On the link economy

Arnon Mishkin says he has found the fallacy of the link economy but I think his argument is itself built on some fallacies, among them:

* If links are not valuable, then fine, get rid of them: refuse all aggregators’ and search engines’ robots, complain so much about links that no one bothers to link to you (a la the AP). Or put all your stuff behind a pay wall where the links won’t pay off. Where are you then? Without discovery. Without audience. Without a means to monetize audience. Links may not be worth as much as you wish they were worth, but that’s an unstated and unmeasurable standard and quite meaningless. You’ll discover just how much they are worth if you don’t have them. That’s the only meaningful analysis.

* Links are worth what the recipient makes of them. See my second imperative of the link economy: He or she who gets the links is the one who has to monetize them. So the value of links is, in the end, set by the recipient of the links. It’s up to you how well you take advantage of the traffic you get. If you’re bad at selling ads or products or subscriptions or whatever you sell, then links are worth less. But that’s your fault, not the linkers.

* Implicit in the argument by Mishkin and others is the assumption that readers fill up sufficiently on news on aggregated headline pages and so they don’t click on the links and thus the aggregator delivered the value rather than the content creator. But this assumes that the reader was going to click on at least one or all of those links. Who’s to say that’s true. Often in a day, I look at a page filled with links – nevermind the aggregator; I go to the NYTimes.com homepage or to my RSS reader – and I click on nothing simply because nothing interests me or nothing’s new. There is no basis to assume that if I don’t click on a link, that’s a click lost. And in any case, if I do click, isn’t it better to be there?

* The math of Mishkin’s argument falls apart for me. He says that aggregators get more traffic on their pages than link recipients get on theirs. Well, yes. If I come to a page about the latest news on the iPhone and see 10 links, I’m likely to click on just one of them and so that site and the aggregator’s got equal traffic but the other nine got less. So the aggregator will, mathematically, almost always get more traffic that the sum of the link recipients on the page. In his “study,” Mishkin says there “was at least twice as much traffic” on the links page as on the destination pages. I’d think it would be much higher. On a page with those 10 links and 0 to 1 clicks, the links page will get more traffic than 90 percent of the recipients. So? What this tells me is that you’d better write damned good headlines.

* Simon Owens did his own study of linking and found, anecdotally, that simple headline links didn’t send him as much traffic from Huffington Post as rich links that took a lot of his content. Stands to reason when you think about it: The better and more tempting the link, the more traffic it will generate … if , of course, the content is relevant to the reader and good enough. This argues more more linking and more in each link, not less.

* I would argue that ads on the link aggregator’s page are worth far, far less than those on the destination pages and that must be calculated if trying to compare relative value gained. If I’m on a link aggregator’s page, I’m likely to click on a content headline and not an ad. When I do click on that page, I’m going to spend time on the page absorbing all that content and when I’m sated, I’m more likely to click on an ad. Again, it’s up to the content creator to make sure there are relevant ads on that page to extract full value from them.

Mishkin writes:

Historically, the value of those casual browsers was captured by the newspaper because the readers would have to buy a copy. Now all the value gets captured by the aggregator that scrapes the copy and creates a front page that a set of readers choose to scan. And because creating content costs much more scraping it, there is little rational economic reason to create content.

I see two fallacies there:

* First is the essential fallacy of newspaper, television, and radio advertising: that all consumers see all ads and so the content creator charges every advertiser for every consumer for every ad. We all know that’s false. Online gives the lie to that media fiction, for online advertisers pay only for the pages on which their ads appear. Of if they’re doing business with Google – and this is why they do – they pay only for the clicks. Yes, newspapers used to capture that value but they captured it by ripping off their advertisers and those days are over.

* Second, he throws out the baby, the bathwater, and the tub and plumbing aguing that there’s “little rational economic reason to create content.” God knows what he’s telling content companies, then: give up? That’s overdramatic and patently ridiculous. He then complains: “This year, after the June election [in Iran], the journalistic hero was the blogger for The Huffington Post who stayed in D.C. and linked to every piece of information from Tehran he could find.” Well, Mr. Mishkin, that’s because every journalist was deported, locked up, or forbidden to report and so aggregation of links to witnesses’ accounts – none of them paid or monetizing – was the only way to get news and it wasn’t just Huffington that did it, it was The New York Times, the Guardian, and The Atlantic. You point, then?

