1. Solve journalism’s data problem. 2. Kill the AP. 3. Invest in the next market.

First, a constructive proposal: News organizations need to band together — not to cut off their content, along with theirs noses, or to collude in antitrust cabals — but simply to set a new metadata standard identifying original reporting. If every news story carried a switch identifying original reporting, then aggregators like GoogleNews and Daylife (where I’m a partner) could give precedence to and link to that journalism at its source, helping support that reporting in the link economy.

The problem today is that aggregators favor freshness, but the latest story in a topical cluster is often the 87th rewrite of the news and it’s usually from the Associated Press, which cuts off links and credit to the original journalism (for all its bluster, the AP is actually the biggest problem newspapers have online, but more on that in a minute).

Now I know that a flag that says “give my story better play” is ripe for gaming. But the news aggregators work with limited if large pools of sources (in the low thousands). In such a small universe, bad behavior can be monitored and punished (by the aggregators, readers, and competitors). So with this method, the Washington Post’s Walter Reed stories would get precedence over others’ rewrites.

In the structure of the link economy, it’s then up to the Post to monetize that audience. This could be aided, though, by a marketplace that supports reverse syndication, which would send traffic to original journalism and even share revenue with those who send links to it.

If the AP really wanted to help support original journalism, it would build that marketplace – and it would stop rewriting, homogenizing, and anonymizing all its members’ news. Or when it does, it should provide credit and links to the sources, a moral necessity in the link economy; I urged the AP to adopt such a link ethic last year.

Instead, the AP is, incredibly, looking to start a news portal. A damned portal. Sherman, who set the Wayback Machine to 1998? Fix it, willya? Are they kidding? No. Doug MacMillan reports in BusinessWeek today AP head Tom Curley “plans to create ‘landing pages’ that would host articles from any news sources that allow their headlines on the site.” So the AP – hardly a household brand – would try to change readers’ habits and market to get them to come to a newspaper portal? Ghosts of the New Century Network, the newspaper Keystone Konsortium that died in 1998. Damnit, Sherman, hurry.

Rather than competing with the entire internet, which is what the AP is trying to do (or, as Kara Swisher says scolding AP chairman and foundering newspaper mogul Dean Singleton, “stop the internet from being the internet”), wouldn’t it make sense to improve the standing of newspapers’ original work throughout the fabric of the internet? That’s why I’m suggesting the original-reporting metadata standard above. (And by the way, even if such a standard isn’t adopted, the chief scientist at Daylife and I have discussed ways to suss out original work and give is priority; that’s second choice.) (Alslo by the way, such a standards could be expanded to create feeds of updates and corrections.)

But the AP is not going to do that because, as newspapers are slowly learning, the AP is their enemy. Not the internet. Not Google. It’s the AP that has to insist on going against the flow – the damned tsunami – of the internet because it lives by homogenizing and it can’t monetize the link economy. So the AP tries to make Google and aggregators – and the the internet, for that matter – the enemy. It’s a matter of survival.

Though Paul Farhi and I disagreed about what to do about it, we agree that the AP is a problem. And though Saul Hansell gets me wrong in his rather twisty path to his conclusion yesterday (I’m not saying newspaeprs as they exist would thrive if they’d wised up a decade ago; I’m saying they’d be unrecognizab ly reinvented), we agree in the end: Shut down the AP. Says Mr. Hansell:

The only conclusion here is that the very existence of The A.P. is the greatest contributor to the scourge of free news. And so, by the logic of the newspaper industry, Mr. Singleton has only one choice: To fight the problem at its source and shut down the A.P. for good. That makes at least as much sense as the current campaign against windmills, aggregators and search engines.

Papers are canceling their contracts because it is too expensive. Journalists doing original reporting everywhere should resent the AP for turning all the knowledge they create into commodity news — and selling it with no benefit to them in the form of payment, credit, or links. The AP is built for the content economy and is incapable of shifting to support its members or compete in the link economy.

I would cut up the AP into its constituent parts: Spin off the journalists who do original reporting and make this core into another news source to compete on the open market, in internet economics, building a brand and selling ads and going up against Reuters, The Times, and other national and international sources. Then kill the Borden’s Dairy that homogenizes news, milking it (sorry) of its value. The AP is an antimarket player and once it’s taken out, a new market can grow to support journalism.

Newspapers and others who create original journalism can then create a marketplace where they share links and value. They or a new company – or Google – can help them by selling ads on all that content. This will encourage them – economically and ethically – to link to each other (as quality papers are doing) and then to distribute their content into the web (as the Guardian, NY Times, BBC, and NPR are doing with their APIs). Others that run news – Yahoo, et al – will then have a marketplace to get news from the best sources (not the poor imitator, the AP) and in a reverse syndication model, they both benefit.

The problem is that the AP simply does not fit in the internet economy. So it is trying perversely to mold the future to its model and portray itself as Don Quixote tilting against the content mills when it is the worst mill itself. Sorry, AP, but you’re the problem.

: LATER: A suggestion for using the REL tag.

: LATER STILL: Arianna makes reference to the link economy on Charlie Rose.

