Dissecting The AP & Murdoch Speeches Against Those Internet News Thieves
Associated Press president Tom Curley and News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch both made speeches yesterday in China that are being widely reported as an attack on Google. Having read through the actual speeches, I was surprised they weren’t as bad as I thought they’d be. Below, I’ve highlighted key portions along with my own commentary. And hey Facebook, looks like AP doesn’t like you, either.
Let’s start with Curley’s speech:
President Li, I salute you for your leadership and vision in organizing this summit. The timing could not be better. The Associated Press and I are honored to join with all your guests in exchanging ideas at this moment of profound economic, technical and cultural change.
Awesome. Any salute about the press restrictions that China imposes? But I digress….
The marketplace for news content is growing. More people in more places seek out news more often than ever. Yet, we don’t get paid appropriately for our hard work and the risks we take.
OK, this is debatable. Some people have a fundamental disagreement with what the AP thinks it should be paid for. But continue…
Free-riders and pirates are claiming they’re entitled to our property. And we face challenges in adapting to a world where our former customers – consumers of news – easily can help produce or report the news. Whether you live in west Texas or west China, news can come from tweets even before agencies as AP or Xinhua have found out and begun their reporting.
And who are these people? Any distinction in the real debate between free use and outtright theft? More interesting — when agencies find out about news from news consumers, are they figuring out a way to reward the channels that made that possible (say Twitter, Facebook, Google Blog Search?)
Next we get a long lesson on how basketball rules changed to lead into the AP looking for its own “game changer.”
In the next couple years, all news organizations face the same mission – get all the way across the burning bridge from analog to digital journalism and to make the difficult choices that this crossing presents.
Because they’ve been standing on one side of that bridge for over a decade, and if it’s mostly burned through now, it’s because they were so hesitant to cross or inept when they tried. But go on…
The changes are so radical and pervasive that after nearly 15 years of doing business on the Internet, news organizations are still testing long-held assumptions about what the other side of the digital bridge actually looks like.
From all visible signs, it’s not a place where a news organization can survive by just doing business as usual, creating and marketing content. Indeed, it often appears as if the more our content is distributed, the more our pricing declines.
Sadly, these types of speeches often make you think they’re doing just that, assuming it’s business as usual.
And yet the audience on the other side of the bridge seems to be having fun. They’re doing other things besides reading news stories – like connecting with their friends on Facebook, networking through LinkedIn, writing blogs by the millions and following interesting people, places and things on Twitter.
Even before they started paying more attention to each other than to Web sites, users had adopted search as their online compass for everything including news. That easy-to-use tool led them to cultivate new sources for what they sought. Wikipedia, once a user-generated curiosity, now sits atop the leaderboard of news and information providers with a staggering monthly audience of 60 million users.
I feel kind of bad here, like the AP is mad that people aren’t reading its news in the way that a higher power apparently intended. Whatever that is, because the AP has long failed to make it possible to read AP content on its own site.
Discussion of how to change AP’s approach to digital news quickly led to the almost embarrassingly simple idea of an AP news blog. We, like others, had in the recent past looked at this approach, tried it in limited ways and moved on.
Ironically, the embarrassing simple idea probably would have generated the AP tons of traffic and people pointing at it for years in the ways that they instead point to other sources that carry AP content or cite it.
But this time we decided to join the fray in a way that could be game-changing – look at blogging as the foundation for a model of audience engagement.
Rather than work only with theory, the team decided to put a real model in play – an experiment around the week-long Sonia Sotomayor Supreme Court confirmation hearings in July.
OK, cool. Hadn’t realized AP did this…
The blog idea served as the center of gravity for the new model, and other audience channels were connected to create an experimental new “ecosystem.” Twitter became a facility for direct user comments and interaction. Links back and forth to member news providers, recruited in advance, were included to test the blog’s ability to move traffic around a network.
