Friday, September 4, 2009

First thing we do, we kill all the aggregators

Mark Cuban has another idea to save newspaper, reports's Daniel Lyons: Kill the aggregators.

Most blogs (like this one) thrive by poaching someone else's work, linking to it, then riffing on it -- at no cost to either blogger or reader. (See, I'm doing it now.) Cuban, the billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks and co-founder of HDNet, has a simple idea to stop the pilferage and drive readers back to the original source: Block the links. From Lyons' story:

Cuban's advice: declare war on the "aggregator" Web sites that get a free ride on content. These aggregators—sites like Drudge Report, Newser, and countless others—don't create much original material. They mostly just synopsize stuff from mainstream newspapers and magazines, and provide a link to the original.

Think about this for a minute. The aggregators and the old-media guys are competing for the same advertising dollars. But the aggregators compete using content that the old-media guys create and give to them at no cost. This is insane, right? It's like fighting a war and supplying the enemy with guns and bullets.

But this, we are told, is how the Internet must operate—it's the spirit of the Web, where everything is freely shared. Cuban says that's hogwash. He says the media companies should kill off these parasites by using a little piece of software that blocks incoming links from aggregators. If the aggregators can't link to other people's stories, they die. With a few lines of code, the old-media guys could snuff them out.

Of course, the block only works if every outlet agrees to do it. And it seems to me that such collusion could play fast and loose with the first amendment. But he had another idea for saving journalism -- saving journalism being synonymous with journalists making money. Read about it here, a simple plan to turn the newspaper's site into a supermarket where you can buy anything from DVDs to flowers to special reports, deliverd to your desktop or your doorstep. That plan, it just could work.

Of course, there's another way to put aggregators out of action, but they have to do it to themselves. Simply load up the site with lots of moving junk: ads, pop-ups, slides, videos. All of which can lead to a prolonged and ugly date with the spinning beachball -- and web-rage, too.

Oh wait. That's just me. bk

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