Monday, January 29, 2007

HumEngadget versus RoboScoble

Engadget, under fire from Robert Scoble for being stingy with the outbound links, was defended by Ryan Block yesterday with some interesting PNOOMA estimates of the structural distribution of the problog network school of journalism:

Just for grins here’s my totally unscientific breakdown Engadget content:

60% news found on other tech sites, blogs, forums, etc. (non-MSM)
15% press releases / directly sourced news
10% MSM news (found there or editorial)
10% original feature content
4% insider info, tip-offs, etc.
1% announcements, contests, etc.

Jason Calacanis, founcer of the Weblogs Inc empire of which Engadget is a major part, argues that Engadget has a "symbiotic relationship" with smaller sites. I'm not a regular Engadget reader, but I would agree to the extent that Engadget relies on tiny niche sites for most of its content - though I suspect Calacanis might be blowing sunshine by saying it's symbiotic where "parasitic" or even "inoculatory" might be more accurate. By "inoculatory" I mean that my guess is that a lot of readers skim Engadget's bald rewrites of other stories and rarely click on the link - note that with those rewrites the ONLY links from within the story are to other Engadget pages, and the external link only appears at the very end.

The Weblogs Inc/Gawker business model is not primary journalism, it is to be a human-edited aggregator/memetracker. It's not modeled on CNET, it's more like Techmeme and Digg. I think Scoble's frustration comes from the fact that the end result of Engadget's human editors is different to the robotic, algorithmic norm of Techmeme and the memeoclones. To put it simply, Scoble prefers robots. Where Techmeme will always put the originating link at the top of the tree, sometimes a Weblogs Inc editor will decide to omit relevant pieces of primary journalism because they don't think it would, as Block says, "benefit[...] our editorial".

Should a meme's outbound link history define its hierarchy? For those who think so, there's Techmeme. For those who prefer a more granular, subjective view, there's Weblogs Inc and Gawker. For those who prefer a bunch of monkeys throwing feces against a wall, there's Digg. As for Tinfinger, we'll see what you make of it real soon now.

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