  • http://www.our-hometown.com Stephen Larson

    Why is it OK for others to have new portals that link to news stories but when AP wants to have one they get chastised?

  • http://www.WithoutWarningCoach.com Rodney Johnson

    Jeff, I don’t know what bee is in your hat, cause you’ve been on a roll over the last week or so. And your pitch is growing in intensity.
    In this long debate, its important to seperate symptoms and problems. Too often we believe were solving problems when in fact, we’re only solving symptoms, which is a problem. Over the past couple of days i’m hearing, it’s the AP that’s the problem. So if I’m taking this to the next level, if a newspaper is going to survive, they need to shove the AP out the door. Only then can fresh thinking begin to filter through.
    It’s an interesting idea, and one I’m sure sends shivers across the industry. but then, that’s okay.

  • Tom Davidson

    Stephen, the issue isn’t that “others should have portals, but AP shouldn’t!” It’s that the very notion of a portal is anachronistic. We need to treat stories (and photos, videos, data and every other bit of content) as individual, atomized pieces, optimized for search – not as just one more bit o’ stuff wrapped inside a walled (or open) garden.

    • Eric Gauvin

      That is if you’re happy with a search-centric internet that’s run by google…

      • http://www.our-hometown.com Stephen Larson

        Exactly. It’s cool if Goofle does it but uncool if AP does. I get it.

      • http://thebucketblog.com Frymaster

        1 – Search is the essence of the internet experience, which is a lot like a library. Today I care about raccoons ‘cuz they’re in my trash, tomorrow the ocean winds ‘cuz I want to surf. Without high-quality indexing, we’re just picking books off the shelf at random.

        2 – By all means, somebody step up and compete with Google. I mean really, really compete. Out-Google Google. It’s not like Yahoo, Ask/Jeeves, MSFT, etc haven’t tried. They’ve tried and they’ve failed. It’s really hard to beat a business that doesn’t think or act like a (modern) business. Street View, Earth, Docs, etc. are all amazing products – amazing free products. When it comes to “getting” how the internet works, Google is just kicking the snot out of everybody on the block and taking their lunch money. Somebody, please step up, but don’t expect users to settle for less.

        3 – I’m all for the AP – and all the newspapers – splintering off to form their own walled garden. Look what the walled garden (AOL) did for Time Warner. Life is pretty grim for me, delivering pizzas and living in my parent’s basement. I need all the laughs I can get.

    • http://wyman.us Bob Wyman

      It’s not the portal that is anachronistic but rather the KIND of portal that AP would inevitably build. HuffingtonPost and others have had great success in building portals with points of view that address targeted markets. However, given that full breadth of the AP’s market, it would inevitably build a blind portal — one with no point of view.

      The key change in the news business has been freeing news from geographic monopolies and from the high capital costs of publishing that required newspapers to create a neutral product that would thus be palatable to the largest market. The old imperatives gave us an industry that was able to serve everyone’s needs “good enough” in each geography but that really satisfied no particular community of interest. The internet creates an environment in which specific points of view can be monetized and thus, by allowing fragmentation of the market, creates an irresistible pressure for the creation of niche products and niche portals. We’ve seen the same thing happen in cable TV. Unlike the broad market pablum-like news products of ABC, NBC, and CBS, cable networks like the Fox, MSNBC, and CNN present distinct points of view on the news and gather loyal audiences as a result. This fragmentation of the market is a direct result of the reductions in cost of serving markets that the cable technology provides. The Internet does the same — only more so.

      Blind Portals will fail or find themselves not able to offer much that mere search engines and news discovery services can’t provide. Portals with a View, like Huffington Post and its right-wing counterpoints, which focus on curating a particular point of view — those are the portals that will succeed. They are the future, not the past.

      The AP has a great history of enabling news organizations to do their job. That is, in my opinion, where they greatest strength lies — in being the backbone which supports the news business. They are the backroom, not the front page… Their content distribution arrangements, pooled reporting resources, technology, ability to provide a focal point for the industry, etc. are what a future news ecosystem should be looking to leverage. The AP as just another blind portal doesn’t seem to hold much promise.

      Portals with a view are the future. Blind portals are things of the past.

      bob wyman

  • http://wyman.us Bob Wyman

    Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water… While there are many valid complaints about the way the AP works (e.g. that it is a cost-reduction tool for newspapers rather than a revenue generating tool), I think we really must all accept that the AP still does do a great deal of good stuff too. The challenge isn’t in finding a way to get rid of the AP but rather to figure out how to fit it better to the news ecosystem of today — and tomorrow.

    bob wyman

  • http://www.firstcollegenowwhat.com Joe Mescher

    Win.

    I encountered a thought provoking moment after reading yesterdays post about the NAA – and got to wondering if the newspapers belong online at all (ok, in their current form anyways).

    The commenter who suggested news companies stopping the flow of AP links may have been on to something:

    Post – Why Newspapers Should Go Offline:

    http://www.firstcollegenowwhat.com/2009/04/bankrupt-newspapers-go-offline/

  • Tex Lovera

    A few thoughts:

    1) I agree with Jeff; the AP as it is now serves no useful purpose.

