As a catalyst for media feuds, aggregation seems to be a bottomless well. In the latest tête-à-tête, which has Reuters facing off against Business Insider, Reuters blogger Felix Salmon posted Thursday a 1,200-word piece—the second from Reuters—accusing Business Insider and its founder, Henry Blodget, of “overaggregation.” That set off a back-and-forth on Twitter between not just Blodget and Salmon but also Reuters columnist Jack Shafer, formerly of Slate, and Reuters op-ed editor Jim Ledbetter.
Though the exchange was jovial at times, the anger felt by some of those at Reuters over BI's aggregation is sincere. “I think many people have had the experience of being ‘overaggregated’ by BI, and think his explanations are hilarious,” Ledbetter told Adweek by email. “Part of it, too, is that Blodget just won't stop!”
Blodgett does have a tendency to go on. His response to the earlier charges of overaggregation ran to 4,000 words, and he responded to Salmon's charge twice. In the first of the two pieces, he accused “the corporate powers-that-be at Reuters” of waging an obsessive attack on BI. In the second, he suggested they turn their “tiresome” vendetta on Bloomberg, which, he suggested, would be a more worthy adversary.
He was no less effusive in an online exchange with Adweek:
Adweek: What’s going on between you and Reuters?
Blodget: You mean aside from the fact that they appear to have mobilized their most prized columnists and editors in a coordinated effort to attack us?
Why do you think they’ve done that? What's in it for them?
You got me. If I were them, and I were worried about a competitor, I'd be freaking out about Bloomberg, not some tiny startup.
I'm a huge fan of Jack Shafer and Jim Ledbetter, so I hope they're joking. But I'm beginning to wonder.
Is it true that nothing makes you happier than being attacked?
I have no problem with constructive criticism and suggestions. But this Ahab-like obsession with us is just bizarre.
Do you think Reuters is going after BI, or is it just Salmon?
Reuters prides itself on—and boasts about—the exceptional quality of its journalism, especially relative to, well, you know, BLOGS. So I have to believe Felix is carefully edited and supervised and that Reuters approves of the topics he writes about. Does Reuters' brass ORDER Felix to obsessively trash us? I don't know—that's probably a better question for him.
But you did say, "They appear to have mobilized their most prized columnists and editors in a coordinated effort to attack us."
Well, that's certainly what it looks like, don't you think? Two multithousand-word attack pieces in a week (on a startup that is working hard to figure out a sustainable model for digital journalism)—followed by a flurry of institutional outrage on Twitter the moment they're called on it?
Not long after this conversation had ended, Blodget contacted Adweek again to offer additional thoughts on the matter, finally concluding, “We will never link to anyone who doesn't want us to link to them. We want to work with companies like Reuters, not against them, and we have great partnerships with dozens of them. So I just find this whole vague tut-tutting bewildering.”
Adweek reached out to Salmon but did not receive a response. According to Ledbetter, Reuters' posts are “in no meaningful way institutional.”
“I don't think he's reading the same Moby Dick that I'm reading,” Shafer said when asked about the charge of an Ahab-like obsession.