The Huffington Post defends its use of aggregation in part by claiming that it drives major traffic to the sites featuring the original stories, so it’s in a happy, symbiotic relationship with the media at large. But is this really true? At Ad Age, Simon Dumenco presents his personal case study on the dark arts of aggregation. He wrote a post last month titled “Poor Steve Jobs Had to Go Head to Head With Weinergate in the Twitter Buzzstakes. And the Weiner Is …” His post was picked up by Techmeme, a site that takes a sparse approach to amassing content from around the web (usually gives just a headline and a couple of sentences) and The Huffington Post, which gave a “short but thorough paraphrasing/rewriting” of the original post.
Did HuffPo cause a traffic explosion for his post? Not quite.
So what does Google Analytics for AdAge.com tell us? Techmeme drove 746 page views to our original item. HuffPo — which of course is vastly bigger than Techmeme — drove 57 page views.
57 page views hardly seems like enough traffic to keep writers from getting grumpy that their work is being aggregated. Moreover, the low traffic drive doesn’t seem particularly surprising. His original post is not very lengthy, coming in at around 676 words without the charts. The Huffington Post version is around 250 words, more than enough space to adequately cover all the major points. So what would be the purpose of clicking through to read the original piece? With Techmeme, however, if the article seems interesting, the user must click through to the original post.
We’d be interested to hear from other writers about traffic bumps from HuffPo to determine if Arianna Huffington’s traffic defense is something of a myth.