Digital Media Experts: The Problem Of Attribution in Internet Media

By: Andrew Tran

The Internet has completely changed the way the public consumes media. Amidst this change, content aggregators and blogs such as the Huffington Post have risen to prominence largely due to content created by other media outlets.

At this year’s South by Southwest Interactive Festival, a major issue of debate has been the problem of attribution as related to content aggregation and blogging. Many traditional media outlets have argued that these parties are driving traffic to their own websites with content originally derived from the traditional media outlets, without providing proper attribution.

Two panels at the festival addressed this issue directly, calling for uniformity in attributions amongst bloggers and aggregators. A panel led by Simon Dumenco of Advertising Age announced the creation of the Council on Ethical Blogging and Aggregation, an organization dedicated to creating standards for the blogging and aggregating community. Modeled similar to the American Society of Magazine Editors, the Council’s main goal is to advise on best practices in the industry. Currently, the Council is comprised of David Granger, Editor-in-Chief of Esquire; James Bennet, Editor-in-Chief of The Atlantic; Adam Moss, Editor-in-Chief of New York; Elizabeth Spiers, Editor-in-Chief of The New York Observer; Mark Armstrong, Founder of; and Jacob Weisberg, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of Slate.

Many have already come forward to mock the Council and its goals. These critics see the council as powerless and another confused attempt by traditional media to structure and add barriers to speech on the Internet.

The other approach discussed at SXSW, the Curator’s Code, was received with a little more popularity. The brainchild of columnist Maria Popova and designer Kelli Anderson, the Curator’s Code attempts to nail down a system for attribution by creating two new identifying signals, ᔥ and ↬. The ᔥ symbol (called via ) indicates that information came directly from another source while the ↬ symbol (called hat tip) indicates that information was inspired by a source. Although gaining some of popularity, the Curator’s Code still faces the major hurdle of obtaining widespread adoption among the Internet community.

For more information on the discussion of attribution at SXSW, the Council on Ethical Blogging and Aggregation or the Curator’s Code, please check out these links:

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