How Reuters Should Be Responding To The AP's Suicide

from the step-up,-folks dept

Earlier today we wrote about the AP's plans to DRM the news, explaining what a backwards plan it was. The story is getting lots of play elsewhere, with many pointing to a NY Times report, where the AP's CEO Tom Curley makes some amazing statements:
"If someone can build multibillion-dollar businesses out of keywords, we can build multihundred-million businesses out of headlines, and we're going to do that," Mr. Curley said. The goal, he said, was not to have less use of the news articles, but to be paid for any use.
First of all, someone should sit Curley down and explain to him fair use -- a concept of which he appears to be ignorant. This whole exercise seems to be an attempt to pretend that you can take away fair use rights via metadata. You can't. But, more importantly (from a business perspective) this shows a near total cluelessness on how Google works. Yes, Google built a multi-billion dollar business out of "keywords" but they did so not by forcing people to pay, but by adding value to people who did pay. That's the opposite of what Curley's trying to do. If you can't understand the difference between positive value and negative value, you should not be the CEO of a major organization.

Meanwhile, Ryan Chittum, at the Columbia Journalism Review says that people should chill out because the AP isn't going after bloggers, he seems to miss a few points. First, the AP might not be "going after bloggers" now, but it certainly has shown a willingness to do so in the past. At some point, you can bet it will happen again. Furthermore, the AP claims that it's really only going after "wholesale misappropriation." Hmm. How is that defined?
"We want to stop wholesale misappropriation of our content which does occur right now--people who are copying and pasting or taking by RSS feeds dozens or hundreds of our stories."
Dear AP: your RSS feed is for syndicating your stories. If you don't want the content out there, don't syndicate the content!

But, honestly, the bigger issue is that the AP actually thinks that these spam sites rerunning the AP RSS feed (which, I'll note, links to AP stories directly) somehow harms them. These are spam sites at best. The AP claims (totally unbelievably) that such sites are taking "tens if not the hundreds of millions" of revenue away from the AP. Really? Prove it. These are tiny spam sites that get no traffic. They're not making you lose any money. If your entire business can be undermined by someone copying your headline and a snippet of your first sentence from your own RSS feed, then you have failed in business. The AP needs to hire someone who understands basic business tenets, not to mention basic technology, law and economics. The amazing thing is that I've heard from a couple AP reporters who are sickened by this as well, and feel that Curley is destroying the organization. They know this is a huge mistake.

Either way, I'm still wondering why the AP's competitors, such as Reuters and CNN (which is starting a similar wire service) haven't been a lot more vocal in trying to get more sites to look at them as a friendly alternative. We recently noted that Reuters appeared to have a much more clued-in understanding of the internet, and Chris Ahearn, the President of Reuters Media said today: "Reuters stands ready to help those who wish an alternative to the AP." That's definitely a start, but it was just in a Twitter message directed at Jeff Jarvis, rather than a much more outspoken statement. Why not be blatant about it? Post a public statement/blog post/Twitter message/Facebook message etc. that says something like:
Dear internet: We love our friends over at the Associated Press, but we believe they are making a grave mistake in trying to limit linking and fair use of content. This seems to go against the very principles of the internet and the free flow of information, in which we believe. Therefore, we encourage you to link to our work, to paraphrase it and use it to develop your own commentary. We have our RSS feeds out there because we expect you to use them, and we expect you to do great things with them. We believe our content stands on its own in quality, and see no reason to try to hide it or lock it up when we know that through cooperation and sharing we can all build on the information -- and that improves the situation for everyone. We look forward to linking, sharing and conversing with all of you.
It's time for Reuters, CNN or any other news wire to stand up and publicly tell people to switch their links away from the AP and to their own content.

Filed Under: copyright, fair use, journalism, news, rss, wire services
Companies: associated press, cnn, reuthers


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  1. icon
    Reed (profile), 24 Jul 2009 @ 6:29pm

    Reuters and AP sitting in a tree

    "Why not be blatant about it?"

    It is my understanding the Reuters itself or the shareholders who make up Reuters also own a large stake in AP.

    Funny how everyone differentiates between the two.

    It is kind of like picking between the now defunct Firebird or a Camaro which were both owned by the same company. It is the kind of choice I imagine that exists in the "news" industry nowadays.

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