Kent Anderson of the Scholarly Kitchen recently wrote a post that discusses the changing notion of online content quality.
Anderson examines a number of different takes from sources like the Columbia Journalism Review and PaidContent.org and the notion that the quality of online content is inherently different from that of print magazines.
“Online editors treasure speed and audience first and foremost, so spend less time fact-checking and copy editing. And when they correct errors, they do it quickly and quietly unless it’s egregious.”
Anderson also examines Ben Elowitz’s article on how online readers no longer value the same quality factors. Elowitz provides several benchmarks of quality that he believes should be rethought going from print to online publishing.
These benchmarks include credentials, correctness, craftsmanship and objectivity.
Elowitz states that these factors of quality are no longer relevant based on the demands of online users:
“So why does traditional media get it wrong here? Because they’re using a definition of quality that made sense for the world of Publishing 1.0, from Gutenberg until 1995. But for Publishing 2.0, it’s about as useful as the cubit is in modern architecture.”
Elowitz is right in many respects – as long as users can get what they want, when they want it, they should be able to sift through the information on their own to determine value.
However, originality is one major characteristic of quality that is not discussed here. Originality means that a piece of published content is not plagiarized, and if it does take from other sources they are properly attributed.
Verifying a piece of content to be completely original is something that the average internet user cannot do. Simply copying and pasting a passage into Google won’t bring up content matches that are offline or in proprietary databases.
On or offline, it is a publisher or web site’s responsibility to ensure that the content they publish is original.
Maintaining a standard of originality is integral because it protects an author’s intellectual property. It also ensures that creativity continues to be a driving force in determining the best content out there – not who has the better ability to copy, paste and re-distribute.
There is a difference between fact checking and originality checking.
Although readers should have some responsibility to determine fact from fiction – they cannot and should not have to distinguish original content and plagiarism.