    2) Original reporting should be highly valued, and unbiased reporting most of all. This monetization issue MUST be solved (realizing the solution will likely not be static).

    3) I think a truly neutral portal would succeed. I have nothing against reading/seeing/hearing news that is “bad news” with respect to my own personal biases, opinions, etc. However, if that “bad news” is presented in a BIASED MANNER, or “good news” is IGNORED, that’s where the problem starts for me. Same for “good news” being oversold to me – don’t want it. I won’t pay for bullshit. (Sounds like one of Jeff’s rants about the airlines??)

    4) I grant that “biased” portals will definitley have their audience; that’s human nature.

    • Andy Freeman

      > 2) Original reporting should be highly valued, and unbiased reporting most of all. This monetization issue MUST be solved (realizing the solution will likely not be static).

      “should”?

      Commodity reporting won’t be lucrative, no matter how “original”.

      Reporting on things that no one values won’t be lucrative, no matter how unique.

      Bad reporting won’t be valuable.

      That leaves us with unique, important, and good.

  • Not Tom Curley

    Here’s another problem. Even if the AP developed the right strategy to handle news gathering, distribution and protection of intellectual property, they lack the ability to execute on said strategy.

    Take a look at this article from 5 years ago about how the AP was going to transform itself. It didn’t happen and now they’ve gone about “tilting at windmills” because they couldn’t build one of it’s own.

    http://www.informationweek.com/news/software/integration/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=17500640

    A quote: “”The eAP effort is transforming the AP from its telegraph origins to interactive, network, and database,” says John Reid, the company’s senior VP for services and technology. The transformation happens not coincidentally as new president Tom Curley, formerly publisher and president of Gannett Co.’s USA Today, comes on board. “The goal is to offer a lot more customization to our customers than we are able to today,” Reid says.”

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    • http://www.bakersfieldobserved.com Richard Beene

      The hard truth is that AP rarely does any “original” reporting and instead spends “millions of dollars” (as you say) sending reporters around the world NOT to cover the news but to rewrite and commoditize the news. Jarvis is dead right on this one.

  • Hugo

    This posting seems pretty confused. Are you arguing that the AP’s tactic won’t work (in which case, why the level of panic and hostility?) or that it will (in which case, why the derision? Hey, it’s a way of monetizing content!)

  • http://www.zingpr.com Tim Cox

    Jeff –

    I have been following the debate about sources and linkages with interest over the last few weeks; I kept wondering how the AP would work in the ‘link economy’. I have long thought that any news organization that suppresses the reporter’s name (AP, Economist, Red Herring, come to mind as publications that have played this game) was shooting itself in the foot; surely large part of the ‘brand attraction’ of a news outlet is its constituent voices — and voice must mean actual person/name. (At least, for me, that’s why I prefer one publication over another (it’s not just about over-arching editorial strategy.)

    It’s good to see this proposal from you re. how the AP should be reconstructed. Makes total sense. Could the same approach work for Reuters, AFP, et al?

    Tim

  • http://steveclancy.com Steve Clancy

    I agree the APs recent moves haven’t been very good and it needs to evolve and embrace the Web. But I don’t think that the AP starting their own news site in the vein of Google News is necessarily a bad idea either.

    A couple years ago we were all screaming about the idiocy of NBC taking their content off YouTube and iTunes and trying to push a new venture called Hulu. But that venture seems to be panning out for them as they’ve been able to control the distribution and advertising on their content – while also offering a great user experience and making the platform relatively open enough for anyone to share the content. It might be fair to say that Hulu is the only site to have competed and beat Google, mostly because they enforced their rights and created a comprable product.

    Ideally an AP news site could have a similar type of success if they can make it an open platform for users and developers and gave newspapers a greater stake in the distribution of their content online. What an AP site could offer users or newspapers that Google cannot though, I’m not sure.

  • http://spalpeen.co.uk Conrad

    Looks like the headless chicken finally fell off the cliff.

  • http://www.Knyshov.com/?bm Leonid S. Knyshov

    I agree with this article.

    AP stories tend to be shorter and less in-depth. I have to go out of my way to find the original source. That is annoying.

    I would pay to read the original source. That should tell you how annoyed I am at AP. ;-)

    I’d love to see:

    By Associated Press – Originally reported by … in every article.

    Anonymous news is bad business. They are robbing themselves and blaming the net.

  • Billy Simkins

    AP now offers our local news free of charge to the public via their mobile news application through the iphone. They even go as far as putting our logo on the stories. This brings the obvious question …. Why would I buy the paper or any news product if I can get FREE through AP mobile? It’s hard justifying creating your own mobile news service being it would be nearly impossible to sell with AP distributing it for free? Anyone have ideas on how this is good for newspapers?

  • http://www.wenalway.com/forum Wenalway

    Billy:

    How is obsessing about hairline rules good for newspapers?

    The court will wait for an answer …

  • Bob P.

    I think maybe this discussion has forgotten to distinguish the many different things the AP does. Let’s consider two of them, very different things.

