Friday, December 19, 2008

Grand Theft HuffPo pt. 4

Posted By on 12.19.08 at 12:13 PM

1. What Jessica Hopper said. Y'all picked the wrong week to violate my sense of propriety. People are getting laid off left and right in Chicago media and you're selling ads off our work? (Apparently WBEZ, which went through a round of layoffs recently, has also had the same problem.)

2. The folks at Gakwer, who were kind enough to blog this, have had HuffPo swipe their RSS feeds. Not that I think it's morally any different, but it's worth noting that our music listings don't have an RSS feed. Either they have their own scraper, or someone's doing it by hand.

3. Pvt. McCormick, in comments: "as of this moment, 24 hours after Whet's original post, ChuffPo remains atop the Reader in a Google search for 'Bon Iver Vic.'" This is actually a pretty profound point in re SEO dark arts.

4. San Francisco: they are coming for your content, too. Ironically, their SF-specific VC sugar daddy justified the investment by saying: "The Huffington Post benefits from... an approach to content that leverages other news and blogger feeds in a manner traditional media players have not."

No shit.

Update, 4b. This specific instance of jacking content is not aggregation; it's theft (in my biased, livid opinion; your lawyer may tell you something different). I was told yesterday that lifting content wholesale is their business model and that it's the exact same thing that the Drudge Report does. It's not. If you go to the Huffington Post homepage, or to the Drudge Report, you'll find that those links go to other sites. The jacked content is hidden.

The fact that I had to explain that HuffPo's explicit model (which is like the Drudge Report's) is something entirely different from this other thing they have going on really worried me. Money gets made and deals get done on the basis of vague concepts/trends like "aggregation." It's important that people understand what concepts like that mean, and that the ethics of them are hashed out transparently.

5. Part of my aggravation is driven by the fact that there are a lot of rich people who have gotten the idea that this is how journalism works. Don't read this article (or watch the video) if you have anything expensive in breaking distance, like monitors or cell phones. Watching that video I know how Elvis felt seeing Pat Boone on TV. HuffPo investor Eric Hippeau: "The cost of producing this content is dramatically getting cheaper." Yes, Ctrl+C Ctrl+V is very cheap. BUTTON YOUR SHIRT, MONEYBAGS.

6. A piece of advice if you find yourself unemployed but are willing to donate your journalistic efforts for free, like former Trib ME James Warren decided to do for Huffington Post: pretty much every big city has an independent, beautifully crafted, intelligent blog/site that's probably more deserving of your skills than some content-swiping, VC-money-seeking billionaire. Try Gapers Block.

7. Still haven't heard from Huffington Post.

8. You know, "Grand Theft Blago" would have been a good post title. Dammit.

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