US paper sets limit for free local articles

In a hint at the thinking behind the New York Times’ paid content strategy, a local paper it owns will allow subscribers to read all news content, but non-subscribers will be asked to pay after viewing a “predetermined number of staff-generated local news articles“. The Times owned Worcester Telegram & Gazette writes:

After users pass that limit, they will be asked to pay a monthly charge or buy a day pass. The price and threshold have not been determined.

The article states that most content on the site will remain free with the pay meter being set only for content produced by the Telegram & Gazette news staff.

This is yet another refinement in the paid content strategies being proposed, and it moves further away from the kind of binary, universal paywall versus free argument. The binary argument makes good copy, a nice bit of media biz argy bargy, but it hasn’t done much to help the failing fortunes of the newspaper business. Besides, most sensible people in the business know that a more sophisticated, hybrid model has a greater chance of success.

I’m not familiar with the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. The big questions for me are around how much original content they produce on a given day and the competition they face from local radio and television. The bulk of their website will remain free even for non-subscribers. Will the staff content be enough of a draw to get people to pay? We shall see, but it will be great to get some data from an increasing number of experiments so that the paid content discussion moves past some of the faith-based decision making stage.

iPad app pricing: You’re not fooling consumers

As I mentioned in one of my comments on my previous post about iPad app pricing, the gap between the value assigned by publishers and the value perceived by consumers was one of the big issues in terms of paid content.

Now, we’ve evidence of this. Mediaweek is reporting that “Mags Get Pushback on Per Issue Price on iPad“. They quote this comment on Time magazine’s app.

As one customer of Time magazine’s app ($4.99 single issue) wrote, “Not to put too fine a point on it, but they’re … passing the savings on distribution and raw materials to themselves. I can get 56 issues of the paper version for $20. How am I supposed to feel about this?”

Some consumers also misunderstood the pricing, thinking that the per issues pricing was actually a subscription. They also quoted an unhappy, although not antagonistic, comment from a Popular Science customer, who wanted to be ‘help’ and buy the iPad edition but couldn’t bring himself to pay the $4.99 per issue price. Sara Öhrvall, director of research & development at Bonnier Corp., publisher of Pop Sci, put a brave face on it saying that they were working to prove the worth of the per issue price. She said:

We have to do a lot of work to recreate the magazine for the iPad.

However, that’s the problem. Rather than recreating the magazine for the iPad, why not think about the iPad how it changes what you can offer. This has been the problem when it comes to digital content. Most content creators think of recreating a legacy experience instead of creating a new experience. We have digital audiences now. They are natively digital. They don’t want a magazine experience on an iPad. They want a premium digital experience delivered on their device.

That they might pay for, although it’s doubtful that they will pay more than you’re charging them for a print experience. You’ve got a long way to go to prove that to consumers.

iPad app pricing: A last act of insanity by delusional content companies

Looking at the iPad app rollout, you can easily separate the digital wheat from the chaff in the content industries, and you can see those who are developing digital businesses and those who are trying to protect print margins and who see the iPad as a vertical, closed model to control and monetise content.

There are those who believe that they sell content and that they should be compensated for it. Just as with the music industry, they couch this in terms of repaying content creators, when it really is more about wistfulness for the days of double-digit profit margins.

Those who view their primary business as selling content believe that not only can they charge for it but that they can actually charge the same or more for it, just because it is on the iPad. Time, for example, is charging $4.99 a week for their iPad ‘magazine’.

Scott Karp, CEO of Publish2 and editor of Publishing2.0, put it as clearly as it needs to be put on Twitter:

Paying $4.99 for magazine on newsstand includes cost of printing/distribution. Now you pay for iPad instead, so magazine should cost less.

What do you get for $4.99 a week?

Unique interactivity including landscape and portrait mode, scroll navigation and customizable font size

Oh, I’ve never seen that in a mobile web browser, I say with incalculable levels of sarcasm. That’s like morons in the 90s having Java animation that you actually couldn’t do anything with and calling that interactivity. You think that’s insane and delusional, just wait, it gets even better! No content sharing on the app, which I’m assuming means you can’t bookmark or Tweet your favourite stories, and you’ll have to buy and download the app every single week. There is also no indication that they will charge for their now free iPhone app or their website.