The experience provided a model for what a collaborative approach to a networked news environment might look like – key ingredients being a major portal as a traffic hub, social media like Twitter for audience input and member participation to create the network effect.
The combination was very successful from all perspectives. Yahoo’s news traffic jumped 20 percent compared to the norm for AP stories. Participating newspapers more than doubled their Web traffic from Yahoo. Twitter drove 27 percent more traffic to Yahoo than normal, and AP’s blog attracted triple the traffic of the regular news story. Not incidentally, we estimate the net potential new revenue generated by the effort to be at least $200,000 greater than expenses.
Well duh. I mean duh. People in all areas have been telling the AP stuff like this for years. What took so long? Welcome, welcome, AP, to the world of doing online news right.
And we content creators have been too slow to react to free exploitation of news content by third parties without input or permission.
Random distribution of traffic by aggregators such as search engines directs audience and revenue away from those who invest in original news reports but assures the aggregators and their ad networks of a stream of revenue based on aggregation and indexing of published news content.
Crowd-sourcing web services such as Wikipedia, YouTube and Facebook have become preferred consumer destinations for breaking news, displacing Web sites of traditional news publishers.
Notice Google’s not mentioned once. Just implied as part of the “search engines” mention. Notice also that Wikipedia and Facebook kind of get put on notice, neither of which I think has been named before.
To turn the tide, AP is creating a News Registry – a rights management and tracking system.
Participation in the News Registry would discourage unauthorized exploitation of news content by third parties and promote uses that benefit participating news publishers. Implementation of digital protocols that convey rules pertaining to access and use of published news content would enable publishers to pursue individual and collective licensing opportunities.
Ah, yes, the News Registry. Of which there are many, many questions about how it will really work. Questions I’d love to put to the AP, but last I tried, I was told they were done discussing it.
AP’s members have agreed to participate in a NewsMap or a constantly updated index of original news content submitted to the News Registry to steer aggregator traffic, including from search engines, to the Web sites of participating publishers, benefiting the publishers in terms of audience and revenue terms.
Yes, we’ve heard of this, also. And if the members are required to point at AP’s stories through a contractual relationship, then those potentially will be seen as paid links by Google. And if so, then they’ll have to use the nofollow attribute or risk having the AP being banned by Google for violating Google’s editorial guidelines. The AP doesn’t get to launch a massive link network just because it’s the AP.
Finally, AP is creating a NewsGuide or an aggregated body of unique news content, curated by news editors. The NewsGuide would enable news publishers together to create a preferred web destination for consumers of breaking news, which also would serve as a conduit to related content displayed on the publisher Web sites.
I haven’t heard much about this part, but it goes with the next three points summary:
We call this effort AP3P or Protect, Point and Pay.
Step one is to protect published news content against unauthorized exploitation.
Step two is to aggregate and index published news content so that aggregators can better point their users to the published content.
Step three is to enable new content licensing models for use of the published content with support for payment models that individual publishers may adopt.
So … build their own news portal, get people to point at it, still try to pressure those without agreements or quoting the material that fair use doesn’t exist.
The News Registry will use a common taxonomy and format around intellectual property rights and licensing rules. It will reflect common understanding around the aggregation and indexing of published news content and will enable participating publishers to share mutually in new licensing opportunities whether based on subscriptions or advertising.
Which sounds a lot like the ACAP system that the AP also backed a few years ago and now seems to be abandoning. Which had the same problems — that news publishers are not the only ones with licensing concerns, and a system they concoct on their own may not be adopted by others.
There also is one more “P” that’s important. Going forward, AP will license only those who agree to the principles of Protect, Point and Pay.
We will no longer tolerate the disconnect between the people who devote themselves – at great human and economic cost – to gathering the news of public interest and those who profit from it without supporting it.
Now that feels aimed at Google, which is in negotiations to renew its existing agreement with the AP. If the AP decides Google’s not playing ball using the new rules it wants to dictate on fair use, then it won’t strike a license.