* Though Mishkin doesn’t name them, he’s surely targeting Google News for getting so much value. Except Google News didn’t have ads for years and now has only limited AdSense advertising. It is hardly getting rich on Google News. Eric Schmidt said at the Aspen Ideas Festival that the only way for Google to pay news sites because of Google News would be to take money from other parts of the business; it would be nothing but a subsidy. I am a partner for Daylife another aggregator, and it has network ads on some page which – I don’t think they’ll kill me to say this – aren’t worth much. It makes money by licensing its functionality to publishers – content creators, almost every one – who use it to create topic pages to link to their own content and then outside content, creating more inventory as a result. They prove both Mishkin and me right by finding value in both aggregation and content. That’s what I’d advise publishers to do.

* Mishkin says he advises his clients to, “Assess how much value the aggregators are getting by virtue of using their content and use that to seek an equitable economic relationship. And be willing to drop the links rather than submit to an unfair deal.” Be careful what you wish for, because I believe this will show that Google is creating more value and in an “equitable economic relationship” should be paid. Even if not, forcing such negotiations – as the AP, one of Mishkin’s clients (but not on this matter) is threatening to do – will only cut off links because it is not worth the hassle for the linkers. That’s a good way to cut off links and traffic and audience and advertising, then. See my first bullet above.

* He advises clients to partner with other content makers to create aggregation sites. Well, doesn’t that argue for the value of aggregation and the links it brings? If aggregation brings content creators no value, why have it?

* In the end, Mishkin and I agree on only one point: that content creators need to find new ways to distribute their content. That will be the subject of another post.

: AND: Ken Ellis, chief scientist of Daylife, says I am too congenial here. Ken analyzes the numbers further:

Value online means selling ads, and there are premium ads, and there are remnant ads. Aggregators mostly get low-value remnant ads, but publishers get premium ads in some cases. A page view for a publisher is on average more valuable than a page view for an aggregator. How much? The number Jarvis and his group at CUNY came up with was $5-7 RPM for a small publisher. For a major aggregator like Digg, its around $2 RPM based on numbers from Silicon Alley Insider, at 400 million pageviews per month. That’s on the high end for aggregators, most are getting less. So lets say publishers have three times the revenue per view than aggregators, which I think is conservative.

Next, there is his claim that he saw “twice as much traffic on the home page as there were clicks going to the stories”. This is misleading. He’s comparing pageviews with visitors, and those aren’t equal. A visitor generates at least one and often more pageviews. Lets say each visit leads to 3 page views, that’s about average for news publishers, although you might argue that traffic from aggregators is less likely to stick around. Also, news outlets generate their own traffic, it doesn’t all come through aggregators. For the NYTimes about half comes from other referers, only some of which are aggregators. So there’s another factor of two. Cranking through the numbers, that’s 3*(1/2)*3*2 = 9 times more revenue for publishers than for the aggregator. So is that a “vast majority” of the value? To me a majority is more than 50%, lets peg a “vast” majority at somewhere in excess of 75%. Even allowing for some errors, and I’d have to be off by a lot, aggregators aren’t getting anywhere near 75% of the revenue from online news….

  • http://ebooktest.blogspot.com Mike Cane

    The New York Times is sitting on archives worth billions of dollars. If they can’t figure out how to extract the value in their *history*, how do you expect them — or others — to do it with *daily* value?

  • http://outsidethebeltway.com James Joyner

    Great points, Jeff.

    And Daylife is an awesome aggregator. Their news photo archives, for example, are the best I’ve found anywhere.

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  • Eric Gauvin

    Yet with all of this “aggregated” content, the internet remains extremely fragmented, with our only hope of finding anything being via an unhealthy dependency on the incumbent behemoth search engine (google).

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  • Bob P.

    The Jarvis doth protest too much, methinks.