    First, there’s the original cooperative function of the AP (it is a coop, even if it doesn’t always feel that way); it gathers newspapers’ stories from all around the country, rewrites them and then transmits them out to all of the other members. (Rewrites often don’t change the story a whole lot, really — in fact I did this for a while at an AP bureau; stories more often than not get sent back out verbatim, perhaps cut a bit shorter). Remember, this all was incredibly valuable at one time. How else would someone in Helena know what was going on in Phoenix? But, sure, with the Net, this is fast becoming obsolete, if it’s not obsolete already. These are the AP stories, by the way, in which the bylines are stripped off, because they’re not written by AP reporters.

    Second, there is original reporting. Whoever said there is no independent original reporting by AP has no idea what they’re talking about. Every major and a lot of minor cities in the U.S. and around the world have AP-employed reporters who write their own stories (usually bylined). These people cover state Legislatures, for instance, and smaller newspapers often rely on them for coverage of the statehouse. Should we forget all the sports coverage they do? What about the photos? How many Pulitzers have AP photographers won over the years? But then there are the small unseen things: For instance: I worked for a while as a stringer for AP on election night. As I understand it, AP sends (at least it used to) somebody to every county courthouse in the nation. That person (a stringer hired for a night for $50 or something) collects the returns as they come in, phones them to the state bureau, where they’re compiled — and that’s why we can watch FOXNews or MSNBC and see them blather on about who’s ahead in the Senate race in Missouri.

    It’s called grunt work, and AP does a lot of it — stuff we take for granted. I’m not going to defend everything this organization does. It has let itself go stale, for sure. But it’s too easy to sit around and forget that whatever the hell the “link economy” is, it still begins not with a computer or a butt in a chair, but with some poor soul phoning in election results from the county courthouse in the dead of night. Maybe all that will change with technology, too. Someday, there will be no need for this, as all the returns get funneled directly to the one central source. But there will always be the grunt work, and someone has to do it.

  • http://frogblog.biz Fred Schlegel

    As a poor hapless reader anything that points to the original reporting and downgrades the seemingly infinite number of copies/duplicates seems like it would be a blessing. The fact that it would also push each paper to highlight their original reporting and get the repetitive stories out of the way would be icing in the cake.

    • http://www.ktvz.com Barney Lerten

      Agreed, Fred. As a 14-year UPI reporter – then a newspaper, then 5 years of Net-only local reporting (a kick!) and now 4 years in TV – the wastefulness of shoehorning the old AP reformating into today’s universal network is a total waste of time.
      Can the turf battles be overcome to keep AP alive in a different form? I haven’t a clue. But I’d much rather on our site link to the original, full-length newspaper (or AP!) articles than the truncated broadcast version any day. There’s got to be a way to advance and make what we have no work better and with less ridiculous redundancy, thus freeing up local media outlets for local reporting.
      It’d be a fun challenge to be a part of working it all out. And in a way, I guess I sort of am;-)

  • fraggy

    The link economy doesnt work in practicality. Although links are obviously seriously valuable for their organic SEO value, it is next to impossible to try and get them (or, better yet) a revenue share when you are not link-attributed. The weak link in the chain is the whois for the website, or more importantly trying to contact the blog aggregator to reach the the individual blogger . This is where the ROI argument for digital fingerprinting services falls through. The reality is, you will have about a 5% hit rate for requesting linkbacks where none were given. Nice idea but not practical to implement

  • http://twitter.com/chuckboycejr Chuck Boyce

    speaking of the AP, this TechCrunch story had me laughing to tears today:

    “A.P. Exec Doesn’t Know It Has A YouTube Channel: Threatens Affiliate For Embedding Videos”

    http://tinyurl.com/dzeeht

    the series of tubes strikes again.

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  • Ramon Gomà

    A market is a place where some product is exchaged for a price –a price set in the dealings between buyer and supplier according to the value of the product.

    The market is not about “sharing” “links” and “value”. That’s academic flare –not real life. Who will pay for the contents behind the “links”, Jeff? Google?

    • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

      No, how will it be paid for. Journalism today is paid for by advertisers, not readers, in both print and broadcast.

      • Eric Gauvin

        Consumers do pay for newspapers and magazines. Even in broadcast, listeners “support” npr. It may not be the primary source of revenue, but the idea of paying for news in different formats is not foreign to consumers.

  • Reality Check

    Most of the re-writing of original reporting is done by cheapskate, low-grade websites and, dare I say it, blogs – not by the AP.

    What Jeff Jarvis will eventually have to face up to is the following:

    1. Media outlets, such as AP and newspapers are going to try and make money out of the internet like every other business. Why shouldn’t they?

    2. Giving your content away – for most media – isn’t going to make money – not in the short term, not in the long term either. That’s why – contrary to all Jeff’s fantasizing – every media company in the world is looking at ways to monetize content.

    3. Some media – that provide specialist content, unique exclusive material – will be able to successfully fence off their material and charge for access. This model is already working in financial news.

    4. Local, very local news, is specialist, unique content. That’s why city newspapers are going even more local. US newspapers in cities will become more local. It makes sense. Local advertisers will like this.

    5. Some big media, very big brands, will be able to make enough money off online advertising and therefore won’t want to restrict access via subscriptions etc.

    6. Google News? Twitter is replacing it. Catch up Jeff. User generated links – not Google generated links are the future of news traffic online.

