Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Is Arianna Huffington 'A Parasite?'

Even more to the point, am I a parasite? Evidently, the former executive editor of the Washington Post thinks so. In a recent lecture at London's City University, Len Downie ripped into news aggregators and blogs. Click here to read the whole thing (PDF):
The aggregators fill their websites with news, opinion, features, photographs and video that they continuously collect — some would say steal — from other national and local news sites, along with mostly unpaid posting by bloggers who settle for exposure in lieu of money.
Downie is certainly correct that sites like the Huffington Post and Drudge post links and teaser material from other websites. But my understanding is if they post entire articles -- or otherwise exceed the generally accepted "fair-use" standard, then they're obligated to compensate the organization that produced the original content.

Here's what I think is happening.  As the reality sinks in that the old media are dying, dinosaurs like Downey are looking for scapegoats. As Jack Shafer asked in Slate, if the the old media are so smart, then why didn't they come up with the idea of aggregating their own content onto lively home pages that attract millions of eyeballs a month?

And I maintain that sites like The Daily Beast, Instapundit and, yes, even this little blog, play a role in helping out legacy media by linking to their content and encouraging our readers to look carefully at the articles. If that's being a parasite, then it's parasitism of the symbiotic sort. I'm happy to play that role, dude.

P.S. The Torrington Register-Citizen puts a link to this blog on its home page and provides me with dozens of page hits every day. In an act of voluntary reciprocation, I link to the R-C here and use it as a source whenever possible. To its credit, the R-C is in the midst of transitioning itself toward a "digital-first" business model. The quality of its content is steadily improving. And when other papers shut down their print editions to focus on digital, the R-C will be well positioned. Smart.

P.P.S. One of the Downey's longtime colleagues, media critic Howard Kurtz, has just announced on his Twitter feed that he is leaving the money-losing Post to enter the digital world of The Daily Beast. Good for him. But there will still be conflicts of interest ...

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