    No, you make some good points here, methinks. But Mishkin’s piece was astute and articulate, too. Of course aggregators benefit from the work of others — whom they don’t have to pay. That’s the business model. Why should we be shy about saying that? It’s a parasitic business. I guess the question is whether this is a parasitic relationship like heartworm in a dog — which can kill the dog — or whether it’s like the relationship between pilot fish and sharks — in which each helps the other survive. I know what your answer would be. But let’s be frank: Aggregators, to the extent they can sell ads (and they’re having trouble making money, too, you say) benefit from the work of reporters paid by newspapers.

    Secondly, I’d just point out that an ad doesn’t need to be clicked on to provide value to an advertiser, does it? Nobody clicks on a magazine ad, and yet companies spend billions on them. Nike would be the perfect example. Photo of a sweaty athlete. “Just Do It” (swoosh).

    Those ads on the HuffPo quickreads can be the same kind of thing. Funny, I notice The NYTimes is advertising on the HuffPo quickreads now. Wonder if they paid, or if it’s some kind of trade arrangement? Even shows up on a quickread for a Washington Post story.

  • Bob P.

    That Simon Owens thing wasn’t a “study.” It is a report of how much traffic a HuffPo link sent to one of his posts. “Anecdotally” — yeah. One event. Ok, he got a big spike. I would hypothosize that straight news headlines and essays are two different beasts when it comes to people actually clicking the link. Straight news can be boring alright, but Mishkin is right that people buy and scan the newspaper to learn that “there wasn’t a fire.” They don’t read every story top to bottom, but the might scan all the headlines. Now they do this on aggregators. But, sure, are newspapers entitled to be the scanning medium of choice forever. Of course not. But they are still doing the beat work.

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  • http://blog.syracuse.com/postscript Brian Cubbison

    It’s important to remember that the AP is not part of the link economy. It’s a wholesaler, a business-to-business vendor. It doesn’t benefit from links the way a blogger or even a newspaper Web site would. We don’t complain about Getty Images or Lexis-Nexis. AP will have to decide if it’s wholesale or retail, but it probably can’t be both.

  • Arnon Mishkin

    Jeff Jarvis, not surprisingly, does not fully subscribe to the views of my piece on the fallacy of links. I’ve met Jeff a few times. He’s a very nice person. He’s also a very facile writer and an aggressive advocate for his position. In fact, the vehemence of his arguments successfully obscures one simple thing: they’re wrong. But, as they say, “when the facts support you, present the facts, when they don’t, bang on the table.”

    Because what’s interesting is that the facts – the facts Jeff cites – support the notion that the value of journalistic content creation is captured by the aggregators, not the content creators

    He starts with the premise that I am wrong because I say links have limited value – but without links, says Jarvis, one has “no traffic, no audience, no discovery.” Jarvis’s argument boils down to the cyberspace equivalent of a Marxist dialectic, that I have to be wrong because I’ve not conceded the centrality of class struggle, (ok, the primacy of Google links). Here, Jarvis is right, I don’t believe they have such great value. Moreover, I think most content sites are misreading their data on how much traffic they get from the Googles, etc. Someone told me of visiting a newspaper that said, “we get 50% of our traffic from Google.” A check of the data showed that the number was more like 10%. 10% does not the centrality of googlejuice make.

    Jarvis is right in saying “it’s what you make of the link.” My point is that if the content creator is trying to monetize the link in the same manner as the linker (advertising), they will likely get the same CPM as the linker, and the linker will have more traffic and in a competitive world, the linker wins. Figure out better ways of monetizing that traffic (e.g. selling the content, engaging in some form of e-commerce) then I’m with you. So far, the content companies have not. (But that’s a separate subject)

    Jarvis agrees with my point that people sometimes scan headlines just to scan headlines (e.g. check that there wasn’t a fire). But his conclusion is that if he goes to a site with headlines and clicks on nothing, there is no click lost by the content creators. Not quite. Jeff’s visit to that aggregator site was a page view that they could sell to advertisers. If the headlines weren’t on scrapers (e.g. Google, Huff Post) – and were only on sites that paid for those headlines, the content creators would be able to monetize the “headline check” rather than lose that revenue. AND MOST IMPORTANT: there’s a lot more “checking of headlines” than deep diving into the reason for the results of the [obscure] election.

