Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Huffing and Puffing and Scamming the Search Engines

The humor site The Onion, the offbeat weekly The Chicago Reader, and Time Out Chicago have discovered that some of their articles have appeared in total on Arianna Huffington’s mega web outlet The Huffington Post. And they are none too happy about the wholesale lifting of their material, either.

The Huffington Post, a venture-capital-backed new media site that mixes links to other sites content with hundreds of celebrity and volunteer blogger posts, is being accused of slimy business practices by a handful of smaller publications who say the site is unfairly copying and publishing their content.

Whet Moser, an editor at alternata]ive weekly Chicago Reader wants to know why The Huffington Post's newly formed Chicago-focused venture is stealing their copyrighted concert reviews and reprinting them in whole in order to get search engine traffic. And he found other examples taken wholesale from The Onion and Time Out Chicago.

Compare for example, the Chicago Reader's Amanda Palmer review and The Huffington Post's (screenshots if the pages change: Reader, The Huffington Post)

Moser writes:

You want to do a post that says, "According to Jessica Hopper, Bon Iver rules, check 'em out, go here for the info," fine. But taking an entire concert preview is bush league. Doing it as a practice is just beneath contempt. If the future of journalism--which everyone keeps telling me The Huffington Post represents — is a bunch of search-engine optimization scams, we have bigger problems than Sam Zell's bad investment strategies.

But The Huffington Post co-founder Jonah Peretti says the contretemps are overblown — that the complete re-printing was a mistaken editorial call and that The Huffington Post's intention in aggregating other publications' content is to send traffic their way.

"You tease, you pull out a piece of it, and then you have a headline or link out," Peretti said. "Generally publishers are psyched to have a link."

He compares The Huffington Post's influence on other sites traffic to that of link-voting sites like Digg and Reddit. Those sites, along with Google News and Slashdot, rely on small excerpts or user submitted summaries of online content in order to create lists of the best new content on the web.

But none of those aggregation sites, including Google News, uses as much of a percentage of copyrighted content as The Huffington Post does.

Is this right? Is the Huffington Post simply the future of journalism? Is Journalism Ethics dead? Click here to comment:

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