Thursday, December 03, 2009

Media Moguls Call Online Writers 'Parasites' and 'Vampires'

The FTC invited speakers to talk about journalism in the online age and got an earful. One of the speakers was Arianna Huffington, creator of the online Huffington Post, and she tore into old media kingpins like Rupert Murdoch and others who squall about the evil of online writing and information sharing.

Apparently, some in the old media have decided that it is, in fact, an either/or game and that the best way to save, if not journalism, at least themselves, is by pointing fingers and calling names. It's a tactic familiar to schoolyard inhabitants everywhere: when all else fails, reach for the nearest insult and throw it around indiscriminately.

So now sites that aggregate the news have become, in the words of Rupert Murdoch and his team, "parasites," "content kleptomaniacs," "vampires," "tech tapeworms in the intestines of the Internets," and, of course, thieves who "steal all our copyright."

It's the news industry equivalent of "your mama wears army boots!" Although, not quite as persuasive.

In most industries, if your customers were leaving in droves, you would try to figure out what to do to get them back. Not in the media. They'd rather accuse aggregators of stealing their content."


"Plus, let's be honest, many of those complaining the loudest are working both sides of the street. Take, for example, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. Just look at the sites News Corp. owns, as recently did, and you will see example after example after example of the pot calling the kettle black. And aggregating its content.

The Wall Street Journal has a tech section that's nothing more than a parasite -- uh, I mean, aggregator -- of outside content. has a Politics Buzztracker that bloodsucks -- uh, I mean aggregates and links to -- stories from a variety of different sources, including the NY Times, the Washington Post, MSNBC and others.

AllThingsD has a section called Voices that not only aggregates headlines, but also takes a nice chunk of text -- and puts the links out at the bottom of the story.

And Murdoch's News Corp. also owns IGN, which has a variety of web properties, including the Rotten Tomatoes movie review aggregation site -- which is entirely made up of movie reviews pulled together from other places. Did someone say "stealing"?

Talk about having your aggregation cake and bitching about others eating a slice too."

Read more of her thoughts here.

Also, a response to the "tech tapeworms" argument:

The top lawyer for the Associate Press, Srinandan Kasi, complained that less than half of people who read excerpts online actually click through to original article, which is at the heart of complaints that Google News, The Huffington Post, and others are the "tech tapeworms" mentioned above. But throughout the day, the "tapeworms" mounted a compelling counter-argument that they are partners rather than parasites, and pointed out just how much the mainstream media relied on their own work."

I've linked to the sites with the original content, so don't yell at me if you decide not to read them.

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