Note to Time digital strategists: Sorry caching your site so I can take it with me when I’m on the move isn’t a feature worth your premium pricing. I do that now, and have done it for years, with an open-source app called Plucker and an aging Palm T3. I’m truly sorry. Do you actually use the internet or digital devices or do you just indulge your bosses’ angry fantasies about the good old days?

Let’s look to Rupert Murdoch’s proud paid content pioneer, the Wall Street Journal. What is the Wall Street Journal selling? The past. Alan Murray, deputy managing editor and executive editor, online for the Wall Street Journal, says on MarketWatch:

We have come up with a version of the Wall Street Journal on the iPad that I think is closest you get to a newspaper reading experience on a digital device.

To be fair to Murray, he goes on to say that anyone giving their content away for free on the web won’t be able to convert those readers on the web to paid readers on the iPad. Murray says:

You have these apps, but you also have a web browser. So I don’t see how any newspaper that is giving its content away for free on the web is going to be saved by the iPad because the iPad makes it easier to access that free content.

Unless the Wall Street Journal’s app not only delivers me a ‘newspaper reading experience’ (which I frankly am not missing anyway) but also picks my stocks for me so that I can retire next year, I’m not going to pay $17.99 a month for it when I can subscribe to their website for $1.99 a week. I didn’t work on a journalist’s salary and still manage to be in a financially secure position by giving money away to grumpy old media moguls like Murdoch.

Paul Kedrosky, venture capitalist and private equity investor who writes the blog Infectious Greed, said on Twitter:

Paying $17.29/mo for WSJ iPad app should disqualify you for something important, like being allowed to use money.

As I’ve said before, Murdoch for all of his brash brilliance has no understanding of the economics of digital businesses. I give him props for still having the power to shift the discussion, and I think that his paywall strategy at the Times might help it stem its £250,000 a day losses. However, his paywall strategy is a defensive move, not a long term strategy. Unless he starts building credible digitally-focused businesses as soon as the paywall brings in some cash to stabilise the business, it will be a brief pause on the path to collapse.

Now, let’s look at other strategies for the iPad. Let’s look at the FT. Robert Andrews, UK editor of paidContent, says that the FT secured sponsorship that allows it to offer its iPad app for free for two months, after which time they will shift to subscription model with the promise of additional features. Much cleverer.

Suw and I talk often that one thing really lacking when it comes to digital content is commercial experimentation. The FT securing sponsorship for a free app for two months is a good step at not only experimenting with content but also with payment models. The Economist earlier this year released a report on social networking, allowing users to download it for free and giving sponsor prominent credit for the offer. This is clever. Premium sponsorship opportunities for special content or services.

Look at the development thinking behind National Public Radio’s iPad app. They did market research and found that up to 5% of their audience were planning on buying an iPad. They knew what the opportunity was. They also used iPad development to improve the experience for visitors coming from search or social networking services, explains Kinsey Wilson, senior vice president and general manager of NPR Digital Media.

Compare the strategies and thinking. On the one hand we have a set of pricing models that deliver marginal value for premium prices and show very little that differentiate themselves from the web experience, although they expect to charge more. These pricing models are based on a sense of entitlement to set pricing as it was in the days of print. I won’t even call them strategies because they lack any kind of realistic strategic thinking.

On the other hand we have a set of strategic pricing structures. NPR takes a realistic look at the commercial potential, does market research and develops its app not just for a single device but also as a chance to make improvements to their overall service. The FT experiments not just with content but also with the commercial strategy.

In terms of who is positioning themselves for the future by delivering value to their audiences and experimenting with business models, it’s clear. If any company thinks that the iPad will allow them to rebuild the monopoly rent pricing structure of the 20th Century, then you’ve really fallen prey to the Steve Jobs’ reality distortion field, and you’ve blown yet another chance to build a credible digital business. However, I’ve got a game you might want to check out, Final Fantasy.


