Content Cannibalism: Unmanageable Web Content Management

Website writers are, according to the internet, in high demand. Also according to that source, Websites are hungry for fresh content. But what people are actually reading (and writing) online tells a different story.

In my opinion, there might be a shortage of readers who want to actually read an original opinion. The internet tells us, and Google data doesn’t lie, that readers want a useful rehash of a legitimate expert or reporting of a news event.

How many sites exist to collect, comment on, and republish? Feeding the beast is a form of cannibalism often referred to as Content Sharing, Re-posting, Aggregation and other polite words for borrowing. Content Management Systems (CMS) exist to make this easier. Anyone with a keyboard, any brand with a little idle time, anyone at all can jump in, grab a story, and refresh their own page with an existing story.

The most famous example might be the Huffington Post, known for Breaking News and Opinions–and selling to AOL for $315M, as its reached peaked at 36M visitors. Quite simply, they enlist experts and/or people with interesting resumes to report and comment on what is being reported. And that is not a bad thing. Because there is an unmanageable amount of free content out there. Huff Post services our need for news served up with a little opinion and celebrity buzz.

Fellow C.O.W. (Circle of Writers), Simon Tolkien, a fine crime novelist and grandson of J.R.R. Tolkien, has a column buried somewhere in Huff Post. He has told me that he doesn’t like to post, in spite of the free publicity. It’s just a lot of work. Writing blog content takes time away from other writing. Tolkien seems to have little interest in commenting on items of interest. I suggested that he could simply comment on whatever famous trials were underway here or in England, where he was a barrister. His take on the law would be interesting. And far easier than coming up with an original idea several times a week. From what I can see on his Huff Post blog, he hasn’t taken me up on it. (He also has clearly ignored my suggestion that he combine his love of golf and his grandfather’s Bilbo Baggins and Tweet from the golf course to @HobbitHoles.)

So, is this aggregation and refashioning illegal? WSJ’s E. Gordon Crovitz  questions “hot news, a legal doctrine that determines who owns news for how long.” Now with Google Trends labeling stories as Volcanic  and aggregators pushing the most-searched to the top of their own piles in hopes of tag-along traffic, it’s just the way it is. Google Reader and Feed help us know what’s in the mountain of content even if we don’t have time to go to the source.

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