Thursday, April 09, 2009

Are the folks who run the AP and WSJ stupid, or just irrationally blinded by fear?

...or do they believe that old saw that "any press is good press", even press that makes you look hopelessly out of touch?

The latest in kerfuffle comes as various honchos from a couple of mainstream media sources say they are "mad as hell and aren't going to take it anymore" that news "aggregator sites" are linking to them without compensating them.

Those aggregator sites include Google News and TechMeme.

Now, both Google and Techmeme are capable of defending themselves:

Gabe Rivera quite rightly states:

"All successful Web publishers want their content quoted and linked," Rivera wrote in an e-mail to CNET News. "The benefits are clear. Some prefer that the quotes remain short...these are precisely the kind that Google and Techmeme use. So for AP and News Corp. to discourage quoting is a clue that they don't really get the Web and are in danger of shooting themselves in the foot."

Of course key phrase is "successful Web publishers". Do some of these complainers qualify?

Meanwhile Google takes a legalistic approach in their blog:
In the U.S., the doctrine of fair use enshrined in the US Copyright Act allows us to show snippets and links. The fair use doctrine protects transformative uses of content, such as indexing to make it easier to find [pdf]. Even though the Copyright Act does not grant a copyright owner a veto over such uses, it is our policy to allow any rightsholder, in this case newspaper or wire service, to remove their content from our index -- all they have to do is ask us or implement simple technical standards such as robots.txt or metatags.

Not to mention that they can track exactly how many millions of clicks per month they send to newspaper and other contact sites.

What really bugs me about the out-of-touch statements from the folks at AP and WSJ is that they purport to understand the motivations of the user, whether casual reader or blogger. But I've seen no data (unlike Google and its billion clicks to content sites a month).

The WSJ's Robert Thomson states:
"Google encourages promiscuity -- and shamelessly so -- and therefore a significant proportion of their users don't necessarily associate that content with the creator."

Where is your data Mr Thomson?

Because this promiscuous user is actually quite well aware of where I click and who is responsible for the content. And I would probably never read your content if I wasn't directed to it by Google or Techmeme or other blogs, etc. How's that surviving via subscriptions thing going? Not so good, right...because you can't get enough people to subscribe to pay your bills. Do you think if you remove your content from these so-called aggregator sites all those people who click to you via those sites will magically realize they can't live without you and subscribe? Or pay for your site's content?

Think. Again.

And ask the NY Times how NY Times Select went for them.

You can complain about how we've been "socialised" -- wrongly you believe -- that content should be free, or you can fix your model without penalizing sites that are more likely helping you than hurting you.

Meanwhile, this is what the chairman of the AP thinks about me, the blogger:

"We can no longer stand by and watch others walk off with our work under misguided legal theories. We are mad as hell, and we are not going to take it any more."

"Misguided legal theories". Would that be fair use to which he is referring?

Of course, this isn't the first time the AP has talked big about cracking down about linking and excerpting. The same thing went on last June...targeting bloggers, not "aggregators". You can read how well that went on this BlogHer post by Kim Pearson. I love this part of her smart report:
One of the ironies of this entire dispute is that AP is a cooperative that pools and shares content by members, in addition to the content it generates for its subscribers. In other words, even though it was created when the telegraph was the high-tech means of news distribution, it functions in ways that are analogous to sites such as Drudge Retort and even group blog sites such as BlogHer. Not only that, but in the 19th century, the AP fought it's own version of the net neutrality battle -- it had to fight Western Union for the right to have its own telegraph wires. Now, as AP sees its business model threatened by the rise of social media, it is flailing to find ways of ensuring its survival.

Back then a lot of bloggers, including me, said Well, I guess I won't be linking to AP stories at all anymore. Who wants to have to keep track of exactly how many words are OK if even 40 words is considered too much? Who wants to give them link love if they don't appreciate the love?

Mainstream media folks don't seem to get one very important thing: Bloggers don't hate you, we love you. We are very well aware that you are wonderful information resources for us. We also enjoy having your reports act as catalyst for our personal commentary. We link link link to you like nobody's business. You think we don't realize that, of course we do.

Take away your traffic from Google and blogs...what would you be left with? I'm sorry if you aren't monetizing that traffic, but that isn't actually my fault as a blogger, nor as a reader.

And you cannot stem the flood of people abandoning paper for bits, if that's your hope. Now that your user is online...and believe me, we's your job to figure out how to run your business in this new reality.

You simply aren't going to be able to turn back that clock.

So, you got your PR. You probably got your bump in traffic.

Now, what are you going to do with it?

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