Results tagged “newspapers”

Fair Use for Fair People

April 8, 2009

Worth noting: Both independent bloggers on the web and the Associated Press are in the news this week for asking for appropriate credit for their work when it's excerpted for fair use by online news aggregators. But the web natives frame their argument in terms of respect for the reader and defending the credibility of the information being published, assuming correctly that their businesses will grow if they honor these principles. In contrast, the AP leads with its business argument first, establishing an atmosphere of legal threats and aggrieved arguments about licensing fees with no mention of what readers want, or what respect they have for the very stories they're ostensibly fighting to present. Hijinks ensue.

A Basic Disconnect

Andy Baio collected some reactions from Matt Haughey, Merlin Mann and Joshua Schachter on having their recent works excerpted at length, republished on the Wall Street Journal-owned AllThingsD, and arguably being misrepresented as contributors to a site they don't actually participate in.

For indies like John Gruber, Matt Haughey, or Merlin Mann, they're more concerned about the appearance of being affiliated with a publication without their consent. Merlin wrote, "It reflects a basic disconnect about what we're really 'selling' when we self-publish. Obviously, I'm not selling paper or plastic discs or even words. I'm selling me."

None of the writers Andy interviewed (and, by way of disclaimer/boasting about how proud I am of their success, I count all of these guys as friends) balked about being linked to, or was even quoted mentioning compensation for the ads that were run next to the excerpts of their work. Indeed, the refrain from each of these web experts was that they wanted clarity about the presentation of their work, and a completely unambiguous disclaimer about how their words ended up on those pages.

In short, each of these guys was concerned about two things:

  • Protecting their credibility and reputation
  • Making sure the information being communicated to a reader was absolutely transparent in terms of sourcing and accountability


These requests for clarity from the bloggers were made even when they might negatively impact revenues for their individual websites. Contrast this, then with the Associated Press reaction to a directly analogous situation of being excerpted and linked to by aggregator sites like Google News and, presumably, AllThingsD.

“We can no longer stand by and watch others walk off with our work under misguided legal theories,“ Singleton said at the AP annual meeting, in San Diego.

As part of the initiative, AP will develop a system to track content distributed online to determine if it is being legally used. AP President Tom Curley said the initiative would also include the development of new search pages that point users to the latest and most authoritative sources of breaking news.

The Associated Press announcement addresses pricing, licensing, and legal threats. There is no statement made about the credibility of the information being published through these online channels, nor whether the act of aggregating and disseminating news this way has an impact on its accuracy or accountability.

Ken Doctor, an analyst specializing in selling online information products is one of the industry experts who has been working mightily to reframe the conversation, and his quote in this BBC article articulates this view well:

The real question is, "Is it fair for news companies to produce all this content for Google and for Google to keep the lion's share of revenue?" What we should be focusing on is "fair share".

I have no quibbles with Doctor's business focus here, and Google's responded well to that part of the conversation. But by letting people who are focused on selling the news as information products lead the conversation, newspapers are missing the most persuasive moral grounding for the case they are trying to make.


If the Associated Press made its argument on the basis of credibility and reputation, transparency and accountability, as the web-native publishers have, it would be far easier to defend their desire to share in the business model developed by the aggregators. The good news is, I'm sure there are many passionate, articulate and credible members of the Associated Press who'd be willing to present a thoughtful argument to that effect, if given the platform. And the web natives who've built those successful aggregators might be a lot more likely to want to work out a relationship.

All Paper, No News

December 23, 2008

People who are into journalism and newspapers and the web and the death of print have been all a-twitter over the NY Times story today about the triCityNews, a little alt-weekly in Monmouth County, New Jersey.

I spent a good bit of time in Monmouth County years ago, when I was a consultant and had a client there, but unfortunately my tenure in the area predates the triCityNews' era of journalistic service to the community. So I was interested to see what was so notable about this little paper.

The Times bemusedly profiles the little alt because, it claims, the triCity "shuns" the web. They quote Dan Jacobson, owner and publisher of the paper, at some length in the piece. I've concatenated all of Jacobson's quotes in the article together here.

Why would I put anything on the Web? I don’t understand how putting content on the Web would do anything but help destroy our paper. Why should we give our readers any incentive whatsoever to not look at our content along with our advertisements, a large number of which are beautiful and cheap full-page ads? [W]e want people to think of Asbury Park as the center of the universe.

