Note: These are opening paragraphs to an article I wrote for Daily Maverick. You can read full article here.
Moneyweb is suing Fin24 for plagiarising its work, and Branko Brkic, the founder of Daily Maverick, is rather unhappy with Huffington Post for aggregating content. The former is right, the latter is wrong. Let’s explore.
Arianna Huffington has come under much criticism for the nature of her website, Huffington Post. The root of the criticism has a lot to do with the fact that Ms Huffington has managed to build – and sustain – a ridiculously successful website (AOL paid $315-million for it in 2011), and she seems to have done it with a relatively minimal content budget. She has over 6,000 bloggers writing for her for free, she aggregates content from hundreds of websites resulting in a never ending flow of “new” content on her site, and the (incorrect) perception is that she appeals to a low denominator of excellence. People, mostly those who are not part of the 45-million unique monthly users who visit her site, seem to not appreciate this apparent shortcut to success. News aggregation has become a dirty term.
But do you have any idea just how much new stuff happens every second on the Internet? You don’t. (Just click on the link and get a glimpse). The point is that just as we should be grateful the web offers us an opportunity to voice our ideas, read the long tail stories and allows quick dissemination of information, we should be petrified (and a bit pissed off) that we can’t consume all that is important to us. But wait! News aggregators help us out. Somewhere, thank god, it is someone’s job to open up a browser, search, read, click, cut, paste, edit, rinse and repeat over and over again, and then to curate what they think is important, relevant, entertaining, absurd or whatever other common thread they have identified as a niche. Then they assemble the audience that shares their hunger for that sort of stuff (no mean feat), and bingo… a lot of relief and satisfaction all around.
Well, actually, not everyone is that satisfied. Sometimes, the people who posted the original stories get a bit huffy. How dare Arianna get a hundred times as many views on her adaptation of a paid-for-by-someone-else piece as the original poster does? Where does she find the audacity to make money off it? Branko says that Huffington Post “has successfully managed to appropriate the work of the New York Times, the Washington Post, Time, Newsweek, the Economist, WSJ, FT, to name just a few”.