    7. Content is still king. Very good newspapers, very good news websites will survive. Bad ones won’t. In the end, once people realize that every news outlet needs to have something unique to survive, it won’t be the internet that kills newspapers but bad journalism.

    8. Here’s the amazing thing Jeff – for some newspapers – I’m talking very local, community level newspapers, the best strategy may be to not even be on the web. The idea that local papers could become huge by being online is proving to be nonsense. My very local paper isn’t online – to find out what is going on in my community I have to pick up a copy of the paper. Its full of ads as well.

  • Saul Hansell

    Jeff– I think your tag ideas is great.

    I don’t think that turning the A.P.’s journalists into a direct-to-consumer news site is needed. As I wrote on Bits today, there is a lot of use for a wholesale provider of news to the wide range of news sites.

    I still don’t think you’ve addressed my problem with your post yesterday: I am not sure the AP’s owners–the newspapers–would be better off financially today if they had followed your advice than if they hadn’t. Relevancy does not always turn into profitability. (See: Facebook.)

    Saul

    • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

      Saul,
      This isn’t a quick fix: “better off today.”
      This is about reinventing the business. Reinventing is a big word. That’s why it won’t happen in a hail-Mary pass today. It’s why it should have taken 15 years to work on. It’s why they’re too late. It’s why they blew it.

  • B. Nelson

    Jeff,

    Sorry if this may be seen as a hijack of this comment thread, but it relates directly to some core realities of journalism, the internet, and abuse of power. I emailed you about this on Date:Tue, 31 Mar 2009 Subject:British peer axes Journal website

    I live in the Turks and Caicos Islands (a very small teapot) in the midst of what is felt here as a Large Tempest.
    …the UK has completed an Inquiry http://www.tci-inquiry.org/

    TURKS & CAICOS ISLANDS COMMISSION OF INQUIRY
    INTO POSSIBLE CORRUPTION OR OTHER SERIOUS DISHONESTY
    IN RECENT YEARS OF PAST AND PRESENT ELECTED MEMBERS OF THE LEGISLATURE

    and is in the process of suspending local government

    Then…

    http://www.tcinetnews.com/news-1265–2-2—.html
    On Monday, lawyers from the firm Harbottle and Lewis, representing Lord Michael Ashcroft, the deputy chairman of Britain’s Conservative Party and owner of Belize Bank, a major player in the events of the Turks and Caicos Islands and Belize during the last few years, visited the offices of website hosting firm Cyber Host Pro Ltd, in England, and demanded they terminate the hosting of The TCI Journal, or risk legal action.

    ————

    In the past week the TCI Journal has relocated to a host in “Freedom loving Asia”
    I AM NOT saying that TCI Journal is without fault or bias, (I believe they have included writing which they did not have permission to use)… but it IS “original journalism”

    http://www.tcijournal.com/index.php

    At the very least, I feel it would be enlightening for some of your journalism students
    (not to mention the Guardian) to follow this story.

    Thanks again for WWGD and your other efforts.

  • heh

    just like the AP is unaware of their YouTube channel, they must be unaware of being hosted by Google as well: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5itxYppTV5UoD6T7aSKHrTgKgWgsQD97F6PSO0

    someone is not distributing these memos, clearly.

  • Eric Gauvin

    Jeff,

    Can you define what you mean by “link economy?”

    It seems you’re saying links are almost like currency or that they translate into quantifiable revenue.

    Everybody knows website traffic is good, but what do you actually mean when you say, “link economy?”

    (note to self: this is where Jeff Jarvis usually posts something much more important to his blog, no time to get into specifics about his catch phrases, no time for “trolls” or “personal attacks”)

    • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

      Eric,
      That’s why I linked to what I have to say about the link economy behind the words “link economy.” The primary link is here. Follow the other links as well. See also Arianna Huffington today writing about the link economy after talking about it on Charlie Rose. If it’s still then not clear, ask.

      • Eric Gauvin

        Why not just explain it here since it’s relevant to this post. I’ll check out those links, but it seems like a pain in the butt when you could just explain what you mean right here.

        • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

          Eric, this is how the web works! I’ve written about it many, many times. If I had to repeat the full theory of the link economy every time, people would kill me and i’d likely kill myself. The links brings efficiency. It’s just a click away. I went to the trouble to link the words “link economy” JUST for this reason! If you don’t like reading the web the way the web’s meant to be read, then, well, get a book….

        • Eric Gauvin

          I don’t think it’s helpful to throw around catch phrases that don’t really mean much.

        • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

          It was good enough for Charlie Rose….
          It’s simple: In a content economy, you can make money controlling and selling multiple copies of content. Online, we need only one copy and people see it through links. That content gains value with links. Without links, it has no value. So those who link to it add value to it. It’s then up to the receive of the links to monetize them. That’s how the content economy works. there.

        • Eric Gauvin

          Fancy way of saying “website traffic is good.”

        • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

          No, this is also about the value exchange. Those who send links add value. So rather than saying that Google owes papers something it’s truer that they owe Google and should be grateful Google is not charging.

        • Matt Terenzio

          Exactly what I’ve been saying.