Just a quicky: Stephanie Booth has a great post on paid vs free content, taking the kind of sensible and level-headed approach that I am failing to see from most media companies. Key for me was this bit:

This is a tough message to pass on to a client: “The money you’re paying me to write is actually marketing money. The content I provide will add value to your website for years to come, and help build your reputation and credibility. How much is that worth?” It’s not just words on a screen, disposable stuffing like so much of what is unfortunately filling our newspapers today. Scanned today, gone tomorrow. Great writing, online, has no expiry date.

Dead right.

Poynter asks: Are journalists giving up on newspapers?

The Poynter Institute in the US hosted an online discussion asking if journalists are giving up on newspapers after high-profile departures there including Jennifer 8. Lee, who accepted a buy out at the New York Times, and Anthony Moor, who left newspapers to become a local editor for Yahoo. Moor told the US newspaper trade magazine Editor & Publisher – which just announced it is ceasing publication after 125 years:

Part of this is recognition that newspapers have limited resources, they are saddled with legitimate legacy businesses that they have to focus on first. I am a digital guy and the digital world is evolving rapidly. I don’t want to have to wait for the traditional news industry to catch up.

This frustration has been there for a while with digital journalists, but many chose to stay with newspapers or sites tied to other legacy media because of resources, industry reputation and better job security. However, with the newspaper industry in turmoil, now the benefits of staying are less obvious.

Jim Brady, who was the executive editor of but is now heading up a local project in Washington DC for Allbritton Communications, said on Twitter:

A few years ago, the risk of leaping from a newspaper to a digital startup was huge. Now, the risk of staying at a newspaper is also huge.

Aside from risk, Jim echoed Moor’s comments in an interview with paidContent:

Being on the digital side is where my heart is. Secondly, I think doing something that was not associated with a legacy product was important.

In speaking with other long-time digital journalists, I hear this comment frequently. Many are yearning to see what is possible in terms of digital journalism without having to think of a legacy product – radio, TV or print. There is also the sense from some digital journalists that when print and digital newsrooms merged that it was the digital journalists and editors who lost out. In a special report on the integration of print and online newsrooms for Editor & Publisher, Joe Strupp writes:

Yet the convergence is happening. And as newsrooms combine online and print operations into single entities, power struggles are brewing among many in charge. More and more as these unifications occur, it’s the online side that’s losing authority.

It’s naive to think that these power struggles won’t happen, but they are a distraction that the industry can ill afford during this recession. In the Editor & Publisher report, Kinsey Wilson, former executive editor of USA Today and editor of its Web site from 2000-2005, said that during the convergence at USA Today and the New York Times:

We both had a period of a year or two when our capacity to innovate on the Web stopped, or was even set back a bit

Digital models are emerging that are successful. Most are focused and lean such as paidContent (although it has cut back during the recession, I’d consider its acquisition by The Guardian, my employer, as a mark of success) and expanding US political site Talking Points Memo. There are opportunities in the US for journalists who want to focus on the internet as their platform.

Back to the Poynter discussion, Kelly McBride of Poynter said during the live discussion:

I talk to a lot of journalists around the country. I don’t think they are giving up journalism at all. I do think some of them have been let down by newspapers. But a lot are holding out. They are committed to staying in newspapers as long as they can, because they are doing good work.

It’s well worth reading through the discussion. I am sure that many journalists have some of the same questions.

What was the verdict? Poynter discussion - Are journalists giving up on newspapers?

Landrush for local: NowPublic, Everyblock and now

A common joke amongst journalists is that all we need is two examples to proclaim it a trend, but we’ve got much more than that when it comes to rush to build local media empires in the US. In June, AOL bought two local services, Patch, which provides news to small towns and communities, and also Going, which provides a local events listing platform. bought Adrian Holovaty’s hyperlocal aggregator Everyblock in August. In September, local news network owned by billionaire Philip Anschutz‘s Clarity Media Group bought citizen journalism site NowPublic. Now, we have another major move in hyperlocal with CNN and others investing $7m in aggregator CNN will not only invest in the site, but it will also feature feeds from founder Steven Berlin Johnson called the investment and content deal:

a vote of confidence in the platform we’ve built at, but perhaps more important it’s an endorsement of hyperlocal and the ecosystem model of news that many of us have been championing for years now.

