You can almost hear Reuters, CNN, UPI and a few others laugh maniacally over the news that the Associated Press is considering locking up its content
. The Associated Press has a pretty long history of not having much of a grasp about how the economics of information works online, and this is the latest evidence. It wouldn't happen for a while -- because many online sites, including Google, have deals with the AP to present its content online for free. But, if the AP suddenly forced all partners to lock up their content, a couple of things would happen pretty quickly: other sources, such as those listed above, or new startups, would quickly jump into the void, thrilled that their largest "competitor" dropped out of the space. Yes, the AP is slightly different than those other players, in that it's a collective of newspapers sharing content, rather than a truly separate operation -- but functionally, they serve similar purposes. CNN, in particular, has made it clear that it would like to take on the AP
with a wire service -- and having the AP lock up its content would make much easier for them.
Also, I know we point this out every time some clueless news exec claims that users need to pay, but it's worth mentioning again: nowhere do they discuss why
people should want
to pay. Nowhere do they explain what extra value they're adding that will make people pay. Instead, they think that if they put up a paywall, people will magically pay -- even though the paywall itself is what takes away
much of the value by making it harder for people to do what they want with the news: to spread it
, to comment on it, to participate in the story. Until newspaper execs figure this out, they're only going to keep making things worse.