Part of my daily online reading habits consists of scanning a few tech blogs to see what's new. To satisfy both my professional and personal curiosity, I'll surf over to engadget.com, gizmodo.com, tuaw.com and boygeniusreport.com and perhaps a couple more similar sites.
Generally speaking, they report on almost exactly the same stuff. Specifically speaking, they are scanning the Web then summarizing other pubs' news and calling it their own.
Today, for instance, each site is telling the same story about the new iPhone's capability to conduct video chats. They're using the same screen shots, the same details, and none of them have done any original reporting other than Engadget, which admits it has done a "cursory search on Twitter" to unearth some details about upcoming commercials to be directed by Sam Mendes. It's been a while since I took my last reporting class, but last I checked, a cursory Twitter search isn't investigative journalism at its finest.
Every now and then, one of these sites will actually break its own news, like when Gizmodo bought and dissected that "stolen" 4G iPhone prototype. But more often, their M.O. is aggregating news, slightly rewriting a lede, ganking a photo and collecting page (and ad) impressions through their passionate readership.
Not a bad business model, is it?
Though it's not the way we do things over here at OnMilwaukee.com, it makes sense, and that's why we created The In Click Network last year, a group of sites that aggregate content in the same way. These sites operate separately from OnMilwaukee.com, and don't claim to be anything other than what they are. I wouldn't call them journalism, either. I'd call them Web applications.
Because journalistically speaking, I'm wondering about the ethics of just re-purposing content. It's something we've taken a stand of against at our own flagship product. If you haven't read it here first, then you haven't read it, since unless it's accidental, we don't mine other publications for story ideas.
That's not the way it is in other media outlets around Milwaukee, however. The newspaper has long complained that TV and radio news just rip and read their content without attribution. And if I had a nickel for every unique feature story that was first reported on OnMilwaukee.com and then showed up in the newspaper weeks or months later, well, I'd be that dot-com millionaire I hoped to be by now.
But do readers care?
Do readers even remember?
I vacillate on my stance on this issue. On one hand, I don't think readers care where they read it, as long as they get their information. They don't remember specific sources since they click on, listen or watch so much media these days that it all becomes a blur. They don't have brand loyalty anymore, and most don't discriminate between blogs written from some guy's basement to expos√©s published from inside a Pulitzer Prize winning newsroom.
They get their news from Twitter and Facebook and texts and everywhere in between, and this trend is what has old-school media in a full-fledged panic. In short, why devote resources to reporting when your content is going to be stolen, anyway?
On my more optimistic days, I think readers do care and remember where they read it first, even if it's buried into their subconscious. Over time, they see the value in a publication that produces original content, and it becomes their go-to source. Or at least their first go-to source.
Using my example from above, it's why I visit boygeniusreport.com and gizmodo.com more than tuaw.com or cnet.com -- I notice better, more original reporting from these sites. It's the same reason some people outside New York prefer The New York Times over the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Some care, some don't.
These are the questions I ponder every time someone asks me if OnMilwaukee.com ever intends to cover hard news, or to increase our business content, or to write more politics articles. I usually respond that, with a staff of seven full-time reporters who publish about 120 pieces of original content each week, we'd rather not stretch ourselves any more thinly -- and more importantly, our staff is set up to cover lifestyle and entertainment news extremely well. We'd rather not expand into something and not excel at it.
But, of course, we could. Especially if we followed that "rip and read" mentality, or perhaps if we started publishing wire content like so many already do.
My inclination, however, is that this mindset sets a bad precedent. People like our work because it's our work. We call ourselves Milwaukee experts, and we take pride in that label. We should keep on keeping on, expanding vertically when possible, improving what we already do.
I'd be interested to hear what you think. Use the Talkback feature below and let me know if you remember -- or if you care -- where you read your news. Does original reporting still matter? Or is it an antiquated notion that isn't relevant in this nouveau, social media obsessed culture?
Andy, I don't know what others do but I regularly read daily a number of online publications for my information. Each of these sites bring some different news or a different viewpoint, so I think it's essential to touch them all. Many of them are online versions of print( MJS, NYT, Chicago Tribunie, Washington Post) and yes, I would pay a reasonable amount to subscribe, if they weren't free
When the issue is controversial, I look for a byline. If that byline is credible I give the information more weight than if it's a ranting raving commentator or rip-and-reprint.
I do think that the internet sites, like yours, that provide a comment by readers enhance the information. I enjoy and learn from people bringing credible viewpoints to an argument. What you might investigate is the quality of comments you get on an issue. It may give you a far better insight into the quality of information you're dispensing and the need for the coverage.
What I wish is that whoever is monitoring your comments would simply get rid of all the flaming and hate mail. These online tirades contribute nothing to thoughtful dialogue. I don't want to stifle conversation, but some of the dreck that you and others allow adds nothing.
2 comments about this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Andy Tarnoff
Published Aug. 22, 2016
I've said it for years. Door County means different things to different people. Whether your idea of this magical peninsula is nature or adventure, shopping or relaxing, friends or family - or a mix of everything above, one storyline arcs above all the rest: Door County is what you make it.
Published Aug. 19, 2016
My friend Drew Olson has a new work address. The veteran Milwaukee sports journalist / broadcaster - and former OnMilwaukee.com senior editor - ended an 11-year run as a talk-show host at ESPN Milwaukee (540 AM) last week and will begin a new chapter with The Big 920 (WOKY) on Monday.
Published Aug. 18, 2016
This Saturday, Priscilla Presley - actress, activist and, perhaps most notably, widow of Elvis - is coming to Milwaukee for "Elvis and Me," an open conversation at The Pabst Theater about the life and experiences of the original First Lady of rock 'n' roll.
Published Aug. 3, 2016
I didn't really even know I was interested in driving a motorcycle until the House of Harley invited me to take a Riding Academy New Rider course. In three days, I checked something off my bucket list that I didn't know was on it. I took it seriously, and it was hard. But also really satisfying.
Published July 25, 2016
Jessica Tighe is an appreciative person. While the Elm Grove native has worked in West Virginia, the Quad Cities and La Crosse, now she's home and co-anchoring the morning news on CBS 58. Ask Tighe how it feels and she actually gets goose bumps: "I have family here. I'm invested in this market," she says with a smile.
Published July 11, 2016
Summerfest 2016 may have come and gone, but the memories will live forever - because we at OnMilwaukee took enough photos and video to fill a large hard drive.
Published July 9, 2016
Playing before the Barenaked Ladies and OMD, Howard Jones got the 6 p.m. spot at the BMO Harris Pavilion Saturday night, and while that's not exactly top billing for an artist who had 15 top 40 singles during his career, I'll take it.
Published July 9, 2016
In a word, Paul McCartney was amazing tonight. I feel beyond fortunate that I've now seen him play twice. Now back at the office, at midnight, Bobby is writing the main review, but I have some stuff to say, too. Random stuff, so please indulge me.
Published July 7, 2016
Go ahead; get those laughs out of the way. I'm trying to write a serious review of Anthony Ray's Big Gig show. You, of course, know him as Sir Mix-a-Lot, and unless you listened to his tapes in the early '90s, you probably recognize just one of his songs.
Published June 30, 2016
If you've ever bought an official Summerfest T-shirt, hat or other branded gift, it's first gone through Dan Elias. As vice president of The Specialized Marketing Group Inc., he's managed the merch for the Big Gig for 17 years.