‘They’ is traditional newspaper and media publishers who are now online. And their point of view can best be summed up by (New Zealand) National Business Review boss Barry Colman who told subscribers he was drawing a line under “the
crazy model adopted by newspapers in most parts of the free world in
which they pay the enormous costs of running professional newsrooms
only to give away their content away free.”
result, the age of free, the ability to read almost anything, anywhere
online and not have to cough up for it, is something they now want to
bring to a close. And there’s a concerted effort going on from some of
the biggest guns in the industry, to try and make this happen. Consider
1 – The Newspaper Licensing Authority, which represents Britain’s national newspaper groups, wants to dole out licenses before you can share links.
idea is that if you professionally monitor the websites of newspapers
(which most agencies and in house marketing departments do), you will
need an annual license from the NLA for the simple act of forwarding a
URL of a newspaper website by email….which obviously brings traffic
back to said site.
While focusing on the relatively soft
target of people like myself who need to monitor the media as part of
their jobs, the NLA doesn’t actually have the cojones to go after
Google News, under the rationale that Google doesn’t make money from it
(news to Google I’m sure). But the Associated Press in the US does.
2 – Last year the Associated Press got in hot water
when it announced it was charging bloggers for using as little as five
words of its content in posts. The AP kind of backed down, but now this
proposal rears its head again in a different form. However it’s not
small time bloggers that are in the AP’s sights but global search
engines like Google, (Microsoft) Bing and Yahoo!.
According to the New York Times, AP President Tom Curley said “if
someone can build multibillion-dollar businesses out of keywords, we
can build multihundred million businesses out of headlines and we’re
going to do that.” And that I think is the crux of it. It’s not so much copyright as a case of, “we want some of what they’re getting!”
the AP gets money for its content to appear on Google News and the
Huffington Post, it doesn’t get anything from general search results.
This is what it wants to change via – just like Britain’s NLA – a
system where it doles out licenses before you can link back.
system that sounds to me much like 18th century trade protectionism.
Buy a license to import or export goods – or in this case, buy a
license before you can send links around.
“The current days of the Internet will soon be over”
3 – And then we have the giant of the English speaking media world Rupert Murdoch planning to charge
for his portfolio of newspapers in the US, the UK and Australia with a
News International team in Sydney looking into ways that this might
work. Murdoch has put so much behind this that Wired in its latest
issue wondered: “Can Rupert Murdoch save online news?”
According to Murdoch,
“We will control the prices for our content and we will control the
relationship with our customers…the current days of the internet will
soon be over.” So that’s that then.
Well maybe not. I wonder whether ultimately the attempts of the old guard are ultimately doomed for three reasons:
- For this to work everyone really has to be aligned. So ALL major
newspaper groups need to be in step and start charging. Otherwise, news
is news and consumers will carry on going to where its free.
The Daily Telegraph in the UK for one has already decided
that free is ultimately more lucrative as it allows it to sell loads of
other stuff onto its user base. And what the New York Times has in mind doesn’t really sound like charging for content either.
biggest gap in the charging wall however will come from online TV news
services like BBC and CNN online. With their websites being much like
online newspapers with added video anyway, they stand to benefit from consumers who simply just want ‘the news’ (as opposed to the news from The Times etc).
2 – As the Wired piece admits,
it’s all very well to charge for the Wall Street Journal, but looking
at other titles in Murdoch’s stable how about the tabloid The Sun (or
the New York Post in the US)? Will a subscription model really work
3 – The Web is the hotbed of invention. Perhaps
charging will provide an opportunity for other services to emerge,
Huffington Post style, to carry on providing free content. And really
there often is a work around to a lot of these ideas. For example, I
mentioned the newspaper licensing agency here in the UK. The NLA
intends to charge for sending links by email but not via
Twitter….well fine, guess we’ll Twitter direct message the links,
which get forwarded to, um, email.
publishers are trying to do is to turn back the tide of history and how
often does that work? I don’t think it can, especially since free is
now the norm, encouraged by none other than the likes of Rupert Murdoch
in the first place. Interesting times in watching publishers trying to
make this stick over the coming year though.
Image – Myrrh.ahn