If you’re at all interested in the ins-and-outs of online publishing, this Buzzfeed story is a must-read.
For Google, this is far more damning: Google is the table. A site should not be able to auto-post a stub of another story and immediately outrank it in the world’s most popular and powerful search engine — that is a bug. And on the surface, it seems like an easy one to fix: One story was posted days later, with a small word-for-word excerpt of the other’s text. Even to a machine, it seems like it ought to be easy to tell which one of these posts is derivative of the other.
I would absolutely expect in the next couple years for major news organizations (whoever they may be) to pressure Google to not just treat the time something was published as one signal among many but as a primary signal in determining search rankings. While there may be good reporting that comes later in the lifecycle of a story, the first mover/reporter should absolutely be given extra weight, if for no other reason than to present an accurate online representation of how the story evolved over time.
On a similar topic, the “curation/aggregation” debate has a new case study as Brian Morrisey of DigiDay got into it with Business Insider’s Henry Blodget when BI took a screengrab of a Digiday story along with a copied/pasted paragragh and posted it to their site. While BI did include a link back to the original story it’s clear that the benefits, at least in terms of the pageviews the online media economy truly runs on, went to BI and not DD, which got a paltry amount of traffic out of it.
So yes, search engine rankings are one solution, though it may be a short term one. Longer term it would be great if we moved away from the pageview economy, though the paywalls that are currently seen as an alternative aren’t a perfect solution either. I’m not sure what the answer is but there has to be a better way to reward the people writing original pieces and doing good journalism as opposed to the ones that have gamed the system to benefit off other people’s work, all the while saying the victim should be “grateful” for publicity that doesn’t mean anything and doesn’t sustain the work they’re doing.