Does The Mainstream Press 'Make' or 'Own' The News?

from the you-make-it,-we-bake-it dept

Part I – Who Makes The News
In his recent post, Mike discussed how there is a two-way street between blogs and newspapers, in which both become aware of stories from each other, and both borrow ideas. Techdirt believes this is part of the free market for ideas, and that nobody can own news, but we contrast this belief with the mainstream media moguls, who rant about how bloggers "poach" the news from the newspapers, offering naught in return. There is a trend of major publishers talking about how they "own" the news they "made", even when they themselves are just reporting on stories that occurred to other people. If anyone made the news, isn’t it the people involved? But news is really just facts, and nobody can "own" reality.

Continuing along the lines Mike laid out, let me introduce another group of people who often create a great deal of the content in mainstream news, but go under-credited in this debate: Analysts and Experts. When news breaks, or a general interest piece is planned for a mainstream publication, the reporters often seek the advice and opinions of industry analysts and experts. I know, because I’m often called regarding issues in the Telecom industry. The reporters will ask your expert opinion, some catchy quotes, and will integrate them into their story. However, oftentimes, I find the reporter is just starting the writing process (in ‘research’), and actually doesn’t know exactly what is interesting about the story. In these cases, I often spend half an hour on the phone with them explaining the background, the trends, the real scuttlebutt, the interesting aspects, who else they should talk to, what is "real" and what is spin (IMHO, of course), and who they can contact for an opposing view. Independent analysts also normally have less bias than a corporate PR rep. Often, I will refer the reporter to an article I’ve written or a Techdirt post on the subject. The eventual story occasionally follows my narrative quite closely.

Am I angry about this state of affairs? No. I think it’s great. All I ask is that the reporter put a quote or two from me in the piece. I get some marketing exposure, and I’m more than happy to help them build their story in return. This is one way reporters do their job, and it IS useful and productive. One would guess that lots of stories are made this way. There is no problem with this, but there is a problem when the news organizations start to think they "own" the story. What they did was add professional writing, fact checking, additional interviews, but most importantly provided distribution and an audience – all of which adds value, but none of which conveys ownership.

Allow me to triple repeat myself: I have no problem with this, and in fact seek out opportunities to work with reporters. This is a system that works…right up until the publishers act like – nay, claim – they are the sole creators of the news and that bloggers are mere parasites. In many cases, the bloggers are just the same experts going straight to the market with their ideas. As an analyst, I know I can go straight to market, but I’d rather go through the NYT, because that’s where the audience is.

Part II – Paywall Paradox:
So what happens when newspapers go behind a paywall, and reduce their readership by 90% to the 10% of people willing to pay? What if, at the same time, Huffington Post, Techdirt, and WiFiNetNews all offer their stuff for free? It’s not just the advertisers that will follow the audience: the experts want to go where the exposure is, where the readers are. If the mainstream media reduces their audience to a small fraction of payers, then analysts would have to revisit the cost/benefit of spending half an hour with mainstream reporters. If my contribution to their mainstream article is not indexed by Google, it does ME a lot less good. I want my quotes in the results when someone searches on "muni wifi" or "derek kerton". If they’re locked up, they don’t promote me, and I can’t link to them.

Result: many experts will prefer to work with the free publications, where the larger audience reads, and where their quote is indexed by Bing and linkable. Subsequently, paywall newspapers will find sources harder to find, and less willing to spend time. Big media reporters are accustomed to everyone eagerly returning their calls within 30 minutes. That kind of enthusiasm follows the readership, not the newspaper.

Next step: guess where the writers will want to work…

Filed Under: , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Does The Mainstream Press 'Make' or 'Own' The News?”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Newz

The days of fact based reporting seem past us. Now it is all about the opinion and agenda of the reporter and/or the news organization. They now cherry pick the ‘facts’ and information to ‘prove’ their point.

If something does not agree with their agenda expect it to be buried. Granted they can’t do this 100% of the time but they can do it often enough to slant public opinion and debate in the direction they desire.

reboog711 (profile) says:

Does The Mainstream Press Make the News?

Does the mainstream press make the news? In many cases, I believe they do.

If you look at shows such as Good Morning America or the Today show, half of the topics covered are thinly veiled product advertisements.

How do you save money? Buy “X” product from home depot to help heat / cool your home. What summer toys are good for the beach? Buy “Y” product from Toys R US

etc.. etc..

Anonymous Coward says:

When the news organizations saw the popularity of fox (aka “faux”) news, they pretty much all climbed over each other to reach the bottom as fast as they can. Now even reporters on the crime beat doing standups feel free to express opinions and state unsubstantiated “facts”.

Give the people what they want.

In the end, mainstream media (like the record labels and the movie studios) are filter systems, they eliminate (some say suppress) the fringe stuff, and work the middle ground, giving the public a large enough view to be satisfied, while not always satisfying those of us who like a larger experience. The wider audience likes to wallow in shallow pools of information, entertainment, etc. There is no risk of drowning.

As for paywalls (a totally rude way to describe subscriber based news sites), they have their purposes and they have their place. Volume of readers isn’t by itself an indication of quality or authority (usa today is the widest read paper, fox news the most watch TV news channel), just an indication of the same shallow pool mentality.

Many of the news sites using the subscription method still allow bots to index parts of their stories. Worrying about your personal name brand in the public’s eye is a pretty vain reason to hate “paywalls”.

minijedimaster (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I don’t think he was talking about sites currently under a paywall. He was referring to all of the large outlets of news that are currently FREE and want to put up a paywall as if that somehow magically makes their information more valuable than it currently is. Way to really miss the point though, if you’re gonna do something you may as well go all the way.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Worrying about your personal name brand in the public’s eye is a pretty vain reason to hate “paywalls”.”

The post wasn’t about me, in case you missed it. I used “me” as an example of how the experts and analysts will react to their contributions reaching a smaller audience. I used “me” not to be vain, but because I am typical. You will find the vast majority of typical experts ARE self-interested, and will follow the audience (aka free markets). If it were just me leaving, then who the hell should care?

I never said I “hated” paywalls. Don’t put words in my mouth.

And it’s not “vain” for professionals to worry about their brand – it’s business. Is it “vain” of Nike to promote “Nike”?

So what’s “rude” about the term “paywall”? It’s just a descriptive term. The content is held inside what is commonly referred to as a “walled garden”. How does a consumer get access through the wall? They pay. Some of us call that a “pay-wall”. Do you also object to the term “windsurfer” because it describes surfing using the wind?

Anonymous Coward says:

Of course as an analyst you want to be quoted in places that are respected and reach a lot of people, but a quote in the Wall Street Journal is still worth more than on The Huffington Post. Course, even with a paywall, the WSJ has most content on the web for free anyway.

I don’t think most media believes they own the story, I think what they do claim is their coverage of the story. I don’t think it is fair or right for someone to just read someone elses story and report that as their news.

Anonymous Coward says:

They Think Otherwise

They own copyrght on the text – but they can’t own the facts they report…

Well, they think otherwise and in some places (NY I think?), the law agrees with them.

…because such facts could be obtained independently and there is no way of determining if they were.

That’s a feature of the US and many (most?) other legal systems. I call it “dibs”. Basically the first person to claim any property that doesn’t yet have a “legal” owner can claim ownership of it. This is the primary way land has been taken from indigenous peoples (they didn’t have legal titles to their ancestral lands). It is also the way people are prohibited from using their own ideas if someone else already called “dibs” on it with a patent (independent invention is no defense).

Some in the press are just trying to follow these long standing examples and call “dibs” on stories. You can’t really blame them when it’s what everybody else seems to be doing.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...