Most of what Scott Karp has been posting lately seem to be thinly veiled ads for a new software package he's trying to sell to news organizations. I don't have a problem with that but it makes it hard to criticize him because I know he's tied his livelihood to his point of view.
The problem is, I think that point of view is dangerously misguided. A good example of this is his most recent post entitled "Drudge Report: News Site That Sends Readers Away With Links Has Highest Engagement" where he says...
There are two main reasons why news sites are reluctant to send readers away by linking to third-party content. First, you shouldn’t send people away or else they won’t come back to your site. Second, a page with links that sends people away has low engagement, which doesn’t serve advertisers well.
But if you actually look at the data, both of these assumptions are completely wrong.
Drudge isn't what I would call a "News Site" in that it doesn't produce original material. It's an aggregator that hunts down valuable links and presents them to it's reading audience. So it's primary goal is to "send people away" and it's good at that.
But Mr. Karp is making a huge leap when he then tries to apply that rule to news sites.
A site like the New York Times produces it's own content and in doing so is competing with other sources for that information. So to send people away means to send them to their competitors because their business model is completely different from that of a site like Drudge. They sell their knowledge and quality writing while Drudge sells his ability to find other people's knowledge and quality writing.
These are two completely different businesses with two completely different skill sets.
Essentially Mr. Karp is comparing an Apple to an Orange and saying the Orange should be eliminated because more people like Apples. The contention is ridiculous on it's face.
Again, apologies to Mr. Karp who is betting his business on the strategy of turning news organizations into aggregators but it just makes no sense. People like having multiple view points to choose from and it's just insane to suggest a site like the New York Times would stop producing original content and just provide a link to someone else instead.
That's just not what they do.
His argument does make one important point and that is the value of the aggregator. As information gets more and more overwhelming we're going to see quality aggregators of that information become more and more valuable.
But that fact doesn't mean that everyone should or even could become an aggregator.
Addendum: Mr. Karp has been cagey about all the details of his startup so anything said above is my impression of what it is based on my very limited knowledge. I could be completely off base on how his startup works.
2nd Addendum: A couple of e-mails encouraged me to explain myself a little further on one point. I said I thought Mr. Karp’s philosophy is “dangerously misguided” but I didn’t really explain why I thought that was the case.
Essentially, if I understand Mr. Karp’s philosophy right, he’s trying to encourage media outlets to not write on topics that have already been written. This is a variation of his “Content Conservation Movement” idea from a while back.
The problem with this is that writers, by their human nature, are (a) not as objective as they think they are and (b) not as thorough as they think they are. I know I often have to read several news stories to get the whole picture on a given issue because writers choose to leave things out. In a world where everyone is aggregating to one or even just a few content sources you lose those multiple voices and in doing so you start to lose the whole picture. Mr. Karp’s best case scenario is one in which people are flat out denied the clearest picture because there aren’t enough content sources to provide it.
That is something I consider dangerous.