And if it does that? Google will probably keep indexing web content as it has done before and let AP file an actual lawsuit as it threatened before. Maybe we’ll get some clarity in that way.
The public must have broad access to the news, and digital distribution can enhance that access. That distribution must occur in such a way that it supports newsgathering in the public interest – for those engaged in the resource-intensive work of reporting on government actions to those who risk their lives covering global conflicts, and to all the news coverage that has the potential to help people improve their lives.
I actually think few disagree with the hard work and role in life that news organizations perform. Virtually all of them are for-profit enterprises, of course. Despite that, many would like to see them survive. But the question remains — are they doing badly because of Google / the Internet / pirates / whatever or because they’re run by people who have simply failed to adapt and are now looking for someone else to blame?
On to Murdoch’s speech, which dealt far less with news content but still had some points to highlight:
Too often the conventional media response to the internet has been inchoate. A medium once thought too powerful has often seemed impotent in the past few years. Of course there should be a price paid for quality content, and yet large media organizations have been submissive in the face of the flat-earthers who insisted that all content should be free all the time.
There are plenty of people who think you should pay for content, me included. I operated a successful premium content site for years. Murdoch’s Wall St. Journal is one of the best examples of one in the mainstream media. So the point…?
There are many readers who believe that they are paying for content when they sign up with an internet service provider, presuming that they have bought a ticket to a content buffet. That misconception thrived on the silence of inarticulate institutions which were unable to challenge the fallacies and humbug of the e-establishment.
Gosh, I suppose when I bought my TV, I thought I just got all that free stuff out there. But then I couldn’t get to HBO. Turns out I had to pay for it. HBO convinced me I should seek them out, and I did.
The aggregators and the plagiarists will soon have to pay a price for the co-opting of our content. But if we do not take advantage of the current movement toward paid-for content, it will be the content creators, the people in this hall, who will pay the ultimate price and the content kleptomaniacs will triumph.
Will that also include reporters at mainstream publications who quote other publications without explicit permission, who don’t link to them or who research stories for free using tools like Google? Would it include Murdoch himself, who said later:
A cursory search of the internet will throw up some rather vigorous and vitriolic criticism of this curious character called Rupert Murdoch.
I’m guessing he did that search on Google, which while he didn’t attack by name in this speech, has clearly been one of his targets recently. He doesn’t pay for using Google. He probably felt the summaries of that criticism that Google listed was fair use. But he also seems to suggest in the same criticism that listing pages, providing summaries and linking to those pages is something Google should be paying each and every content owner for. Such a system probably goes against accepted fair use. Certainly it would be hard to implement. It neglects the fact that anyone who wants out of Google can get out with a simple electronic “do not enter” sign that’s been a standard for over 10 years.
Also see my recent article, Google CEO Eric Schmidt On Newspapers & Journalism, which touches on some of the issues above in more depth, along with Google’s views on many of them. Also see more discussion on Techmeme.
Postscript: Also see What The Associated Press is saying to Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo from Zachary Seward at the Nieman Journalism Lab. It’s a must read. In short, in post-speech remards, AP’s Curley seems to believe he’ll partner with Microsoft to ensure AP content gets top ranking in Microsoft portal and search properties (like Bing) and that Microsoft will be getting past Google with new visual search technology. Which caused me to comment:
Google could easily say thanks, no thanks, sue us if you think showing summaries and links is a violation. The hosted AP stories, to my understanding, is something the AP wanted from Google — not something that Google cares about having.
All this continues to make me think (or be scared) of just how fundamentally off the AP seems to be at the highest level. That they just don’t get how Google operates, that it cares to point out (not in).
I know Microsoft’s search technology as well if not better than Curley. If he’s drinking the koolaide that they’re going to blow Google away with some new tech, he’s in for a rude awakening. Geez, visual? You mean like SearchMe which went offline (with no one noticing)?