Strong opinions, weakly held

Where does blogging stop and republishing start?

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.


  1. I didn’t bother to read BI’s response to Marco, as I generally don’t bother to read sites like BI or HuffPo at all. (I’m also not going to bother to type out their full names on my iPhone.)

    I think it’s ludicrous that BI would claim Instapaper is in the same business they’re in. Instapaper doesn’t pretend to be the creator of the content. The only similarity is that both could be seen as preventing the reader from being exposed to the original site’s advertising, which reveals BI’s real priorities. (Of course making money is a top priority for a business… but some prioritize it over integrity.)

  2. It’s a shame this new-fangled web technology doesn’t have a way to point to an interesting article without republishing 3/4 of it and its juicy ad targeting keywords. Someone should invent something like a link. A superlink. A hyperlink. Yeah, that’s a good name for it. Hyperlink.

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