    Finally, Jeff agrees with my point that linkers get more traffic than each “linkee.” But he claims my math is wrong that that in fact the linkers get 10x as much traffic as the content creators. (I’ll skip the math lesson, but actually we’re both right – it depends on if you are comparing a linker to one or all “linkees.”). [But still the content creators should be grateful for all the manna that has come from the great proletarian sacrifice of Google, but that’s another story.] He says the answer is to ‘write better headlines” – NO Jeff, read your previous paragraph – you’re one of the people giving the linkers twice (or ten times) the traffic when you just check to see if anything’s happening. It’s not about writing better headlines, it’s about appreciating that the headlines provide enough info for large segments of the customer base. The content creators have the ability to claim some of that value by dealing with the issue of links.

    Think about: how many times have you heard content companies say, “oh we have a traffic deal with Yahoo, but it’s a lot less traffic than we expected.” or “it’s unbelievable how my home page just dominates my traffic” or the equivalent – all these points boil down to the same core fact: linking creates much more value than getting linked.

    Then he doesn’t understand why – after all my complaints about the aggregators, I suggest that the content creators think of partnering to start their own set of aggregators. Where’s the flaw here, Jeff? I said that aggregators/linkers create more economic value than pure content creators/linkees. I said the creators shouldn’t allow the aggregators to do that. If you buy that, then the only two strategic avenues are to combine the economic value of each: either backward integration or forward integration. [Seeking licensing is a form of backward integration, partnering to start an aggregator is a form of forward integration.]

    Finally Jarvis gets religious on me and complains that by saying that the world is evolving to a place where content creators do not have an economic incentive to create content I’m throwing the ‘baby out with the bathwater’ Sorry, Jeff, I’ve spent too much time in and around newsrooms. You don’t need to teach me the value of journalism. But, as the important work you are doing this week in Aspen is showing, good reporting requires a viable business model. There’s nothing shameful in that. I for one, have found it no coincidence that the most important newspaper reporting of the past century came shortly after the New York Times and Washington Post achieved economic dominance in their markets.

    But do not think you can create an economic model for journalism while giving away all the value of aggregating that journalism.

    • http://bernardmoon.blogspot.com Bernard Moon

      Arnon, what’s reflective of how a bit off you are in your insights and argument is the fact that you refer to Jeff Jarvis in third person on his own blog. You’re suppose to reply TO HIM not ABOUT HIM.

    • Andy Freeman

      Mishkin wants us to think that he has something worthwhile to say about the economics of journalism but said nothing about classifieds and inserts. Is that because Craigslist, Ebay, and merchant sites don’t fit his story or did he “miss” their importance?

      As far as search advertising goes, Google’s ads are keyed to the query. For example, a search for “Michael Jackson” shows ads for Michael Jackson memorabilia, music, et al. When did a newspaper sell such ads in print editions?

      Continuing with the “michael jackson” search – Mishkin seems to believe that some of the publications “deserve” some money for appearing on the search results page.

      If he’s correct, the obvious robots.txt entry would suffice to teach Google the value of those publications. Go for it.

      However, I note that the respectable publications on that SERP didn’t pay their sources. If we’re going to talk about “deserve”, why not sources?

      However, there’s an even bigger problem. No one ever believed that citing someone else required permission. Why does Mishkin wrt Google? Does he advise the newspapers for which he consults that they owe compensation and should get permission when they “aggregate”?

  • coldbrew

    Mishkin: I Don’t know you or Jarvis, but allow me to summarize your outlandishly long response:

    1st paragraph: Jarvis is lazy and wrong. [Some cliché is used to imply Jarvis is wrong even though the analogy falls apart when applied specifically]

    2nd paragraph: Aggregators capture the value, not content creators because Mishkin says so.

    3rd paragraph: Google links are not valuable. Why? Here’s an unsubstantiated anecdote. So, Google is worthless (I won’t change robots.txt though).

    4th paragraph: CPMs are equal no matter the nature of a given site. Linkers get more traffic, so get more money [apparently, it is a contest to see who gets the most $: creator or aggregator]

    5th paragraph: Headline scanning should be monetized by content creators; aggregators deny creators of this right to earn money from creating something w/o value (e.g. worthless stories).

