I visit Huffington Post on a regular basis, but I am more-and-more convinced the site is bad for journalism. The bigger it gets the worse it is. Though some of HuffPo’s content is their own much is not. In essence Huffington acts like a neighbor running his house off your electric meter. Whatever they get is at the expense of their host!
First an Internet fact of life. Because of the power of Google and other search engines a site’s importance (measured by page rank and other factors) is like money in the bank. Google drives traffic (even on this little blog). If Huffington and I post the same content word-for-word search engines are much more likely to point to Huffington because it is a more linked to and cited source.
In some cases that’s good, but Huffington’s online reputation is often built on using/taking content from those they compete with.
A case in point is a headline from Huffington yesterday, “After Meeting With Execs, Union Leaders Still Opposed to Wal-Mart.” I have strong opinions on Wal-Mart. I am a union member. I clicked the link.
Huffington’s content consisted of one sentence (a quote I think) and a link to the company that paid employees to actually report the story, the Chicago Sun-Times. Huffington’s entry is loaded with keywords to enhance this story in the eyes of search engines. They’re listed following “Read More:.”
Since Huffington added virtually nothing to this story their original headline/link should have gone directly to the Sun-Times. Instead they “linkjacked.” Huffington gets one more page view and, in some cases, probably satisfies the reader’s curiosity with their single sentence therefore cutting the Sun-Times out entirely.
Is this illegal? Probably not. Is this unethical? I don’t know, but it is very troubling because it’s possible Huffington and others like it will suck the Sun-Times of this world dry without replacing their reporting.
Other sites are similar, but I think Huffington’s model is a step beyond… a step worse than Google News or even Drudge.