Blogging is mostly about pointing to interesting stuff and, for some people, commenting on it. Whether you’re paid to blog or not, one of the real ethical conundrums involves walking the line between quoting or summarizing enough of the work you’re commenting on to interest your readers and providing so much detail that there’s no reason to visit the original piece.
For sites like Business Insider and the Huffington Post, that’s no dilemma at all. Their business models are based on essentially republishing other people’s work, as explained by Ryan McCarthy on Felix Salmon’s blog. I found that post through Marco Arment’s first-hand account of having his work reliably published on Business Insider’s site as though he is one of their authors. It’s also worth checking out Business Insider’s response to Marco, in which they argue that Instapaper and Tumblr are essentially in the same business as they are.
Ideally search engines would return links to original material ahead of aggregated material but that strikes me as a really tough problem to solve. Until that happens, aggregating other people’s writing is going to be profitable. And as long as it’s profitable, publishers are going to keep doing it.