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Summary:

Anyone who thinks he or she really understands what the Associated Press plans to do about controlling the use of news industry content is m…

imageAnyone who thinks he or she really understands what the Associated Press plans to do about controlling the use of news industry content is much better at mindreading and predicting the future than I am. After all, the AP already has an aggressive rep when it comes to lawsuits over aggregating and intellectual-property protection so the idea of suing isn’t new. That’s one reason I asked for time with Dean Singleton, chairman of the AP board and CEO of MediaNews Group, following the news that AP is launching such an initiative for the news industry.

Singleton didn’t pull any punches during our phone interview — repeating in various ways, “We own the content. We can use it as we see fit because it’s ours.” But he didn’t provide much detail, either. What he did say: print isn’t going away, advertising can’t carry the weight anymore, and online pay models may be on the way. Highlights below:

Why take this tack?: “I think our industry has been very timid about protecting our content, probably because we

  1. If news is so easy and should always be free, I look forward to the bloggers getting out there and creating their own easy and free news – instead of piggybacking off the work of real journalists.
    The free lunch is over soon otherwise.

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  2. I think Dean is only paying lip service to protecting content produced by newspapers.

    I think he's trying to take the same tack the record industry did when it confronted Napster and other companies that allowed users to download copyrighted music for free. Look where that got the music industry ….

    The problem isn't protecting intellectual property rights, the problem is that the AP and other wire services provide an uneven playing field that favors Internet companies. In a way, they ( and newspapers by extension) are subsidizing them.

    Internet companies such as Yahoo, Google, etc., rely on the AP feed and other news services (much of which is based on re-writes of local newspaper stories) as the backbone of their news service.

    Of course, the AP can't stop selling their service to the Yahoos and Googles. That would raise antitrust problems.

    But the AP could require the Yahoos and Googles to contribute news stories to the AP in the same way that newspapers, television news and other traditional providers are do.

    That way, the Internet companies will have to pay for their own news staff and underwrite the production costs for news stories. They'd have similar cost structures and would have to compete-head on not only in a business sense but also for content.

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  3. "Of course, the AP can’t stop selling their service to the Yahoos and Googles. That would raise antitrust problems."

    Um, huh? That makes no sense.

    But Dean Singleton is the symbol of everything that is wrong with journalism today. The next solution he comes up with will be the first one ever. But I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for that first.

    Dean Singleton: Failure at running his chain. Failure as an AP board chairman. Failure at journalism. Failure at life. He's destined to be the poster boy for the demise of American journalism.

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  4. It sounds like history is repeating itself a la RIAA. Let's hope the outcome is different for the AP.

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  5. Newsman on furlough Tuesday, April 7, 2009

    Here's what we're talking about:
    I'm a newspaper reporter. I report and write a story. Maybe I spent a day working on it. Maybe I sat through a four-hour government meeting. Maybe I spent a week working on a story and traveled out of state to get it.
    Three minutes after that story's posted on my newspaper's web site, the local aggregator site grabs the story and posts it on their site, complete with the headline and at least the first several paragraphs. It's not just a link. They are posting MY work, produced at my company's expense.
    Obviously, this is not a workable arrangement for either the newspaper, or the aggregator sites. If the newspapers are driven out of business, the aggregator sites have nothing to aggregate (except entertainment and opinion).
    As I write this comment, I'm sitting at home, taking a week off without pay due to my newspaper's financial problems.

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  6. It seems like Dean picked up some haters over the years. I worked for Dean over 30 years ago when we were both young pups. I left newspaper for Madison ave in 1980 but have followed his career since. He is misunderstood for one good reason… he never worried about his own image. He shoots from the hip. Let the chips fall where they may.

    Dean needs what the newspaper needs….one great rebranding campaign.

    The last generations that have grown up with the internet have never established the same "BFF" mentality with the newspaper that previous generations had inherited. They were smarter with new BFF, technology.

    We have to brand the paper simply as a daily portable printout of all pertinent info..

    One thing I can see is that Dean's still the smartest guy in the room, if anyone can figure it out he can.

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  7. Dean Singleton is one of the few owners who will risk everything to defend print. You don't hear many saying print has a future (redefined, yes, but still an important role). We should all be hoping he– or a group of newspaper leaders from across the country — finds the right balance of interests and ideas rather than making personal attacks.

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  8. OK, what happens when an Internet company — could be Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, etc — decides to create a community marketplace for journalists, photographers, insiders and experts to replace the archaic structure of the AP and other wire services? This technology is available and could add much more value to those who actually create content than the current model. It might also add more value to the folks that Dean has ignored for the last decade — readers!

    The fact is that the model that Mr. Singleton worships is dead — and the arrogance, mediocrity and lack of vision of newspaper executives across the nation have killed it. Newspapers had the opportunitiy to own online firms like Monster and the sites that have decimated their classified business. Their arrogance and short-sightedness in the late 90s prevented this. I remember sitting across the table from a leading publisher in 1999 who bragged about turning down a majority stake in a company called Yahoo. They repeated this mistake with hundreds of start-ups in favor of the belief that one day the Internet would disappear.

    Now as newspapers are going bankrupt and advertisers are moving more and more to new media — what is the response? Its not focusing on innovation, A/B testing their business models, developing new relationships with advertisers, creating greater community with readers or building better partnerships with new media. Indeed, its not creating better content or re-evaluating how they present/slant the news. Instead, their strategy involves picking fights with firms that would destroy them tomorrow were it not for the nostalgia of what newspapers used to be. What happens if Google treats AP content as toxic and blacklists all sites from its search algorithm that carry it — like the AP's lawyers are advocating (without knowing they are doing so because they are ignorant parasites)? The answer is that publishers will choose being listed by the search engines over the AP. The answer is Google or others will create new models to make the AP irrlevant.

    When your marketing and business strategy is being developed and executed by a team of lawyers — its time to turn out the lights.

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  9. Its not focusing on innovation, A/B testing their business models, developing new relationships with advertisers, creating greater community with readers or building better partnerships with new media. Indeed, its not creating better content or re-evaluating how they present/slant the news. Instead, their strategy involves picking fights with firms that would destroy them tomorrow were it not for the nostalgia of what newspapers used to be. What happens if Google treats AP content as toxic and blacklists all sites from its search algorithm that carry it—like the AP’s lawyers are advocating (without knowing they are doing so because they are ignorant parasites)? The answer is that publishers will choose being listed by the search engines over the AP. The answer is Google or others will create new models to make the AP irrlevant.

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  10. I think all you ‘reporters’ (especially those of you who think you are representing some lost art) out there should wake up. The reason newspapers and the like are failing financially is because they publish garbage and lies…..NOT because of the ‘evil’ internet aggregator.

    Take a lesson from dozens of other industries that have been changed by the internet, stop trying to restrain the information market to circa 1927 and take advantage of the opportunities this ‘new’ trend provides.

    If you’re content is so ‘special’ put it out there and make your money that way.

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