    6th paragraph: Something about math and assumptions.[everyone is making assumptions here, of course] Writing better headlines, as Jarvis suggests, will not provide success because many people just want headlines and will go no further (e.g. no click or PV), so let the creator have the value, not the aggregator.[How about a government mandate or change in Copyright law?]

    7th paragraph: Yahoo and other portals do not drive that much traffic. Links create value for the linker not the linkee. [More pageviews are not valueable? Don’t bother to explain why.]

    8th paragraph: Content creators need to become aggregators in their own right through partnerships because that is where the value is produced. [Mishkin misses the fact that the current aggregators are unbiased in comparison to his purposed Super_Creator_Aggregator entities]

    9th paragraph: Jarvis makes a religious claim against me b/c I believe the only reason to create is purely $$$-oriented. Good journalism needs a good business model, so the best thing to do is copy what Google et al. are doing. The best news reporting came when the business model was the most lucrative. [Judith Miller is also my hero.]

    10th paragraph: Journalism’s only value is in headlines and the aggregators steal it from the creators.
    **********************************************

    I have one question: Do content consumers figure into this discussion at all, or just noting their habits, in general, is enough? :) :) :)

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

      Well said, coldbrew.

      • http://www.technovia.co.uk Ian Betteridge

        Except that, as almost always with “summaries” of other people’s arguments, “Coldbrew” simply doesn’t address Aaron’s arguments.

        His points deserve a serious response, Jeff – when can we expect it from you?

      • Eric Gauvin

        Probably not…

      • Eric Gauvin

        THE GREAT AND POWERFUL WIZARD HAS SPOKEN!

  • zato

    “the facts Jeff cites – support the notion that the value of journalistic content creation is captured by the aggregators, not the content creators”

    I can’t help thinking that Google is being targeted by professional propagandists. They also target Huff Post. Who would gain and who loses by discrediting or legislating against them?

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  • Eric Gauvin

    Jeff,

    Do I have the definition of “the link economy” correct?

    http://www.ericgauvin.com/?p=26

  • http://stanspire.blogspot.com Stan Spire

    Three comments:

    1. Good luck with beating cancer.

    2. I’m not a troll. I’m a Proofreader At Large, OCD. Finding humor in written slip-ups.

    3. “Second, he throws out the baby, the bathwater, and the tub and plumbing aguing that…”

    So how does suffering from the ague relate to the baby, bathwater, etc? (Yes, I’m having a fit of ague – I mean argue.)

    Stan Spire

    Expert Mispeller

  • http://ebooktest.blogspot.com Mike Cane

    >>>Of course aggregators benefit from the work of others — whom they don’t have to pay.

    There have *always* been aggregators. Hasn’t anyone ever had to use Books In Print? There’s even a Directory of Directories. Where were the objections over those, pre-Net?

    Drudge Report is probably the first aggregator of news, but all he does — usually — is link to headlines. I go, I scan the headlines, and if something interests me and I click, *then* the point of origination gets the traffic. Those places should be grateful for sites such as Drudge, because otherwise I’d never see their stories.

    This entire argument is nothing but the screams of an industry that can’t figure out how to save itself. Just like the music industry — which still can’t save itself.

    • Andy Freeman

      > Of course aggregators benefit from the work of others — whom they don’t have to pay.

      That’s chutzpah – newspapers benefit from the work of others (sources) and insist that they have a right to do without paying anything. (There are some exceptions.)

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  • http://blog.syracuse.com/postscript Brian Cubbison

    I wonder what will happen if big media companies decide to become aggregators. Will it be “Welcome to the link economy at last” or “Hey, stop stealing the little guy’s stuff”?

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  • arnon mishkin

    This is some kind of alternate universe: the author of WWGoogleDo disagrees with me for saying value is captured by aggregators not content creators and his colleague from daylife says content creators create more balancd sheet value that aggrehators. Guys wwgoogledo? Wwdaylifedo? They aggregate, google would not buy a content creator. What mnakes you guys disagree so vehemently?

