Tuesday, October 25, 2011

PennsNet.com: Not a blog, but very useful

A few months ago, you may recall, I was doing one of my occasional brute-force blog searches when I discovered that many of the folks linked by NEPA Blogs were having their posts stolen and reposted on another blog, without any sort of links back to their own sites. This practice, known as "scraping," isn't just content theft; it's also theft of advertising revenue, since many of the blogs from which the posts had been "scraped" - and to which they no longer pointed - had revenue-generating ads associated with them which were now detached from the content. The "scraper blog" was, of course, loaded with revenue-generating ads - so all of this content was now working for the owner of the scraper blog, not the people who had created it in the first place.

PennsNet.com - a site found by Michelle - isn't a scraper blog. Instead it's a concatenator site - or, to use the current terminology, it engages in content curation, not content generation. It posts links to news stories from other sources, as well as snippets of those stories - the headline and the first two dozen words or so. As of now it lists stories from four sources: "Citizens Voice," "Scranton Times," "Times Leader," and "WNEP." Each story links back to the original post at the original site. So with this site, it's very convenient to scan through the headline content of three newspapers and one TV station to see what stories of interest they might have, and then click through to read the complete, original story.

From a business point of view, this is a little sketchy: part of the business model of these sites is that you are exposed to ads while you are searching through content, so allowing someone to search through the headline content without the ads eliminates the possibility that someone will spot an ad that interests them and click on it. On the other hand, it's really no different from having four RSS feeds running side by side, each showing the headline content for a different site and inviting you to click through.

Not every story makes it onto an RSS feed, so there will probably be stories you would see on the original sites that you won't see on PennsNet.com. PennsNet.com also isn't technically a blog, as far as I can tell, though it may be by some definitions. But it is very convenient and very useful as a way to quickly see what is making the news in Northeastern Pennsylvania, and to have quick access to four major sources of news in NEPA.  For now I'll be adding it to the "Sites About NEPA" section of the sidebar. But first, I may go and check out some of those headlines...

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