          Can someone tell me what value AP provides to its members online?

          It’s clear what value they provide for the print products. That is, syndication to and from their print products.

          Online, we have that ability through a variety of ways. The lowly link, RSS, ATOM, APIs etc.

          However, if their is real interest out there, I’d certainly be willing to whip up an information exchange that would be free to all AP members and accomplish everything that they are.

          In return, I would only ask to be able to publish anonymous aggregate data about the service. I’m serious. I’ll do it for nothing.

          Contact me at mterenzio at gmail com

        • Andy Freeman

          It seems that Gauvin doesn’t believe that website traffic is good, or at least not good enough.

          Website traffic is readers. If you can’t monetize readers (either directly or through ads), how do you expect to make money?

          It is true that neither readers nor advertisers will pay much for commodity news because they can get it elsewhere for “not much”. That’s just the market’s way of telling you that the value of commodity news is “not much”.

          If you want more money than you can get from commodity news, do something else. I believe that there is a lot of non-commodity/extremely valuable news to gather and report and that readers/advertisers will pay significant amounts of money for said news.

          For some reason, I don’t think that Gauvin will be satisfied by that but I don’t know what his objection will be.

          Does he think that “someone” should be paid more for commodity news than the readers (and/or advertisers) are willing to pay?

          Does he think that all news is commodity news?

          Does he think that readers/advertisers won’t pay more for non-commodity news?

          Or, perhaps he thinks that all news is commodity news.

        • Eric Gauvin

          Freeman doesn’t understand Gauvin.
          I do think people will pay for news.

          The exchange I was having with Jarvis was regarding his lack of a clear definition of “link economy.” I am against misleading catchphrases. I believe it would be simpler and more accurate to just say google provides news sites with a lot of website traffic and leave it at that.

        • Andy Freeman

          > The exchange I was having with Jarvis was regarding his lack of a clear definition of “link economy.”

          Since everyone in this discussion seems to understand the term….

        • Eric Gauvin

          Okay. If you say so…

        • http://wyman.us Bob Wyman

          In the legacy news business, there was vertical integration. The functions of reporting, curating, news discovery, ad sales, content delivery, etc. where all controlled by a single entity and all functions were monetized as a single group and shared a single business plan. In the online news ecosystem, those functions are disaggregated. Now, we have search engines that support news discovery, reporters who report, curators (like Huffington Post), delivery platforms like True/Slant, etc. All the functions are still there. What is different is that each function is responsible for its own business plan and needs to monetize its efforts in isolation of the others. None of the functions has any right to the money or value earned by any of the other functions. They are and should be independent.

          bob wyman

        • Eric Gauvin

          Jarvis brags,

          “It was good enough for Charlie Rose…”

          That’s precisely the problem. He specializes in fascinating conversation for people who are clueless about the internet…

          http://gawker.com/5103183/arianna-huffington-explains-what-a-blog-is-for-the-very-old-and-very-slow

        • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

          Give it up, man.

        • Bob P.

          Hey, wait a second. That’s your case? “Give it up, man”?
          Look, I’m fairly new to this discussion, but I was very interested in this thread. I don’t know Mr. Gauvin but I appreciate that he was pressing you for clarification. He wasn’t being abusive. Come on, you are an advocate for this stuff, you were being questioned and you’re just saying, “give it up.” Why get exasperated because someone seems interested in clearly understanding in your ideas?
          I’ve long been skeptical of jargon, too, whether it comes from a school administrator, a politician, a prosecuting attorney, a bureaucrat, some business consultant who comes to the office to exhort all the employs to get “outside the box” or “think creatively.” All fields have jargon. I’m not saying it’s never legitimate. Sometimes it’s fine, just a shorthand way to refer to something. But other times it’s just a puffed up way of saying something to attempt to make it sound more important or insightful than it would sound if it were stated in plain English.
          I’m not trying to impugn your jargon. I’ll admit right up front that I don’t know enough about this to decide whether “link economy” is an insightful way of describing the way the Internet works or whether it’s a hollow soundbite. That’s why I was interested that he was asking about it.
          I watched the Charlie Rose segment with Arianna Huffington. She kept saying “link economy” over and over but to me it came off sounding more like a politician pounding on her talking points. I wanted more specifics about how this might actually work. More depth. I wanted to grab Charlie by the lapels and shake him and demand he ask what the hell she was talking about. But jargon does have a way of befuddling people. They fear they’ll look stupid asking, “What’s the link economy?” I think Rose was maybe a little befuddled or he just didn’t want to take off on that tangent.
          Anyway, as I grasp the concept of “link economy,” and my little pea brain could certainly be misunderstanding, Gauvin was basically right, wasn’t he? The fact that Google can present someone a link that sends that person to a piece of reporting in the Anyway Herald is good for the Anytown Herald. It’s the only way anyone will ever get to see it online, aside from the few woefully behind-the-times souls who have the Anytown Herald bookmarked in their browser. Essentially, I suspect you are saying newspapers should NOT be expecting people to bookmark their sites. Instead they will need to rely on Google and other “aggregators” or “curators” to send readers their way. And readers landing on the site means advertisers have an audience. So Anytown Herald can sell ads for more money if Google sends more readers their way. I mean, this isn’t rocket science. Or maybe it is and I’m not grasping it. But if this is basically what you’re talking about, why get so snippy with Gauvin? I think it’s basically what he was saying.
          Anyway, I’ll be following along. I’m interested.

        • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

          If you’re new then you haven’t seen this particular commenter’s habit of paving paved roads.

          And, no, I have nothing against bookmarks. (Where did that come from?) This is quite simple and obvious and that’s why I got rather exasperated with Mr. Gauvin (the 100th time he does the same thing): You have it quite right: Links add value.

          Links also provide background. Gauvin tries to attack me but the answer to his question is already in this post in a link … about links … and the value of links… The circularity of the discussion (for the 100th time) exhausts me and I’d rather move on to more substance. Is the dynamic clearer?

        • Mike Manitoba

          If discourse is exhausting, perhaps your ancient ass is ready for a nap.

        • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

          discourse isn’t exhausting. repetition is.

        • Eric Gauvin

          @Jeff

          That says something if you feel being pressed to define “the link economy” is an attack. Didn’t you invent the term? Perhaps my persistence annoys you, but I stand firm that you haven’t really said anything. I don’t believe “the link economy” means anything more than “website traffic is good.”

        • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

          As always, Eric, you’ve made your point and made it again and made it again. Enough. I’ve said that before, haven’t I? I’m tired of the repetition.

        • Eric Gauvin

          ok

        • http://logotrax.com Gerald Scott

          My reply to Eric Gauvin can be found here: http://logotrax.com/blog/?p=48 only because I don’t know how to use trackback links yet. I’m still a blogger in training. Any ideas where I can get a book on it Jeff?

          I’m assuming no great understanding of business; nor have I extensive exposure to the news industry. I do however have a long history in search engine optimization. The concept of a Link Economy is something my peers and I have always understood.

          Now, as it’s being used here, it relates to the exchange of information, or more particularly, news content. The term link is surely clear, and economy sounds clear to me also. I would gather the inference is: a wealth of links that exchange information (news) creates a strong economy. And just like with any other economy, it’s the currency that makes exchange of goods and services possible. Links are the currency!

          Let me say it differently so that Eric may understand. If you got no currency – you broke. If you broke – you can’t buy no toys. No toys – you can’t play with the big boys.

          Sorry about that; my Appalachian Mountain Man just popped out for a second. Let me restate. If an organization does not build its currency (links) then they are in a lower socioeconomic group. They will soon fall behind; like so many they will have to live on the fringes of the web picking scrapes to survive. What once was main stream can quickly become marginalized. If companies are left holding old currency, like the Confederate States were after the war, just watch how fast they fall.

          I have to touch on networking just a bit. The link economy has a distinct advantage over the tradition real money economy. In the money economy only one entity can print money, from then on we all trying to get piece of it. In the Link Economy any stiff with a decent PC or Mac and some extra time can create their own wealth. If accepted by their peers and working within networks these new age entrepreneurs, the Gen Y Echo Boomers, can outperform firms that spend millions to build internet wealth. And they do it all with minimal capital output.

          A final consideration about networks; they are self policing. It’s the members of any given network that select who they network with. Old School firms operate on exclusivity. They position themselves so that if you’re not on their payroll and under a no compete agreement then you’re out. Networks, on the other hand, are by default open systems. Everyone is allowed in and you have to mess up really bad before you get kicked out; trust me I know firsthand. Even then, when the dust settles, most folks are welcomed back in; agin I know firsthand.

          I’ll finish with this, and feel free to quote this:

          When the power goes out in your house at night; it’s not so hard to find the light switch. If the power goes out, and you’re in a stranger’s house, you may wonder around in the dark for a long time. Ask yourself – Do I know where I am tonight?

          And another thing . . . just kidding – later.

        • http://logotrax.com Gerald Scott

          Forget this part:

          My reply to Eric Gauvin can be found here: http://logotrax.com/blog/?p=48 only because I don’t know how to use trackback links yet. I’m still a blogger in training.

          – my bad

          Keep this part: Any ideas where I can get a book on it Jeff?

        • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

          Henceforth, I’m going to resist being sucked into your vortex.

      • Eric Gauvin

        Okay, I read your link. Still very catch-phrasey.

        Until you can persuade me otherwise, “link economy” translates as “website traffic is good.”

  • Eric Gauvin

    I think you’ve got it backwards. The links are a **result** of value; not the other way around…

  • Bob P.

    OK, thanks.

    And I didn’t mean to say you had anything AGAINST bookmarks, I just was inferring that you believe newspapers shouldn’t rely only on readers going directly to their sites (via bookmarks) to get page views. If you believed they could, why would you worry about links? A healthy dose of both, I suppose, would be nice.

    • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

      Exactly. The standard number for metro news sites in the u.s. is 20 percent of users seeing the home page in a day; the rest come in via search, links, Facebook, etc. Google alone accounts for about a third of traffic to news sites.

  • Paul Evans

    Why did television networks originally create their “network” of affiliates? To distribute content and advertising over the entire United States in the days before cable and the internet.

