorship, and how it may be misused and abused in the future, will add a layer of complexity to this discussion. I can use a mix of writers and publishers to create master pseudonyms to build major authorship value.
Where do you fall in the discussion and why? I would love your feedback as we look to scale our product offering in an ever-changing online world.
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