Fred Wilson, a venture capitalist and the principal of Union Square Ventures, is an investor in, and he makes the passionate case for people covering their own communities.

My unwavering belief is that we will cover ourselves when it comes to local news. We are at the PTA meetings, the little league games, and the rallies to save our local institutions, so who better to cover them than us? This is what hyperlocal blogging is all about and it is slowly but surely it is gaining steam.

CNN’s partnership with can be seen as a simple response to a competitor, but with all of the deals in this space, I guarantee that 2010 will see additional deals and development. Add to this location based services and mobile, and you’ve got somethig very interesting happening.

The promise of ‘pro-am’

As Fred says, people will cover their own communities, and we have seen some interesting hyperlocal projects including the pro-am projects of MyMissourian in Columbia Missouri and BlufftonToday in South Carolina or hyperlocal projects here in London like William Perrin’s Talk About Local. I personally like pro-am models where professional journalists cover the official life of the community – council meetings, crime, sports, schools and other local issues – while the site provides a platform for the community to cover itself and the full range of lived experience there. As Clyde Bentley, who set up MyMissourian, found out, readers didn’t want to write about politics as much as they wanted to write about religion, pets and the weather. Here are the lessons he learned from MyMissourian:

  • Use citizen journalism to supplement not replace.
  • UGC isn’t free.
  • Online attracts the eager, but print serves the masses.
  • Give people what they want, when they want it and how they want it.
  • Get rid of preconceptions of what journalism is.
  • Every day people are better ‘journalists’ than you think.

Lessons learned from failure and success

Despite all of this energy and experience, hyperlocal has still seen more high profile failures than successes such as Backfence and the Loudoun Extra project by the Washington Post. Even in those failures, there are lessons to be learned. Mark Potts who was behind Backfence said that one frequent mistake of hyperlocal projects is that they aren’t local enough.

He believes the key is to focus on a community of around 50,000 people. Covering a bigger area makes it harder to keep people interested. “You care less the farther it gets from home.”

The difficulty for Loudoun Extra was integration with and a lack of community outreach, according to Rob Curley who headed up the project.

That doesn’t mean that we don’t have success stories, but again, the secret to success seems to be a laser light focus on niche topics and keeping the hyper in hyperlocal. Crain’s New York just profiled Manhattan Media, which has seen revenue grow fivefold since 2005 and even more surprising is that ad revenue has continued to grow in the midst of the Great Recession. It’s a multi-platform, multi-revenue stream model with newspapers and websites, and their events business now contributes 20% of their revenue.

The lessons I take away is that newspapers trying to be all things to all people with no sense of place or focus are suffering mightily during the recession. Focus is key both in terms of topic and geography, and seeing as this is about engaging not only a virtual but very real world community, I’ll add my basic advice about blogging and social media: Be passionate and be real.

Whether we see a strong recovery in 2010 or not, local will be one growth area, and journalists looking for new opportunities should watch this space for ‘help wanted’ signs.

The dangerous distraction of GWOG – the Global War on Google

Rupert Murdoch and his lieutenants’ Global War on Google might make for entertaining copy for journalists who enjoy an old fashioned media war with titans going toe-to-toe, but Adam Tinworth has pointed out the danger of taking this rather noisy display of “posturing and PR” too seriously. It is distracting people in the news and information business from dealing with the real issues besetting our businesses.

But in this war of words, the true issues seem strangely absent. Where’s the discussion of how newspapers can compete for readers in the age of the attention crash? Where’s the careful analysis of the role of the general publication when their audience’s time is being slowly eaten away by a million and one niche websites that speak more directly to them than anything a national paper publishes? Who is talking about how you rebuild publishing companies to account for the new economic reality of internet publishing.

These are huge issues that are being completely ignored in the bluster of Murdoch’s posturing. These issues are critical in the development of any paid content strategy.

I would like to think that behind the public bluster that these issues are being discussed in strategy meetings across the industry, but I doubt it. I would wager that Adam and I have discussed these issues over beers more than they have been discussed in any boardroom. I feel relatively confident that I would win this wager.

