Time has turned its attentive eye on Arianna Huffington this week and the view, which is very smart and worth the read, is not entirely rosy: “Open the site on any given day and you will be greeted with copy from the Associated Press, contributions from unpaid writers, stories whose legwork was done by other news outlets, and a smattering of entries from the site’s five reporters…But as the enterprise grows, even a pedigreed networker like Huffington may find that it’s hard to keep friends in the media when she’s killing their business.”
Short version: as the newspaper industry crumbles Huffington is becoming an increasingly appealing target for blame. And understandably so, considering the amount of traffic the site generates based on other people’s content. It’s hard to imagine that in the not too distant future as the MSM places increasing value on online content and traffic, that they will continue to tolerate the sort of aggregation HuffPo is so famous for.
When I point out that the initial story the site posted in March on Nick Schuyler, the football player who survived a storm at sea, carried Zaleski’s byline even though 80% of the copy was taken verbatim from the St. Petersburg Times, Huffington says that the story drew from several sources â€” and that they don’t mind. “We drive millions of page views to people who produce content,” she says, “and we get a hundred requests a day from editors and reporters to link to them.” Not everyone is so thrilled. “HuffPo regularly borrows a chunk of our stories and repays us with a tiny link at the bottom,” says a prominent Web editor. “It’s a practice that really annoys me.”
“Someone is going to sue the Huffington Post,” says Joshua Benton, director of the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. “It’s not just about the volume of the content that it appropriates, it’s about the value.” There are other aggregators, but HuffPo is the most tempting. “It’s a big player, and the site that has got closest to the line” between fair and unfair use of copy, Benton notes.
At the rate things are going in newspaper land one imagines this will inevitably come to be sooner rather than later. What the article fails to explain however is what this line — “Female ambition is a curious force” — tagged on at the very end of an otherwise sharp piece, has to to with anything? Really? More curious than ambition in general, or just smarter? As the rest of the article seems to suggest.