I’m a big fan of the Mashable blog by Pete Cashmore. They cover technology and the Web like no other blog, and they have some great writers — like Adam Ostrow, Mark “Rizzn” Hopkins, Kristen Nicole and others — but something has always kind of bothered me about the site, and I’m glad that Louis Gray finally wrote about it: Mashable often isn’t that great at giving credit to the blogs and writers who found an item first.
In his post, Louis is quite rightly upset about a couple of scoops he got, involving the site Readburner and another similar site called Shared Reader. In the first case, Mashable wrote about the site and gave him no credit whatsoever — not even a link. In the second case, Louis says that Mashable wrote an item and put a small “via” link at the bottom, something they often do. While this is a link, Louis is right that it’s not very prominent and is easily missed. But at least it’s a link.
The other example he uses is pretty outrageous, however: Louis says a quote he got from Robert Scoble was lifted from his post and used in a Mashable post without any link or attribution whatsoever. I think everyone would agree that taking quotes is pretty offside. Pete has responded in the comments to Louis’s post, and says he is reviewing the site’s linking policies, but he doesn’t say anything about the quote (although the post has been updated with attribution).
Attribution is something that has been — and is still — a long-running debate in traditional media as well. Television stations “rip and read” newspaper stories, but newspapers themselves routinely take articles from wire services like Reuters or Associated Press and use virtually the entire thing, but put their own writer’s byline on it. Sometimes they put a small “with files from” at the end of the story.
The fact that you can link on the Internet is one of the most powerful forces there is. A link from Mashable can help people find new blogs such as Louis’s, and they shouldn’t be stingy with their attribution — and they definitely shouldn’t be lifting quotes holus-bolus. I hope Pete and his team can set a good example for others.