I don’t allow our name to be used on any kind of content on the Web — not bulletin boards or listings or anything. I don’t want anybody to connect The TriCityNews and the Internet. I don’t want anything that detracts from the paper and the presence of those big, beautiful full-page ads.

There may come a time when the Web is all there is, and we will try to adapt, and if we don’t, well, hey, we had a great run. But right now, the Web makes no business sense for us.I just get on the Web site [of other newspapers], I look at what I need to and I never look at the ads.

Right after we started, the dot-com bust happened and we have been running scared ever since. We live off the land and run it very lean. There is no debt, our office in downtown Asbury Park is very small, and we have never raised our rates, so people tend to stick with us regardless of what is happening in the economic cycle. All of us are pretty happy with our lifestyles — I was able to quit practicing law quite a few years ago — and are thankful that we seem to have secure jobs and what seems to be a good future in a pretty tough industry.

In all of his quotes about the web and his business model and other newspapers and his big, beautiful full-page ads, Dan Jacobson never once mentions serving his community, researching a story, publishing information of any utility or value to his audience, or actually committing any act of journalism.

That's not to say Jacobson doesn't value journalism. It's just that it's absolutely clear that his priority is his advertisers. Thus, I submit that the triCityNews, while certainly a paper, is likely not a newspaper. I would ask for clarification or rebuttal, or seek evidence to dispute this conclusion by looking in the paper itself, but that's not possible for those of us not physically located in its distribution area. I would invite Mr. Jacobson to respond in person here to this assertion, but I don't want him to compromise his apparent belief that the audience he serves doesn't not seek clarification of information through the web.

I do, however, invite David Carr to explain his belief that this constitutes a "ray of light in [his] e-mail [sic] inbox". I won't hold him accountable for the headline on the story; we all know to blame the editors for that. But even a lighthearted story should have at least its fundamental assertions somewhat resemble the truth.

And, as a minor side note to Mr. Jacobson, whom I suspect may read the response on the web despite his contempt for our medium: The word "plog" is currently the subject of a trademark application by They are an online concern that has apparently found a way to make money merchandising products online, even when they aren't making use of big, beautiful full-page ads. Just as someone will succeed in doing in Asbury Park, someday soon.

Related: I've rambled on about alt-weeklies and incuriosity in the past. Considering how well-known alts are for being politically liberal, it's interesting how culturally conservative many of them are.

Why do all record industry execs sound like thugs?

June 29, 2007

As much as we like to blame the RIAA for all the evils of the recording industry, leave it to my boy Prince to bring out the best in the execs over in the U.K. And mind you, these are music retailers, not even the people who, despite their extortionate ways, might actually have once helped an artist with production or distribution.

The Entertainment Retailers Association’s co-chairman Paul Quirk couldn’t help himself at an industry conference:

“It would be yet another example of the damaging covermount culture which is destroying any perception of value around recorded music. The Artist Formerly Known as Prince should know that with behaviour like this he will soon be the Artist Formerly Available in Record Stores. And I say that to all the other artists who may be tempted to dally with the Mail on Sunday.”

So, what’s the transgression that made this guy lash out at Prince, and threaten “artists who may be tempted to dally”? Prince is giving away free CDs with the Mail on Sunday newspaper. Oh, the humanity! And he’s done this before, of course; His 2004 CD Musicology was given away for free at all of his concerts that year, though U.S. retailers were a lot more quiet with their grumblings. I do like that the tension between the death of the record industry and the decline in circulation of print has pitted these two behemoths against each other, however.

Keep in mind — this isn’t some low-level spokesperson for this industry group, this was the co-chairman of the organization, one of the guys in charge. Thus, when I read this story, I realized the only one who could possibly be cackling more loudly than me was Prince himself. Aside from performing, I think his greatest joy in life is to make stodgy old guys so mad they get flustered and start sputtering.

Oh, and the new album Planet Earth features the return of Wendy & Lisa and will probably actually have some good songs, too. I am tempted to dally with it.

Zombie Media Research

February 18, 2007

I hate the abbreviation "MSM". It's almost always used by those who are lacking in perspective. We're all either too lazy to actually differentiate between the technologies and types of media, or just don't know much about media beyond our emotional reactions to it.

