Jessica Chapel, a one-time news aggregator, takes Ray Paulick’s popular Paulick Report, the king of racing news aggregation, to task in this blog post, The Unethical Report. You can read the story and decide for yourself if PR is guilty as charged by Jessica, but the concept of news aggregation itself is relatively new and closely tied to the expansion of social media. It is also misunderstood by many and controversial, too.
For example, when someone—either the writer, the publication, or a reader—includes a link to an article or a blog post in Twitter, Linkedin, or Facebook, it is released into the world for public consumption. Presumably, the idea for doing this is to gain wider readership for what was written (driving traffic to the source). It’s why, for example, on Twitter writers like to have their links “retweeted,” or “RT’d,” so that maximum exposure can be had in the viral format, of one RT leading to another and so forth. Aggregators, essentially, RT links, because aggregation sites—including PR—are major destinations for readers, and being listed on an aggregator can mean a huge bump in readership—the desired effect for writers. For their part, aggregators curate, or act as editors, in deciding what from a vast array of floating pieces in internet space to include on their sites, and this is a great service to readers.
Things get fuzzy, however, when aggregators such as PR cross the line from providing original links up front (with brief descriptions or the first few sentences of the post) to rewriting original work. Yes, PR does include original links at the bottom of posts when they do this, but what of it after the lemon has been squeezed dry, right? This—to those not closely familiar with what’s taking place—also gives the impression that PR has produced content (fine print link to original notwithstanding) that it hasn’t.
Jessica Chapel addressed this when she wrote:
“Aggregation doesn’t have to be that way — aggregation can be ethical. Equidaily links directly to publications with headlines and short excerpts. Raceday 360 Wire — the aggregator I built, now owned by Hello Race Fans — links directly to sources with headlines and the first few words.”
I, too, aggregate on a couple of online “papers” through software developed by paper.li. The way it works is like this: People who I follow on Twitter and designate to be included in the paper are my sources, and their tweets with links comprise the pool from which stories are chosen. The software automatically lays out the paper with some of these stories. The service is free, but there in a “pro” option that I subscribe to for about $9 a month that allows for better editorial control and the placement of four ads plus a banner.
Click here to read today’s edition of “The Best-of-Twitter-Blogs Daily,” one of my papers. It is built by paper.li on the model that Jessica advocates, with links to the original posts and original headlines. Nothing is rewritten; plus sources are duly recognized, too. Readership of this paper has grown from zero to almost 9,000 views daily, a fairly significant number.
Perhaps it’s why a writer for Daily Racing Form noticed it and recently had some issues with its inclusion of articles from DRF. He admitted he wasn’t speaking for management, but it didn’t sit right with me, nevertheless. So, for the record, I’m doing the ethical thing: removing all DRF content manually from the paper every day. (I’m doing this by hand daily because many of my sources are avid DRF readers who RT articles and posts, which go into the pool.)
I’ve found that most writers and publications are pleased to be included, but if you’re not, please let me know. My details are listed on this blog.