Robin Brown

Journo. Editor. Tutor. Dour northerner.

How the Huffington Post helped Rupert Murdoch

with 4 comments

The Huffington Post was number one in The Observer’s 50 Most Powerful Blogs at the weekend, alongside plenty of other aggregators.

The Post, says the article, ‘hoovered up traffic’ and ‘made the first generation of bloggers look like two-bit prospectors panning for nuggets in shallow creeks before the big mining operations moved in’.

This is, undoubtedly, true and a pretty decent simile to describe the awesome site’s Death Star-like entry into the blogosphere.

But the Huffington Post isn’t just a big mining operation – it’s a strip-mine operation that decimates the blogging landscape by using the value of whatever it republishes, vaguely repackaging it and leaving a credit-plus-link behind.

Huff Post editors will argue that those links and that traffic are of value to the original site, but really the Post’s aggregation model is the online equivalent of harvesting a village’s annual crop and leaving behind an IOU. The Observer article continues:

In the era pre-Huffington, big media companies ignored the web, or feared it; post-Huffington they started to treat it as just another marketplace, open to exploitation.

That much is true. Huffington, and other mega-blogs like Gawker, opened the door for aggregators that use work done by other people to generate cash, traffic and engagement.

But Huffington and others like it have gone beyond aggregation as it used to be understood; it scrapes, albeit using a human hand as opposed to a bot, taking much more than a header and abstract. Was the effort that went into your blog post or article really worth that hard-to-find link back from the aggregator?

In its wake, other mass meta-aggregators such as Mahalo have followed, blurring the definition of ‘fair use’. It’s a tough one to call, but it’s easy to make apocalyptic predictions about where this sort of thing ends. What else is left when everything has been mined of its value?

Ironically, The Huffington Post was set up to take on the right-wing US blogs and news corporations; to provide a ‘liberal’ point of view and media beast to rebalance the landscape.

But by introducing the slash-and-burn aggregation model to publishing content, it’s allowed corporate behemoths to enter the mass aggregation game, with revenue-generation as the first and last priority.

And, greatest irony of all, Mahalo – a great black hole of aggregation – is backed by none other than News Corp; the greatest enemy of mass aggregation in the world.

So, when you’re confronted with SERPs results consisting of content scraped by Mahalo, earning plenty of cash for Rupert Murdoch into the bargain, remember to thank The Huffington Post.

Written by Robin Brown

March 30th, 2010 at 1:27 pm

4 Responses to 'How the Huffington Post helped Rupert Murdoch'

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  1. One of the original designs for cybersace (pre web) had an accounting system at its core and all data was linked together using tumblar arithmetic. The fact that few have heard of tumblar arithmetic is possibly one of the why it was ignored :) (Ted Nelson – Computer Lib/Dream Machines)

    The idea was that everybody paid for what information they retrieved and all content providers where compensated commensurately with the popularity of the content item.

    This creates a solid foundation for an information based economy. But then again, perhaps some information has more value than others. I can’t remember if this was addressed but clearly the rush to commercialise the Internet swept aside any consideration for a new way to do things. The issues have been around for decades but media moguls would not care to engage in that debate.

    The commercialisation of the Internet is based upon an old model that has driven the media business for eons. A democratic model scares the shit out of the likes of News Corp etc.

    The issues surrounding aggregation are not easily addressed for anyone. People buy a paper or magazine that in general they find concordant with their own viewpoint. Branding/market positioning is at the foundation of the Newspaper business.

    With new media, the user can construct their own media view of the world, but it requires effort on their part to separate the wheat from the chaff. Many are just too busy and find it easier to turn on the TV or subscribe to an on-line version of what they have been used to.

    Lifting content is not a newly adopted fashion in the media business. The “sploggers” are out in force and the independant publisher has little hope for “redress of aggrievement” :(

    Bryn

    Bryn Gerard

    30 Mar 10 at 2:10 pm

  2. i was kind of hoping the huffington link you included would’ve been a duff one. It’s worth noting that it’s dog’s dinner of a site to look at, and have you seen the list of positions: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/p/huffington-post.html
    it’s frightening how so many can generate so little.

    david

    31 Mar 10 at 5:24 pm

  3. […] that the Huffington Post – the current Death Star of journalism for reasons outlined here – is now generating ten billion impressions a day has obviously enervated the UK’s […]

  4. […] doesn’t work – or you get these ghastly corners of the internet like Comment Is Free, The Huffington Post or Youtube comments section. Revenge porn websites, hate-filled fora and, perhaps worst of all, […]

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