[This has been cross-posted from my new blog, /socnets>.  If you’re not yet subscribed, you oughta be.]

The Huffington Post, a liberal web publication I’ve taken to task a number of times in the past, has once again come under fire for what is being described by some as “grubby” and “gray”.


Here’s what’s happening: You know how large publications like BusinessWeek, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times frequently have syndication agreements in place with beat bloggers, and will run their content with a small amount of branding?

Huffington Post has been doing essentially the same thing, though without any permission.

If you want a great summary of some other folks commentary and details on this, the Duncan Riley at the Inquisitr has the deets, but I’ve described the general idea of what’s going on.

Here’s my thoughts: in this day and age, I’m not surprised nor am I particularly offended by HuffPo’s practice, here.  Not only are they essentially doing what’s been done for ages in the blogosphere, but they’re also doing what we’ve let aggregators of our content do for a very long time.

I won’t go trot out my usual argument about the imaginary lines between a web based app and a web publication we define by how the bits arrive at our screens (though it’s a very valid argument, just one that doesn’t seem to get me anywhere, usually).

Instead I’ll point at two examples of where this is presently happening, and we really don’t seem to care all that much:

Nick Halstead’s Fav.or.it: We’ve all talked about Fav.or.it a lot, and for many of us it’s a nice little piñata to trot out every once in a while whenever the purists like to complain about content being used without permission. I’ve done it. I’ll go into how my opinions have changed on that in a bit, but the bottom line is that but for a little bit of protest here and there, nobody really seems to have tried to do anything about it.

To the best of my knowledge, no lawsuits have been filed against Nick et. al. Likewise, no one’s tried to DMCA their content back down.  They’re not rip-roaring along on an endless growth pattern, according to the metrics I look at, but they’re not exactly hurting either.

Point being, apparently having your content out there syndicated in part or in whole acts as source of some kind of advertising.  Who knew?

My Link Blog: This is something I can talk about with a bit more authority than Nick’s project.

As I described it when it first launched, I’m syndicating all the items from my Google Reader Shared Items feed on a limited basis here at Rizzn.com. When I looked around at the number of reputable organizations that syndicated without permission the full text of others’ feeds, I took the advice of one of my readers:

You’re a fool to pay for content AS LONG AS you can get it for free with no repercussions. At the present time, it looks like not only can you, you can do it and dance a happy jig while people shower you in golden wreaths.

When I launched it, I almost hoped it would garner a little bit of controversy, particularly given my previously loudly shouted positions to the contrary on it, if not a bit of community discussion.

So far, it hasn’t done much of either. Turns out, most people come to my site to read what I have to say, not others (imagine that). In fact, most people that come through to my site to read an article written and syndicated on my linkblog, they generally (according to my stats package), click through to the original site to leave a comment, in lieu of commenting here.

In Other Words, I Have Nothing Bad To Say About HuffPo

And those of you who know me know I’d love to nail them to the wall, if at all possible.

But the way I see it, they’re doing these other sites a favor.  Being linked prominently on a site like that which has as much traffic as HuffPo means having a lot of traffic. I know, I can personally attest to how much traffic being linked to by both highly popular political sites as well as sites in general around the popularity level of HuffPo is.

It’s generally a good thing, and in the end a mutually beneficial relationship between both the linkee and the linker.

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