You may not have noticed, but there's a spitting match going on right now between Arianna Huffington and New York Times editor Bill Keller about the future of what we in the biz used to call journalism.
Yesterday, Keller posted an editorial titled "All the Aggregation That's Fit to Aggregate," focusing largely on the AOL-Huffington Post merger and the fact that, like a lot of popular news aggregators, HuffPo gets most of its traffic by piggybacking on the work of others.
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Keller got off a few real zingers, like:
"Aggregation" ... too often ... amounts to taking words written by other people, packaging them on your own Web site and harvesting revenue that might otherwise be directed to the originators of the material. In Somalia this would be called piracy. In the mediasphere, it is a respected business model.
Buying an aggregator and calling it a content play is a little like a company's announcing plans to improve its cash position by hiring a counterfeiter.
Ouch. Not surprisingly, folks on the blogging side of the fence –- whose editorial mantra has always been "copy, paste, repeat" –- took some offense at this. They're acting like Keller is grandpa complaining about that newfangled thing called TellyVision.
Naturally, Arianna felt compelled to respond. Hers wasn't so zingy. Essentially she says: 1) HuffPo does original reporting, b) the New York Times does aggregate stories from other sources, and iii) our traffic is twice yours, so neener neener.
Arianna's right -– up to a point. The fact is, HuffPo's 148 full-time editorial employees do some original reporting. The New York Times does some aggregation. And HuffPo's traffic is double that of the Times.