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The Fight Over Aggregation, and TimesDigest

April 16, 2009

Today on Slate, Jack Shafer has an interesting story about the online “newspaper” The Huffington Post, and how “the media giants have put the Web’s journalistic ‘parasites’—blogs, aggregators, Google—on notice that they will no longer allow them to pinch their copy without reimbursement.” Check out HuffPo here.

What Shafer is talking about is the practice of excerpting news stories and other content, with attribution and a link to the full story. Oftentimes, though—at least in the way The Huffington Post practices it—the excerpted stories can appear, to the untrained eye, like original content. And some are up in arms about this.

Shafer goes on to outline the long and colorful American tradition of stealing stories and rewriting them (I am aware of the irony in what I am doing right now), citing the turn-of-the-century newspaper wars between the New York Journal (led by William Randolph Hearst) and the New York World (ditto Joseph Pulitzer).

Shafer then discusses how print media titans like The New York Times could learn a thing or two from The Huffington Post, and even points to an example in which The New York Times already has an in-house answer for this: the TimesDigest.

Unfamiliar with what the TimesDigest is? Well, I was, too, until I went down to Antarctica for six months to work as a dining attendant (read as: dishwasher) at McMurdo Station. Every day in the galley (dining hall) at McMurdo, there would be copies of the TimesDigest, an eight- or nine-page digest of the top stories, opinion pieces, and more (including the crossword!) from that day’s New York Times. We all read it, and failed, as the week progressed, at doing the crossword.

It was a lovely connection, while marooned down on the Ice, to the outside world and the U.S. It contains the same stories as in The New York Times, just slashed and cut down. For Jack Shafer’s review of the TimesDigest, see here on Slate. Apparently the TimesDigest is mostly distributed to cruise ships, hotels, military bases, and the like, but you can download a sample copy of today’s issue (in PDF format) here.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. emily permalink
    April 16, 2009 10:35 pm

    More irony? I read this post via Google Reader.

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