Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Political Blogs Declared to be “Pirates.” Arrrh, mates! Removal of News Quotes and Attribution Would Turn Blogosphere into Hearsay.

The push to turn the emerging alternative political media into “pirates” is on. Take a look at this recent NY Times article:

Online piracy isn’t just a problem for music companies; it hurts newspapers and magazines as well. News organizations are now trying to do something about the many Web sites that simply copy articles and paste them into their own pages. A start-up called Attributor … has developed an automated way for newspapers to share in the advertising revenue from even the tiniest sites that copy their articles.

Looking at traffic data, Attributor calculated that five times as many people read each article on pirate sites as on the site of the publisher. Attributor’s plan rests on the idea that most of these pirate sites depend on networks like Google’s AdSense to place ads on their pages and send them a share of the revenue.

It’s always a good idea to believe the research coming out of a company that would benefit from an exaggeration and skewed approach to the perceived “pirate” problem.

Blog “pirates” have the reputation of being news aggregators. This collection of specific reporting is a blog “pirates” advantage over the sites that originate the stories, and a benefit to those same sites that receive the linked attribution. For instance, I often go back to blog “pirates” that aggregate the most stories I’m interested in. Searching out these same topics would be prohibitively time consuming. In fact, I would most likely miss the story completely.

That is not to say I don’t understand the problem media outlets have with the "pirated" use of their business property and the threat to inhibit their ability to make an income. A progressive tiered payment plan might be a workable solution. Smaller unprofitable blog “pirates” like Democurmudgeon would be given a pass until it starts bringing in ad revenue, at which time it would share a piece of the profits.

Attributor might have the right idea. But it’s too early to tell whether their intentions are sincere, based on an attempt to bring blog “pirates” and major media together, or to destroy the blogosphere’s threat to the established media giants.

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