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.