As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Monday, April 06, 2009

Solution For The Newspaper Industry: Charge People Until They Go Away And Get It For Free Elsewhere

The amusing part of this is the frame the writer puts on this, suggesting that the AP can't stand aggregators who drive traffic through links to the AP and their network of sites.

Taking aim at the way news is spread across the Internet, The Associated Press said on Monday that it will demand that Web sites obtain permission to use the work of The A.P. or its member newspapers, and share revenue with the news organizations, and that it will take legal action those that do not.

Associated Press executives said the policy was aimed at major search engines like Google, Yahoo and their competitors, and also at news aggregators like the Huffington Post, as well as companies that sell packaged news services. They said they do not want to stop the appearance of articles around the Web, but to exercise some control over it and to profit from it. The A.P. also said it is developing a system to track news articles online and determine whether they were used legally.

Good luck with that! You can have 50% of the nothing I make off this site, sound good?

There is no revenue to be had in the content itself. There never has been. Newspapers historically made their money not off the subscription price, but from the ad revenue tied to getting hundreds of thousands of people to view their product. And the aggregators GENERATE the traffic that drives the ad revenue online. The AP wants a cut on the action, after charging news organizations really exorbitant rates to provide the content in the first place.

Meanwhile, at the same time that the AP cries poor about all the riches being made off their content, their member organizations are meeting clandestinely to discuss how to charge users for their content, which means they want a dip from Google and the aggregators and a second dip from the end-users. And they're doing it in violation of antitrust laws.

Allen Mutter reports that a number of CEO currently in San Diego for the Newspaper Association of America convention are holding a clandestine meeting to discuss, among other topics, whether and how to start charging readers to view articles and other content online. The presence of a lawyer in meant to ensure the conversation doesn’t stray into antitrust territory, whatever David Carr might wish. Still, one might think these executives — whose companies are, after all, competitors — might wish to keep any brilliant ideas about monetizing journalism to themselves. Chances are this confab will be less a workshop than a support group.

Look, this is the same argument that the music industry has been having for years. They've tried to plug every hole to safeguard free music file sharing and it hasn't worked. The industry model, in short, has changed. Walling off content has failed every single time it's been tried, and it's sure to fail again in this case. And it's not even the core problem. Newspapers need to figure out how to scale up their online revenue relative to where it was in print. These other schemes are not sustainable.

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