While Adam highlights the scarcity of attention and abundance of content, industry leaders still boast about the indispensability and exceptional nature of their content. Too many newspaper editors still believe that their competition comes from other newspapers, not from music streamed on Spotify, TV from the BBC’s iPlayer or Apple’s iTunes or Modern Warfare 2 (which sold 4.7m copies in 24 hours). Newspaper journalism is competing for time and attention against a myriad of other choices in an over-saturated media environment. Until news organisations (and content creators of all stripes) begin to grapple with the economics of abundant content much of it of very high quality, we’re not going to take the many steps necessary to create sustainable businesses that support journalism.

Print-digital paid content debates require reality

If you have any hope of solving a problem, you better have a clear sense of what the problem is and what causes it. Listening to the paid content debates in the newspaper industry, the debate has become polarised and filled with assumptions and assertions rather than clear-headed thinking informed by research and data.

One assertion that I’d like to challenge right up front is the oft repeated claim that no one makes money with digital content. In the late 90s, I often heard editors say, “The internet is great, but no one has figured out how to make money with it.” The crash only reinforced this view. However, internet use continued to grow through the crash. Advertising shifted online, especially after Google introduced its search-based advertising model. Within a year or two after the crash, many large news sites like the New York Times and the Washington Post were making money. A 2008 study in the US by Borrell Associates found almost all of 3,100 news websites surveyed were profitable.

The Great Recession has hit both the print and digital businesses of the newspaper industry with a vengeance putting tremendous pressure on newspapers. As I’ve said, the economic crisis has reopened divisive debates between the print and digital sides of the newspaper business. To get through this crisis and rebuild sustainable businesses that support professional journalism, we’ve got to get real about the economic reality we face, not just in the depths of this recession but after it ends.

Steve Yelvington has more experience with digital journalism than many people have in journalism full stop. He fights bluster with data and even a graph. Most news websites exhibit a long tail with a hump, he writes.

Most of those visitors come once or twice, probably following a link
from a search engine or another website. They’re looking for something
very specific. They find it (or not) and leave.

Then the number drops like a rock. Hardly anybody comes five times in a month.

But over on the right side you have an interesting little lump.

That lump is your loyalists. You’re going to have a hard time getting people to pay who come via a search engine, look at a page and leave. However, your loyalists see value in what you do and might be willing to pay. Working to convert more users to loyalists and giving your loyalists some way to pay for the content they value might be a revenue model that begins to add a revenue stream in addition to business cycle sensitive advertising.

Steve argues for a sophisticated model that leaves visitors who only look at one or two pages “unmolested” but asks those who view several pages to register with the site. News group McClatchy used this model, and the FT uses this model as well.

Determining how many pages people should see before registering and paying and what to charge are unknowns, but with a flexible system with graduated fees and clear benefits, this is a much more sophisticated model than some of the absolutist, binary solutions being thrown around.

Rewarding and building loyalty

I think that loyal readers should be rewarded, and I believe that they will reward publications they value with not only their traffic but also their monetary support. I think that newspapers could do much more to convert some passing traffic to more loyal readers, but it’s going to take better design and more engagement from journalists, which I know will be difficult with slimmer staffs. Not all journalists want to engage with readers, but I think that those who do and do it well should be encouraged and supported.

To successful deal with the problems that we’re facing during the recession and will be facing once growth returns, we need more data, more research, more experimentation and more sophistication in our discussions about business models. There is no silver bullet, no one solution that will save journalism. We’re going to have to try a number of things and a number of ways to earn money to support professional journalism. However, one of the first steps we need to take is to get past these lazy assertions and out-dated assumptions about the business. Lots of the conventional wisdom is based in the print-digital culture wars in newspaper newsrooms, and it’s in desperate need of updating.

End the culture wars in journalism (wishful thinking)

Cuts at the Washington Post, primarily on the web and multimedia side according to the Politico, have brought into public a discussion that usually happens in newsrooms and mostly after hours amongst journalists. It has also exposed the depth of the division between digital and print journalists that has existed to varying degrees for most of my career.

