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Content Attribution Becomes Hot Topic at South by Southwest

Photo courtesy of Geoff Livingston via Flickr

What is the true market value of providing attribution in today’s online media landscape?  Will a set of common behavioral rules for the market fairly address all interests?  Would an across-the-board attribution system help in creating economic value for all involved parties? As PR pros become content creators, we need to be aware of not only protecting the content we create, but also making sure we attribute a piece of content that came directly from another source or giving a nod to a source that inspired further thought or inspiration.

To give credit where credit is due, Simon Dumenco, media columnist for Ad Age, and Maria Popova, editor of Brain Pickings and Explore, announced two different approaches at the South by Southwest Interactive festival in Austin. David Carr wrote an excellent summary of the two approaches in the New York Times this week.

Dumenco has formed a committee, The Council on Ethical Blogging and Aggregation, which aims to establish standards for aggregation, or best practices, when it comes to linking, summarizing and aggregating. The committee includes Elizabeth Spiers, editor in chief of The New York Observer; Mark Armstrong, a founder of Longreads.com; Jacob Weisberg, chairman and editor in chief of Slate; David Granger, editor in chief of Esquire; James Bennet, editor in chief of The Atlantic; and Adam Moss of New York Magazine. The last three all oversee Web sites that are content aggregators themselves.

“This is not an anti-aggregation group, we are pro-aggregation,” Dumenco told Carr. “We want simple, common-sense rules. There should be some kind of variation of the Golden Rule here, which is that you should aggregate others as you would wish to be aggregated yourself,” Dumenco added to Carr.

Maria Popova announced the Curator’s Code which is a “suggested system for honoring the creative and intellectual labor of information discovery by making attribution consistent and codified, celebrating authors and creators, and also respecting those who discover and amplify their work” according to the Website. Basically, the Curator’s Code uses symbols in hopes to make attribution more standardized. The first symbol, which looks like a sideways S, is shorthand form for using “via.” It indicates a piece of content came directly from another source. The second symbol, which looks like a curved arrow, is shorthand form for using “HT” or a “hat tip.” It indicates a nod to a source that inspired further thought or inspiration. The Curator’s Code provides the symbol, but the blogger or writer has to put in a hyperlink behind it.

Not only do we need to attribute written content, but also images. Creative Commons has already created a system similar to Popova’s, which has been in use for sometime. To read more on attributing images, check out Jay Krall’s post on harnessing Creative Commons work here.

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