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Facepalm: It’s almost 2012 and we’re still talking about how newspaper sites need to link

Image of a guy in a Star Trek costume with his face in his hand

Adapted from team.bates' photo on Flickr

Apparently we’re still having this discussion. I mean, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but on the other hand, we’re really still having this discussion.

Mathew Ingram, for GigaOM:

There have been plenty of accusations in the past year about the Huffington Post “over-aggregating” stories from other news outlets, including a case involving the Chicago Reader. But one of the problems with those kinds of charges is that no one can agree on what over-aggregation is, or whether it even exists. If an outlet — or even another newspaper — quotes facts and includes attribution and a link, as well as more information on the topic, how is that an offence? The short answer is that there is no offence, except to the pride of the original outlet, and possibly to their view of how the world should work.

In other words, all these people who say HuffPo (et al) is stealing would also love to be linked to by HuffPo, just in the way that they want to be linked to.

It’s no surprise at all that this all revolves around money. “Our reporters did all this hard work, and you just repeated it and linked to it,” is the general argument. It’s a stupid argument because that’s been happening for years, just on TV instead of the web. No one cared for a long time because until recently, the newspaper industry was making a ton of money.

Mathew’s solution for newspaper websites that are still complaining is basically “shut up and start linking on your own, and do it better than HuffPo.” I think that’s a perfectly acceptable solution and I don’t get why it’s so hard. I’ve been talking about this for years. It seems like the only barriers to implementing a link journalism strategy are pride, like Mathew mentioned, and perhaps more depressingly, a stubborn refusal to learn and change with the times.

But whatever. The fact is, if you’re trying to run an arcade in an XBox 360 world, you’re gonna get your ass kicked. All the yelling and screaming about how unfair it is in the world won’t help that.

Personally, I’m disappointed to see newspapers fail to grasp this concept, though I won’t be surprised if they shut down. And ultimately, I really don’t care. The true assets are the reporters at these publications, so if they can make free time to develop their digital skills, there will at least be less of a loss when whoever they work for closes up shop.

Photo: team.bates on Flickr (with additional editing)

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