Accuracy in Media

The Huffington Post, which has unapologetically made its fortune largely by aggregating stories and redistributing them as their own, has apologized to a writer from Ad Age for doing just that.

Last month Ad Age writer Simon Dumenco’s article entitled “Poor Steve Jobs Had to Go Head to Head With Weinergate in the Twitter Buzzstakes. And the Weiner Is …”  was aggregated by HuffPo and yesterday Dumenco took to his blog to complain about how he has been used and abused by the site.

HuffPo’s aggregation, titled “Anthony Weiner vs. Steve Jobs: Who Won On Twitter?,” consisted of basically a short but thorough paraphrasing/rewriting of the Ad Age post — using the same set-up (i.e., pointing out that Apple had the misfortune of presenting its latest round of big announcements on the same day Weiner resigned from Congress) and the bulk of the data presented in the original Ad Age piece. Huffpo closed out its post with “See more stats from Ad Age here” — a disingenuous link, because Huffpo had already cherrypicked all the essential content. HuffPo clearly wanted readers to stay on its site instead of clicking through to AdAge.com.

So what does Google Analytics for AdAge.com tell us? Techmeme drove 746 page views to our original item. HuffPo — which of course is vastly bigger than Techmeme — drove 57 page views.

Those aren’t exactly earth-shattering numbers, especially considering that Arianna Huffington herself has defended her company’s aggregation practices by saying that they are driving additional traffic to the original articles.

Surprisingly, though, Dumenco’s complaint didn’t fall on deaf ears as Huffington Post Executive Business Editor Peter Goodman sent him an email in which he agreed with Dumenco:

Dear Simon:

I oversee business and technology coverage here at the Huffington Post Media Group and I’m writing in response to your July 11 post about our aggregation practices.

Let me say, right off the bat, that your criticism of our post is completely valid: We should have either taken what you call ‘the minimalist approach’ or simply linked directly to your story. That is how we train our writers and editors to handle stories such as this.

We have made a very substantial investment in original reporting here, bringing in dozens of new writers in recent months. And while we will continue to curate the news for our audience, what occurred in this instance is entirely unacceptable and collides directly with the values that are at work in our newsroom. We have zero tolerance for this sort of conduct. Given that, the writer of the offending post has been suspended indefinitely.

More broadly, your complaint has prompted us to redouble our efforts to make sure our reporters and editors understand that this sort of thing is unambiguously unacceptable.

Please accept our apologies. Thank you for your time. I’m happy to discuss this further, as needed.

Regards,

Peter Goodman

Peter S. Goodman

Executive Business Editor AOL Huffington Post Media Group

For Goodman and HuffPo this is just a blip on their radar screen. While they may be a little more careful if they decide to “curate” any more of Dumenco’s posts in the future, the apology probably won’t change the way they run their business. The reporter who was suspended serves as a scapegoat and will likely be replaced by another person who would do exactly the same thing. In other words, HuffPo isn’t about to kill the goose that laid the $315 million dollar egg for them earlier this year.





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