Matthew Ingram, blogger and communities editor at The Globe and Mail in Toronto, discusses some of the specific issues at the Washington Post, but he is right in pointing out that the web-versus-print culture clash is anything but isolated to the Post:

(This kind of us-vs-them animosity) may have been amplified at the Post by the company’s physical and corporate structure (and there has been speculation that Web staff were let go because otherwise they would have had to be unionized), but you can bet this same battle is going on at virtually every major newspaper in North America. Why? Because they are caught between two worlds.

This isn’t isolated to North America. I’ve seen it across Europe, Australia and the parts of Asia I’ve visited.

To see this animosity in its full froth, just check out the comments on the report on the cuts at Washington indy, The City Paper. A commenter only identified as Sideshow Mel says:

For many years, The Post’s website was doing nothing more than posting the print articles, and hosting some online chats. But the web operation has this huge, spacious office to place things on the Internet, while the much-despised MSM reporters and editors were crammed together into an old, crappy space while actually doing the business of obtaining information and writing it. “the most productive and innovative employees,” don’t make me piss my pants. …

Jim Brady, former executive editor of, does not truck with such comments, writing:

It’s the attitude of Stone Age commenters like these that still pervades far too many print newsrooms. Instead of attempting to adapt to what is clearly a digital future, they complain about the world collapsing around them, yet demean anyone who tries to do anything differently.

As he points out, Travis Fox, who won the first national Emmy for video journalism on the web, and fellow award-winning video journalist Pierre Kattar are reportedly two of those cut. On Twitter, Jim and Ken Sands, the executive editor for innovation at Congressional Quarterly, had a exchange that is another indication of how digital editors feel about this conflict.

jimbradysp: The most frustrating thing is that Web staffers go to work at newspapers b/c they want to help them find the way to the future…

jimbradysp: And, yet, once there, they find themselves ridiculed and demeaned by those they’re trying to help. Too much insecurity, I guess.

kensands: @jimbradysp Yes, insecurity. Find fault with anything new (blogs, twitter, etc.) instead of looking for ways it might improve journalism.

Derek Willis, a database journalist and developer formerly at the Washington Post and now with the New York Times, adds details to the internal battle that broke out when he wanted to make the switch from the paper to the website. I met Derek in the spring of 2007 as he was trying to make the transition. I wasn’t aware of the challenges he was facing in making it (Derek’s emphasis, not mine):

In a very real way, my transition was held up – I (jokingly at first, and then angrily) referred to it as a filibuster or a senatorial hold – by a few people at the paper. These people, most of whom no longer occupy the positions they held then, are not stupid. They are among the smartest folks I’ve ever worked with, and I have a high regard for their journalistic abilities. But the thinking that caused the editor of the paper to become involved in whether a mid-level staffer moved to the website was, in essence, this: this is a bad idea, because it will hurt the paper. My ego might like to think that this was really true, but I think the reality is that these people could not compare the value of my work for the website to the paper because they did not understand what it is I wanted to do.

Read Derek’s post, especially if you believe yourself to be on the print side of this divide. Derek wishes that he had done more to bridge the divide between the paper and the website.

The dangers of this continued conflict

I’m highlighting this discussion because I know it’s not isolated to the Washington Post. A couple of years ago, I thought this discussion was dying out. Digital revenues were growing by double digits at many news organisations, although in real terms revenue from print still made up the bulk of the revenues. Despite a firmly entrenched belief amongst print journalists, the digital side of many news organisations were generating profits by the early part of this decade, although again, they were small relative to the profits from the print business. Sadly the Great Recession has re-opened the discussion and amplified professional divisions as job security has ended for print and digital journalists.

In 2005, I went to the Web+10 Conference at the Poynter Institute with my manager at the time, Steve Herrmann of the BBC News website. It was an honour to spend time with digital pioneers from the US and elsewhere. In 2005, these pioneers were already asking this question: How do we create digital businesses to support quality journalism? It’s worth reading Howard Finberg’s summary of the conference:

During the next 10 years, will the economic underpinnings of the current media business collapse? What business models will support quality journalism? Is the idealism and democratic value of journalism under duress?