    As to “would you use robots.txt to shut off links?” That is explicitly addrressed in both my piece, and then quoted by jeff

  • Rick

    Arnon’s snarky comment about Nico Pitney was totally uncalled for and I can’t believe he didn’t even have the guts to call out Nico by name. Seems to me that folks like Mishkin are symptomatic of why journalism as a whole still struggles to embrace and leverage online media.

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  • Eric Gauvin

    This is getting tedious. The argument about charging for content centers around the “value” of links in “the link economy.” The believers in “the link economy” keep equating charging for content as disallowing linking. But if links really did have value, they should view people charging for their content as potential paying customers. This proves links don’t have value in the sense we’re led to believe (monetarily). They have “value” only in a “linking reciprocity” way. They have value strictly in the sense that they drive traffic around the web. This doesn’t mean charging for content is incompatible with links. The believers in “the link economy” say charging for content is like “banning links.” I’d say just the opposite, if links have value, charging for content would prove that they have value. Alas, what believers in “the link economy” are really saying is they love to link freely to everything (why? because those links have value to them…).

    Also, when can we stop saying things like “monetize the links” and instead just say what we’re really talking about: trying to make money from advertising from website traffic.

    • Andy Freeman

      Gauvin is either not paying attention or being disengenuous.

      > The believers in “the link economy” say charging for content is like “banning links.”

      No, they don’t. We’ve said repeatedly that folks should monetize their sites/content in any way that they see fit. We have pointed out that paywalls in front of commodity content probably won’t provide much income, that readers will go to low cost/friction providers, but that’s a long way from saying that such schemes are “banning links”.

      The “ban links” thing comes from folks who believe that linking requires permission – I’ll come back to that.

      > Alas, what believers in “the link economy” are really saying is they love to link freely to everything (why? because those links have value to them…).

      We “[linked] freely to everything” before the web, so why shouldn’t we continue to do so on the web?

      Gauvin believes that that a web linker requires permission. Why? Does he also believe that off-web linking requires permission? If so, does he criticize off-line pubs that fail to request permission?

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  • Warren from Aus

    @Bob P.

    Calling News Aggregators ‘Parasitic’ is awfully inflammatory – you could just as easily argue all business is parasitic (to flip the Marxist rhetoric back in the other direction). Consider travel agents – we don’t call them parasitic, yet they typically don’t provide any of the travel services they sell, they simply sort through everything that’s available to find what is best for the customer. It’s just that they survive by charging a commission to the customer, (or getting paid by the ‘travel content’ creators) rather then advertising to them. Yet airlines, hotels, etc. don’t demand that the profits travel agents make should be theirs – it’s their responsibility to make a profit from what they create/sell, not the responsibility of the companies who direct customers to them.

    As coldbrew says, and to paraphrase Mrs Lovejoy ‘Would somebody PLEASE think of the consumers!’ News Aggregators are simply providing a service, and they have found a business model that supports them doing so. I want the news, but I want the news that is relevant and interesting to me. Sure I could go and buy all the papers locally and internationally and sort through them all to find the interesting bits, but I don’t have time to. There is just too much news/content these days, so I prefer to use an aggregator or more specifically bloggers that have the same interests as me to do the sorting for me. That was one of the primary roles of a traditional newspaper editor, but what makes their selection of news more relevant to me then a blogger, and why should I have to pay for what is ultimately a pretty limited selection service?

    News content creators need to come up with a way to make money for what they do. The aggregators certainly have a vested interest in their being content for them to scrape, but that doesn’t make them responsible for making it profitable. When big content blames the aggregators for their own failure, what they are really saying is ‘We can’t figure out how to make money, so you should do it for us’ ie it’s a cop-out.

    Hmm, I’m sorry Bob P, it’s amazing how a brief comment quickly turns into a mini rant – that wasn’t meant to be directed at you! :)

    • Bob P.

      Hey, no problem. I don’t presume to have this all figured out. That’s why I’m here.

      Maybe “parasitic” has too ugly a connotation. I didn’t mean to say that this couldn’t be a symbiotic relationship (see the old thing about the shark and the pilot fish). Somebody else here accuses me of chutzpah. Chutzpah? I was just trying to state a fact, not pass judgment. Those who are very vociferous defenders of aggregators seem very touchy about admitting that a part of the value of news aggregation is derived from traditional news outlets. Of course it is. Don’t get all uptight about it, people. Maybe it’s harder to admit that when you it’s such great fun criticizing the paper dinosaurs.

