Fishbowl DC brings us two stories of how difficult it is to conform to old journalism standards in the interconnected online world.
First, the NYT got its knickers in a knot over Ezra Klein’s liberal borrowing of their own material:
The tense discussion began on Twitter last night when NYT Graphics Editor Alan McLean questioned Klein. McLean’s former title was interface engineer for Interactive Technology group at The New York Times. He wrote, “What’s with the regular hot linking of NYT content? I’m sure we appreciate the linkbacks, but you’re including the whole graph? Taking competitor content, pasting it in your own site with minimalist attribution.” Klein had excuses: He attributes. Check. He links to the NYT. Check. Everybody’s doing it. WHAT?
The problem here is that Klein is posting the graphs in their entirety, which, ahem, makes it kind of pointless to visit the original source of the graph, even if it is just a click away.
McLean continued, “LOVE your blog, but taking a competitors graphic and including it IN your post hardly seems to do much for us.” Klein, meanwhile, says he tries to be a “good citizen” with his linking. “I also, in Wonkbook, try to do an enormous amount of linking out — much of it to NYT. I try to be a good citizen on this stuff,” he wrote. “And surely there’s some value to getting the graph (and credit) seen more widely? That’s how I view my graphs getting used.”
I’m pretty decisively on Klein’s side here. There is definitely a value to the NYT spreading graphs like the one Klein posted more widely, and it’s very unlikely that the Times is losing out on even a small amount of traffic due to Klein embedding the graph on his blog. It’s also highly unlikely that Klein would blog about the graph at all if he can’t use the visualization. Bloggers love to write with visual aids, and if one is writing solely about a piece of data visualization that they wouldn’t be able to show their readers, they’re not going to write the same post sans-graph.
However, there does sometimes come a bit of confusion as to whose material deserves credit with some of this linking. As Fishbowl points out, DC gossip blog Glittarazzi missed out on a Drudge hit due to some confusing intra-site linking and crediting done by Politico.
Way back on Dec. 7, a lesser-known D.C social scene blog called Glittarazzi wrote up a story on Snoop Dogg’s radio interview. They didn’t get a Drudge link. The next day (half a month in Politico time), CLICK’s Karin Tanabe aggregated the story, giving proper credit to Glittarazzi for originally writing it. CLICK didn’t get a Drudge hit either.
Here’s where it gets weird. On Jan. 8, Jezebel, a site owned by Gawker Media, aggregated the month-old story, giving credit to Glittarazzi. No Drudge hit for Jezebel. The next day, Patrick Gavin writes the story again for Politico, except this time on the front page. BINGO. He gets the coveted Drudge link.
Even weirder: Gavin’s story linked to CLICK’s original blog post of the story from December. What?!
There are a lot of websites out there whose traffic depends heavily on getting links from the Drudge Report every month. Politico is one of them. They market themselves aggressively to aggregator sites like Drudge. And Politico is very good at being first on stories that are going to be written up by a large pool of reporters (White House press conferences, Capitol Hill announcements, etc). Those things combined give Politico a very strong standing with places like Drudge. The problem comes when Politico does the aggregating themselves and report based on that, as in this Glittarazzi case. Glittarazzi is a medium-sized gossip startup that definitely could use the traffic, and doesn’t have the marketing department that an org like Politico has.
Anyway, this latter case seems a case of honest work on all parts, and just highlights how the web has become different. Politico freely admits they didn’t break the news on Snoop Dogg, yet they’re the ones who get the big traffic hit. Many bloggers can relate to this, but the proper reaction is to just shrug your shoulders. It’s a new media world out there.