Old media tossed a bomb at new media on Thursday as Bill Keller attacked Arianna Huffington in his latest Times Magazine column.
After a great deal of false modesty, the New York Times executive editor called out the Huffington Post founder for promoting the growing trend of media aggregation.
He called her the “queen of aggregation,” which is nice we guess, before making some less flattering observations.
The queen of aggregation is, of course, Arianna Huffington, who has discovered that if you take celebrity gossip, adorable kitten videos, posts from unpaid bloggers and news reports from other publications, array them on your Web site and add a left-wing soundtrack, millions of people will come.
How great is Huffington's instinctive genius for aggregation? I once sat beside her on a panel in Los Angeles (on -- what else? -- The Future of Journalism). I had come prepared with a couple of memorized riffs on media topics, which I duly presented. Afterward we sat down for a joint interview with a local reporter. A moment later I heard one of my riffs issuing verbatim from the mouth of Ms. Huffington. I felt so . . . aggregated.
I can't decide whether serious journalism is the kind of thing that lures an audience to a site like The Huffington Post, or if that's like hiring a top chef to fancy up the menu at Hooters.
Buying an aggregator and calling it a content play is a little like a company's announcing plans to improve its cash position by hiring a counterfeiter.
Then again, some of the great aggregators, Huffington among them, seem to be experiencing a back-to-the-future epiphany. They seem to have realised that if everybody is an aggregator, nobody will be left to make real stuff to aggregate. Huffington has therefore hired a small stable of experienced journalists, including a few from here, to produce original journalism about business and politics.
(That's actually sort of nice.)
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