Like I Said, Aggregation is Plagiarism

File this in the “When things are too much alike department”—and I meant to write this post last week. Better late than never, eh? Scrolling through my RSS feeds on Friday I came upon this Gizmodo story which matters to me: “HBO Is ‘Seriously Considering’ Offering HBO Go Without Cable TV“. Pranav Dixit’s piece provides no real reporting but aggregates from Quartz’s “HBO is now ‘seriously considering’ whether to offer HBO Go without cable TV“.

I recognize there are only so many ways to write a headline with quote “seriously considering”, but c`mon. Aren’t bloggers embarrassed puking out someone else’s digested food? There is something like alien culinary abduction here, and the results are disgusting. How hard would it be to get the quote, rather than lift it from someone else? What if Quart’z John McDuling misquoted (he doesn’t) such that Giz and countless other aggregators regurgitated and the social web smeared it all over their Walls? 

I’ll say it again: Aggregation is plagiarism. If you take the essence of a news story and write a heavily-quoted synopsis without doing any additional reporting, you plagiarize. It’s high time the news outlets that pay professionals to produce reported content start suing those who don’t, or simply threaten plagiarist writers to do so. You act in their interests as well as your own.

The Google free economy sucks the livelihood out of the Fourth Estate and feeds it back to the Fifth, but stripped of meaningful nutritional value. In December 2009 analysis “There can’t be a Free Web if No Pays“, I opine:

People will pay for anything for which there is perceived or actual value. The problem with digital content is the overwhelming access to stuff produced nearly at no cost—whether pirated music or aggregated news—for which online users find enough value. They aren’t willing to pay.

That defines the problem with paywalls and content that is lifted from, say, the Wall Street Journal and aggregated. At the least bloggers could do a little work. Occasionally, I will give a synopsis of another news story and credit the source, but only after doing my own reporting to confirm the information. But for many news gatherers time is a luxury when pageviews, rather than accuracy and building readership trust, is the priority.

Still, many aggregators build trust by how they repackage another’s reporting. Anecdotally, I observe that few readers worry enough about inaccuracies. They’re increasingly taken for granted.

As for HBO plans, I sold my television last month after cutting the cord. I booted AT&T and switched to Cox, which provides 50Mbps broadband for $59.99 a month (speed doubles in October). Strangely there are no taxes or any other fees. The Internet Service Provider has a great deal for someone like me. For another $19.99 a month, I can get an HD receiver, access to local channels, and HBO and Starz. I don’t need the set-top box but definitely would be interested streaming from the two premium channels.

So Cox “Flex Watch” effectively offers more than what HBO is “seriously considering” for $15-$20. I can get HBO GO, along with Starz streaming and local TV for another 20 bucks a month. What’s not to like about that?