LVRJ Defends Righthaven Suits; Mocks Competitor For Highlighting Problems With Them
from the how-about-acting-smarter? dept
With the Las Vegas Review Journal continuing to massively abuse copyright law with its Righthaven lawsuits, the absolute best source for covering the story has been the competing Las Vegas Sun — leading some to claim that its coverage was to spite its local competitor. However, the Sun put together a good editorial explaining why the story is so newsworthy. Now, Sherman Frederick, the publisher of the LVRJ has hit back with an editorial slamming the Sun and insisting that the Righthaven strategy is the right one.
I’d link to the story, but since the LVRJ has made it clear it doesn’t like links, I figured it’s best not to do so.
Also, I would normally quote Frederick’s article to debunk it — a clear case of fair use — but since the LVRJ has made it clear it doesn’t want anyone quoting its articles (despite the fact it still has 19 separate “share” buttons on each article), I won’t bother. Instead, I’ll just make some general statements about Frederick’s column.
First, Frederick suggests that there are only two options for dealing with people copying your words online: you sue or you go out of business. He predicts that the competing paper, The Sun, is going to go out of business because it’s not suing others. I will note, of course, that he doesn’t point out the slight conflict of interest in the fact that he helped fund Righthaven, and thus has incentives to try to get other newspapers to make the same mistake he’s making. But, of course, there are plenty of other options, such as putting in place a smarter business model. The idea that the cat blogger in Boston is taking any revenue away from the LVRJ is beyond laughable. No one reads the story on the cat blog post and says “gee, now I don’t have to go to the LVRJ ever again.”
Frederick also claims that getting others to link to you and to promote your site doesn’t help you at all (which is partly why we’re not). However, this suggests he’s unfamiliar with the concept of “Google,” and the fact that it ranks your site’s relevance, in part, to how many others link to you and who those others are. But, his bigger problem is that he thinks people are saying that if you let others link to you the money will just roll in. But no one’s saying that. They’re saying that links in combination with a smarter business model help raise your profile and create lots of opportunities to make more money. Unfortunately, it looks like Frederick is taking the lazy short cut, which is pissing off all sorts of people, and serious hurting his brand.
While he claims that since the lawsuits began they haven’t seen any loss of traffic to their website, that’s a meaningless stat at this point. First off, it’s still quite early. Second, the idea isn’t just that the lawsuits directly would lead to a loss of traffic, but the inevitable chain of events following such lawsuits. It’s as if Frederick can only think a single step ahead. He must be a hell of a chess player.
From there, he claims that even if he was losing revenue from these lawsuits it would be worth it, because protecting the writing is more important than revenue. Really. That’s a paraphrase rather than an exact quote, because I don’t want Righthaven to sue me, but it’s basically what he says. The reason for that? He insists that it’s the writing in the newspaper that is the key value. That’s only partially true of course and sort of besides the point. These sites that he’s suing are not competing with the LVRJ, so pretending that a random site posting a single story somewhere (with credit and a link back) is somehow damaging the LVRJ is simply wrong.
But, more importantly, he’s overvaluing the content and undervaluing the community. He’s never been in the business of selling content. He’s always been in the business of selling the attention of his readers to advertisers. Forgetting that would be a big mistake. He claims that it’s the quality and (artificial) scarcity of the content that drives readership, and that’s partially true, but it only goes part of the way to explaining the business. It suggests that he’s done little, if anything, to make that content more valuable and useful for that community. In fact, he’s doing the opposite, by suing those who try to do something with the content. In the long run, that seems quite likely to backfire.