      Maybe, the best way this could really shake out is if these folks start to cooperate a little, stop fighting and find an arrangement that works symbiotically (old thing about the pilot fish and the shark).

      You’re right, Warren. Part of the difficulty of using the Web can be the lack of a gatekeeper. How to sort through so much information? Aggregators help. I agree, it’s a necessary, useful function.

    • Andy Freeman

      > Somebody else here accuses me of chutzpah. Chutzpah? I was just trying to state a fact, not pass judgment.

      The fact stated was that citers get some value from citing.

      However, that fact is neither new nor specific to Google or the web. In fact, newspapers cite and get value from doing sol, and have always done so. Yet, Bob P. doesn’t see fit to call them parasites. (I do like the feigned “I didn’t know that someone would think that I meant parasite as a bad thing”.)

      Newspaper folk seem to think that they should be paid when someone cites them but have never paid those who they cite and have no plans to start doing so. (Of course, there are cases where newspapers have gotten paid for citing, but they claim that those are infrequent ethical lapses.)

      Bob P. is offended when I point out this double-standard and call it “chutzpah”. What label would he prefer?

      Of course, there are differences. Google’s cites make it much easier for readers to get to “the real thing”, making Google’s cites more valuable to a newspaper than a newspaper’s cites are to who it cites. Also, Google is willing to do something that no newspaper has ever been willing to do for those it cites, namely stop doing so.

      It’s unclear how either of these differences reflect well on newspapers vs Google.

      Note that the relationship already is symbiotic because Google’s cites do generate significant revenue for newspapers. So, Bob P’s complaint really is that newspapers aren’t getting enough.

      BTW – The “shark and the pilot fish” analogy doesn’t hold because Google can do perfectly well without newspapers. If they become too much trouble, they may get to find out how well that they can do without Google….

  • James L.

    This notion of content aggregators monetizing off of its content generators is ridiculous!

    Traditional news media companies need to change their strategy, consolidate their newsrooms and creating their own networks in order to drive their own traffic and generate their own revenues. All the while knowing that by NOT allowing their content to be linked for now will surely lead to a drop off in their content and product!

    The AP is foolish since it is caught between how to create fair value and get paid for what they do ( create news content) versus fighting the same people who are in fact helping them remain relevant in their respective markets and business. Between Reuters, the AP and other wire services, they need to adapt to the new business model of online monetization.

    So, yes, those in the business of generating unique content will have an advantage but need to learn how to embrace the linked economy they all need to be part of rather than not being part of at all!

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  • Andy Freeman

    > Historically, the value of those casual browsers was captured by the newspaper because the readers would have to buy a copy.

    If that was true, newspaper rack would not expose today’s headlines. Yet, they all do.

    The truth is that newspapers have always used headlines to try to convert casual browsers into buyers. And, anyone who has watched a news rack for any significant period of time has noticed that most folks don’t buy – they scan the headlines and go on their way.

    In short, Mishkin is wrong about the way things were.

    • Bob P.

      Andy. Nobody buys single copies anymore. Hardly anybody. Unless their really is news. People who buy single copies are like people who go to the library for Internet service.

      Mishkin could correct me if I’m wrong, but probably what he meant more precisely, was that the value of those people who skim the news was captured by papers because many of those people would *subscribe* to the paper.

    • Andy Freeman

      Newspapers spend a lot of money servicing “single copy buyers”, either with racks or in shops, so it isn’t insignificant. And, the dominance of subscriptions was relatively recent anyway.

      More to the point, one problem with the “casual folks subscribe” argument is that they were subscribing because of the classifieds and that biz is dead, or rather, has moved online. And no, Google didn’t do that, Craigslist and eBay did.

      So, casual buyers are the future, just as they were the past. Newspapers will try to grab readers/monetization opportunities with headlines. And, no one is going to pay for their headlines unless they’re unique, and almost none are.

    • Andy Freeman

      Note that classifieds are not “sold” by headlines.

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