Damien Mulley is a fabulous Irish blogger who came over to London to attend Interesting 2008 recently. On his way there, he stopped off at Conchango (where I work) to talk to us about the effect blogging was having on newspapers in Ireland. It was an interesting presentation, although – for me at least – the most interesting thing was Damien’s passion for what he’s doing (as a hobby) and his disdain for the laziness of journalists, and the speed at which they appear to descend into a very cynical approach to news gathering.
So far, so 2.0. I have absolutely no doubt that journalists will come to use bloggers as primary sources, just before their jobs vanish completely in a puff of disintermediation. That’s not to say we don’t need guides and editors. If anything we’re seeing a rise in the need for curation. But that curation can and will come from different mechanics. Anyone who is close to a national newspaper these days will see this trend being enacted inside their walls as well as outside.
But the thing that Damien said which really intrigued me – shortly before I left him to a predictable fate with Conchango’s harder-core of drinkers – was about the future of internet content after the author’s demise.
Sorry, it’s not cheery, but it’s also not something that I’ve ever really heard discussed. And it’s going to become a big question very soon.
In the old days, when a famous author would pass away, his or her editor and publisher would have decisions to make, as might benefactors, as the intellectual property of the work may be vested to future generations. Time for a retrospective perhaps, or – for the Presleys – some serious consideration about what rights must be reserved.
Damien’s comment was that he had been asked to will his (Google) page rank to another company. Damien is – I believe – a top 20 blogger in Ireland, and his site has a lot of Google juice. That juice is worth a lot of money in the right hands.
But a wider point also exists for those of us who don’t have top-flight blogs (which certainly includes me). What about all those bits of content we’re all chucking up on the web nowadays: Flickr albums, Facebook profiles, Ugly MySpace pages, blogs, twitter statuses, all that. What will happen to those when we’re no longer sucking in our breath? Should Google, WordPress etc delete them, conceal them, mark them ‘deceased’, keep them forever? Will it become part of an executor’s job to edit the ‘about us’ pages of blogs to amend ‘Tom is no longer with us’?
Who owns the page rank? Can my next of kin add loads of Viagra CPC ads to my blog?
And more to the point. When we have 5 generations of bloggers who are no longer on this mortal coil, how will Google manage to tell apart content from the living?