I don't usually blog about my process of blogging (my longer posts are usually in gestation for a week or so, some take a few weeks, a couple have taken longer than a year to write), but I thought I'd share some great links that might be useful in a future discussion of "MSM is dead" or "citizen media will conquer all" or "Are blogs journalism?" These are all tedious topics to me, since I've been having these conversations for the better part of a decade, but since the questions keep popping up, maybe I can contribute something more constructive than just bitching.

Until then, check these out:

Rich Skrenta on The Failure of We (the) Media. Skrenta, CEO of, nails it:

Tremendous excitement followed the publishing of Dan [Gillmor]'s We the Media (the conference's namesake). It accompanied the trumpeting of a new model of media by the newsy press, and the rise of blogs with attendant breathless hype.

Unfortunately, after doing the author's victory tour, Dan then attempted to put his ideas into practice in a business venture. I suppose there is some due credit for having the courage to cross the line from a long career as a newspaper journalist (observer) to become a startup founder (participant), and try to prove the viability of his business plan outlined in the book.

But, like nearly every News 2.0 venture so far, Dan's Bayosphere was a failure.

He has a lot of company. The dog's breakfast of new media startups includes Gather, Backfence, Newstrust, Daylife, TailRank, Associated Content, Pegasus News, Tinfinger, Findory, Inform, Newsvine, Memeorandum, NowPublic. The highest distinction on this list is to be one of the few still spoken of in the present tense (or present perfect -- "They haven't yet succeeded...")

And yes, I would include Topix here as well.

Over on CNN, Old media isn't dead. Hey, my link proves Paul R. LaMonica correct! But he makes the point himself:

That notion is just silly. Consider a few questions. If old media really was on death's door, then why are new media companies so eager to cozy up to established media giants?

Why does YouTube, now owned by Google (Charts), have a partnership with CBS? Who cares about that network's stodgy TV programming when you've got scores of hilarious user-generated videos on the site?

What's more, why is Google eager to work with its customers on ways to automate the purchasing of print, radio and TV advertising? And why is eBay working with advertisers to develop an online auction exchange to buy and sell commercial spots on the boob tube?

If old media is about to kick the bucket, then why is, the popular Hollywood gossip site that, like, is owned by Time Warner, launching a TMZ television show that will air on News Corp.-owned Fox stations this fall?

And why did popular social networking site Facebook announce a deal last week with cable company Comcast to launch a "Facebook Diaries" TV show?

Simply put, old media still matters.

If there are other links along these lines I should be paying attention to, particularly signs that old and new media are collaborating effectively, please send 'em along.

Newspapers Striving to Evolve

September 12, 2006

There's been a lot of interesting writing about the evolution of the newspaper industry lately, especially in the face of the rising popularity of social media. Since it's a recurring fixation of mine, I am hoping to share it with you.

First, Winning Online -- A Manifesto, by Tom Mohr, former President of Knight Ridder Digital. Tom offers the following:

I believe newspapers’ social purpose — the building of civil society in cities and towns across America through the daily output of good journalism — is worth fighting for. Securing the future of the industry’s social purpose requires securing its financial future. And I have concluded that depends on an industry-wide understanding of seven key points:

  • Local newspapers will not be the innovation source for top online products.
  • "Local” is not, in itself, defensible online.
  • The big money is not in newspaper websites, but in gaining access to top-tier product via partnerships with vertical online leaders.
  • Moving newspaper websites onto common platforms will deliver improvements in quality, cost reduction, traffic and revenue.
  • When networked, newspapers bring critical assets to the table that strengthen their competitive position vs. online-only players.
  • The window of opportunity is closing; failure to act will compromise the future of the business.
  • Ultimately, the key is leadership at the highest levels.

Closer to my geek heart is Adrian Holovaty's description of a fundamental way that newspaper websites need to change. Adrian is the best technologist working in service of journalism today, and his insights are invaluable. Having him on the team both helps explain why the Washington Post is doing such an exceptional job online, and should make other newspapers glad that they have access to his thinking. His core point? "Newspapers need to stop the story-centric worldview."

Adrian's post was inspired by Nine ways for newspapers to improve their websites, by Todd Zeigler. I fear some of Todd's points may not age very well in the future, but they're all certainly worth considering and debating today.

If you're really interested in this topic, you might also appreciate my ruminations on the impact Craigslist has had on alternative weeklies. Though it was primarily aimed at alt weeklies, there's a lot that applies to local papers in general.