This was early 2005 before the industry in the US entered its current crisis. Some of the best digital minds in the industry saw the coming collapse of the business model. We weren’t dancing on grave of print. We have the same goal as print advocates and most of us, being so close to the digital business, saw 2009 coming years ago. (Few of us probably foresaw the ferocity of this recession, although Dan Gillmor blogged often about the housing bubble and bemoaned the lack of coverage of it.)

We have to end this culture war and remember that we share a common goal. Suw and I see this in a lot of industries, not just journalism. People see digital strategies as mostly about technology, but often, the biggest obstacles are cultural and territorial. Change challenges existing empires (and emperors) in organisations. Organisations without a sense of shared vision will tear themselves apart as managers compete against each other for scarce resources rather than the real competition outside of their organisation. This is not to argue for change for the sake of change. But the world has changed and we have to adapt if we hope to have thriving journalism businesses in the future that support quality reporting.

What’s at stake? I agree with Steve Buttry when he says that the ‘web-first’ wars are in many ways fighting the last war. I thought we had put this web war behind us in journalism but if we continue to fight it, we will only increase the number of casualties.

AP’s Curley v Curley and News Corp’s Rupert v Rupert

The newspaper industry has woken from its slumber, and they have realised the enemy is not the internet. The enemy is actually you and me, those of us who use the internet. According to the CEO of the Associated Press Tom Curley, “third parties are exploiting AP content without input and permission”, and:

Crowd-sourcing Web services such as Wikipedia, YouTube and Facebook have become preferred customer destinations for breaking news, displacing Web sites of traditional news publishers.

I’m linking to this on one of these third parties sites, Google News, which has a commercial hosting agreement with the AP. Those bloody paying parasites!

Curley was speaking at the World Media Summit in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People. Does Curley know who added those links to Wikipedia, shared those stories on Facebook or uploaded those videos to YouTube? Internet users, you, me and millions of others around the world. For Mr Curley, the internet is a “den of thieves“, says Jeff Jarvis.

Jeff offers his argument against this view of the world. However, I’d like to stage another bit of a debate, one possible through the virtual time travel of the internet. Let’s get ready to rumble! In this corner, we have the Curley of 2009, who argues:

We content creators must quickly and decisively act to take back control of our content.

With that jab, a slightly younger, slightly more optimistic Curley of 2004 lands a right hook: “The future of news is online, and traditional media outlets must learn to tailor their products for consumers who demand instant, personalized information.” The Curley of 2004 instead sees this future from his own past:

the content comes to you; you don’t have to come to the content so, get ready for everything to be ‘Googled,’ ‘deep-linked’ or ‘Tivo-ized’.

Ouch Tom 2009, that looks like it hurts. Next up in our virtual cage match is a spry 78-year-old, Rupert Murdoch! Let’s start with the Rupert of 2009:

The aggregators and 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 content, it will be the content creators — the people in this hall — who will pay the ultimate price and the content kleptomaniacs who triumph.

Fighting back is the fighting fit Rupert “The Digital Immigrant” Murdoch of 2005:

Scarcely a day goes by without some claim that new technologies are fast writing newsprint’s obituary. Yet, as an industry, many of us have been remarkably, unaccountably complacent. Certainly, I didn’t do as much as I should have after all the excitement of the late 1990’s. I suspect many of you in this room did the same, quietly hoping that this thing called the digital revolution would just limp along.

It’s a shame to see this come to blows. These guys should really talk to each other. With Rupert 2009 on the ropes, Rupert 2005 delivers this shot:

What is happening is, in short, a revolution in the way young people are accessing news. They don’t want to rely on the morning paper for their up-to-date information. They don’t want to rely on a god-like figure from above to tell them what’s important. And to carry the religion analogy a bit further, they certainly don’t want news presented as gospel.

Instead, they want their news on demand, when it works for them.

They want control over their media, instead of being controlled by it.

Ouch. Can’t you guys make up your mind? Has the Great Recession changed consumer internet behaviour and media consumption trends? Or did the industry’s complacency finally catch up with it?