Why Attributing A Link Is No Longer Good Enough From The “Cut And Paste” Media
People copy content all the time. It’s a big topic of debate online at the moment and it’s loosely called the “copy and paste” media. The barriers to entry are so low for publishers these days that people have built huge businesses simply by copying the content of others. Since the start of the internet it was always accepted that linking back to the original source was a good enough compromise because it gave the original author credit while also giving them a little bit of Google juice. Links were the currency of the web in those days and the system worked pretty well (apart from traditional media who refused to play the game with links). Social media and social sharing in particular has changed the game completely in the last year to a point where I think only having a link back to the original post is no longer acceptable. Here is why…
Last night I was reading blogs when Techcrunch broke the story about the big announcement next week being that Facebook were going to integrate Skype. It was a bit of a scoop because people had been speculating what Facebook would release to combat Google +. About 10 minutes later the exact same story (with a lot less detail) appeared on Mashable.
Now I’m not picking on Mashable in particular here because this happens on a daily basis all over the web. It’s like an arms race in that as soon as somebody has a story it gets picked up on about 10 blogs and all the traditional media and although some put their own spin or analysis on it there are certain sites that are happy to cut and paste (not literally obviously but with very little different). It’s more common that online sites copy and paste the content of their offline counterparts but it happens in all shapes and sizes.
Why A Link Is No Longer Good Enough
Google search results are starting to be determined by social signals as well as other factors. It used to be links that mattered but Google now counts things like tweets, shares and with the launch of their +1 button have shown that rankings are becoming more about social.
People are finding content in lots of new ways as well including via twitter search, apps, mobile, tablets and all sorts of different delivery mechanisms where links back to the source hardly matter one bit. All you have to do is look at Twitter search where it is nearly impossible to find any mentions of the original yet there are hundreds of other links to copies.
What Is The Solution?
The web is an open market. People can do what they want and to a certain extent there are laws in place to protect copyright. In the example above Mashable have done nothing wrong though in the slightest. They’ve seen a story, linked back to the original and reported it as they see fit. The huge amount of shares that it gets though are all monetized by them on their own site. A story that probably took Techcrunch days to research and tapped up contacts to get the scoop has been copied in less than 10 minutes and monetized by Mashable probably I am guessing to a greater extent than Techcrunch was able to do. As the search results show sharing is helping it get to the top of the rankings and Google + is only going to affect search engines more in this way going forward. I’m not sure what the solution it but simply giving a static link back to the original source is no longer good enough. I’ve heard people say that it’s stealing and although a little harsh the copy and paste technique of building a news organization is not far off.