    What are the networks now discussing? Ending their affiliate relationships. Why? Because the no longer need local affiliates to distribute content and advertising. The guy touting what Hulu has done for NBC should also be asking what Hulu will do for its network affiliates.

    Why was AP invented? Anyone who took journalism 101 knows the answer to this. But just in case, go read about it: http://www.ap.org/pages/about/history/history_first.html

    Now, after reading the early history of the AP ask yourself: Does it serve a purpose that couldn’t be handled more efficiently by the InternetWORK? Does it today do anything for it’s originating sources — content providers — that couldn’t be done at least as well without it and at lower cost? Does it help newspapers generate revenue or does it take revenue from them for a purpose that has become largely irrelevant if not down-right parasitic? If the AP reinvents itself as the portal of portals for online newspaper news, will that serve the originating content providers any more than AP “serves” them today? In short, would this portal serve AP or it’s members (last time I checked, AP doesn’t pay members for what they provide, the members pay AP for access to something they can now get more efficiently without it)?

    Original reporting? Please. The AP bureau covering the state of New Jersey has become virtually non-existent. There are 18 people, only one of which covers the statehouse. http://www.ap.org/nj/contact.html A total of Eight reporters and two photographers covering everything from sports to gambling to health & business in a state nestled between New York City and Philadelphia that hosts HQs for many of the world’s biggest pharma companies as well as the nation’s second-largest casino conglomeration.

    From my reading of the AP proposal they aren’t offering to do anything that newspapers can’t do without them. What they are offering will still cost members a great deal of money with only a promise that forecast profits will be shared with “network affiliates.” It isn’t at all clear to me how this will benefit my newspaper or others. But it is baldly apparent how this will benefit AP.

  • Matt Terenzio

    I wish Steve Gillmor were here to proclaim “links are dead”.

  • Paul Evans
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  • http://burden.ca/blog/ Tim Burden

    Jeff: Since no-one seems to want to comment on your metatag idea, allow me.

    The major search engines recently adopted a canonical rel tag standard that can be used within domains, but not across domains. Why not across domains? Because, as Matt Cutts said on his blog: “we wanted to constrain it to one domain to prevent possible ways that people might try to abuse this.”

    It’s easy to imagine how it could be abused.

    Good luck trying to get your metatag, which is the same as the canonical rel tag except across domains, implemented.

    We already have tools at our disposal to hint to Google to do the right thing with PageRank. 301 redirects, noindex, the new canonical tag. Hell, just linking back to the originating site will pass most of the accumulated PageRank along. Presumably this is why the new Guardian API allows full content duplication of third party sites as long as the link back to the original content on its site is there.

    If news sites are going to collude about anything, it should be first to stop paying AP a fee to publish AP news and AP members’ news on their sites. On the web, that syndication model doesn’t work. It hurts the web and it hurts all the papers that participate, for the reasons you note above.

    Second, they all agree never to publish work that originates on another site. The policing of this is the same as that you mention above by the aggregators, readers, and competitors). Link instead, as you have said so many times. An AP member’s original work appears on its site and nowhere else. AP creates its own site for its own journalist’s work. Or continues to use Google.

    Third, they band together with AP to browbeat Google into punishing duplicate content much more strongly than it already does. AP shouldn’t enable it, and Google shouldn’t allow it. Sites that do it should be snuffed in the SERPS, including newspapers rewriting AP content. All PageRank accruing from links to duplicate content should be let pass to the original content. There is no better disincentive for duplicate content than to kill any reward for doing it.

    Instead of paying newspapers for linking to them (an incredibly stupid idea from any angle), Google should use its big bankroll to make its search engine and its aggregator better in this regard. And they’d help out their beloved content providers at the same time. Two birds with one stone. What could be better?

  • http://buzznova.com BuzzNova
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  • nonbelieverinlinkeconomny

    Forget links – this is the model if it can be pulled off…
    Why?
    1. Content owners have incentives to use it
    2. Ad providers can potentially get greater CPMs by recognizing the content source and therefore are more willing to share a piece of a bigger pie
    http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2009/04/21/startup-tries-to-rally-publishers-with-ad-sharing-proposal/

  • John Doe

    I have to say, I find the comments more interesting, but the article is good to.

    I think if you are going to push for a standard, you would need an independent conflict free elected fully transparent board to manage this new extension format. Funding could be provided by the government or based on revenues of the companies participating assuming they meet the standards.

    It could happen, probably will be a slow process at first but it will eventually pick up steam.

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  • http://www.denverpost.com/firstinthepost Joe Murphy

    Hey, Jeff, my employer The Denver Post has something of an answer for the “who got that news first” problem, it’s our First in the Post section and it also has an RSS feed.

    I think I started reading this blog post back in April, it got stuck in my brain, and when I pitched for it a few weeks later my bosses thought it was worth a try. Our breaking news editor updates it five days a week, the other two days it goes stagnant. http://www.denverpost.com/firstinthepost and http://feeds.denverpost.com/dp-news-firstinthepost .

    -Joe

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  • http://www.joincpalead.com “Kimberly”

    “If you are looking to monetize your website or content you should check out CPALead http://www.joincpalead.com/

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