Gawker ripped me off - a thought
A friend sent me Ira Shapira's angst-filled article from the Washington Post today in which he talks about first feeling giddy about having his article excerpted by Gawker, and then feeling angry.
Even if I owe Nolan [the Gawker excerpter] for a significant uptick in traffic, are those extra eyeballs helping The Post's bottom line?
More readers are better than fewer, of course. But those referring links -- while essential to our current business model -- aren't doing much, ultimately, to stop our potential slide into layoffs and further contraction. Worse, some media experts believe that Gawker and its ilk, with their relatively low overhead, might be depressing online ad revenue across the board. That makes it harder for news-gathering operations to recoup their expenses.
My response, with a few additional thoughts:
Well, yes, I think Gawker went too far. Liberally cutting and pasting isn't coloring within the lines. If you want to summarize it in your own words, and with prominent credit, OK.
And if those referring links "are essential to our current business model," then you can't have it both ways. I'd like to see Shapira propose an alternative model (he really doesn't; though he does reference the recent debate about restricting linking, that's not an alternative business model).
But Shapira fails to broach the other point -- the fact that close to 10,000 people viewed it on Gawker instead of reading his 1,500-word tome ought to raise the question of why the WaPo doesn't have its own Gawker-type site excerpting its material. Maybe consumers are telling us something, namely that a lot of them don't want to read a river of text on something like Shapira's story on a millennial generation consultant because they have other things to do with their lives. Gawker et al. wouldn't survive if they didn't meet a need.
The publishing industry seems to think it is going to force people to do its bidding. No longer. They are like water and will seek their own level. Very little of what we do is so essential to running their lives that they could not survive with only a digest.
If your business model is hanging by the slim legal thread of the "hot news" doctrine, you have deep, deep problems that go far beyond "free riders."