Posts about ap

Nevermind

Well, I hope we’ll know more about the standdown in the AP Affair, but I’m glad and not a bit surprised that hostilities have ceased. Fair use and fair comment remain murky, as they were intended. The larger story about the changing architecture, economy, and society of news media also remains.

I’m recording a BBC Radio 4 appearance later today on the topic. The AP chose not to join. Too bad. I think the more openly this discussion is held, the better. It’s complex and not clear cut from any vantage.

Whither the AP

What has me most upset about the AP Affair is that I fear we are seeing the beginnings of its death throes. I value the AP and don’t want it to die. I want it to morph to a new model and a new future. But I am afraid that in its fights, we are seeing its inability to adapt (not all its own fault; I’ll bet blame goes to its board and member/owners). And in its current combatants, we see the preview of a day when the AP has no friends left: not its members, not us readers/writers. If it does die, it could be that these parties would shrug and not mourn. And that would be the tragedy.

As I blogged here, the AP’s members are beginning to revolt. They are sharing their stories directly and see value in no longer going through the AP mill. That is a shot across the service’s bow.

So let’s say that local newspapers enter into networks — with other papers and with local bloggers and perhaps even with local TV stations. Will they need the AP state wire anymore? Doesn’t look like it.

And let’s say that local newspapers become what I’ve predicted and urged: very local. They cover their areas on their own and with these new networks. They no longer try to cover the rest of the world. That could be where the AP comes in. But the AP is still expensive and papers are shrinking and complaining — that’s what the revolt is really about. So this could also be where link platforms such as Daylife (disclosure: I’m a partner there) or even a general-interest Digg arrive to provide links directly to coverage on any topic wherever it is covered. I’ve suggested that papers will be left with a links editor who handles anything beyond the local limits.

Now add the fact that the AP has fired a shot across the bow of bloggers, not realizing that their links are valuable (and their ire dangerous); see the post below. At its core, this is about the AP’s conflict with its clients in becoming a consumer brand. If the AP tried to become that consumer brand — able to monetize links from bloggers and fans — it would value links from bloggers; instead, it is desperate to monetize its ownership of content and can’t face the prospect that this model is dying. But the AP can’t become a consumer brand because that would put it in competition and conflict with its members/owners. As Brian Cubbison says in the comment here, the AP is a wholesaler trapped in a retail world. Reuters is dealing with that conflict because it’s not owned by its clients. The AP can’t.

So what does the world look like without the AP? It pains me to ask but it’s a possible universe. Local papers can get local content from their own networks and national, international, sports, business and other content via links. They can also enter into cooperatives — which is where the AP started — to cover other events, such as the Olympics (now that every paper can’t afford the ego trip of sending huge staffs to overcovered news). The AP’s other clients — TV stations and such — have sources of national and international coverage from Reuters and Agence France Presse. Readers get links directly to original journalism at its source. The sources of that journalism get more audience and more opportunity to monetize it and support their work. The world keeps going.

How could the AP survive? I think it needs to become a curator and distributor of original content — likely not in a syndication model but in a shared sponsorship network. It could continue to be a cooperative for bespoke coverage, but only on demand. It would be much smaller. Or it could be freed to build a consumer brand able to monetize audience like Reuters (though its board of members/owners would likely never go for that). In any case, it can’t stay stuck in the limbo it’s in now, getting in trouble with every side. That, I believe, is why it is acting like a trapped animal.

And that, you see, is why I am so concerned by the AP Affair. It’s about more than a few bloggers and links and lawyer letters. It’s about the future of the news business.

: LATER: Moments after I posted this, I see that Dorian Benkloil, writing at Silicon Alley Insider, agrees that the members are the problem.

The link economy v. the content economy

In media, we are moving from a content economy to a link economy.

The AP Affair is the best illustration of the clash between these two worldviews.

Let’s turn the discussion on its head. Let’s say that the real value in this equation is not content and information — both of which are now quickly commodified — but links, which are the new currency of media. Links can be exploited and monetized; get links and you can grab audience and show ads and make money. Content is becoming a cost burden, what you have to have to get the links, but in and of itself, content can’t draw value without an audience, without links.

So now let’s turn this fight on its head. The AP should not be asking for payment for its content. The bloggers should be asking for payment for their links. That is where the value is in this economy.

Step away from that ‘comment’ link. I am not seriously suggesting that bloggers should demand or accept payment for links. Indeed, that would be quite unethical — very PayPerPosty: selling out and devaluing our credibility. That’s why we don’t do it. Our link ethic would not allow it.

Still, there is value in our links and the AP, if it understood this new economy would understand that it is a gift economy and links are presents that can be given or earned but not bought. But the AP is still operating in the content economy, which values control instead. That age has passed.

Hey, Saul

I can’t not respond to Saul Hansell’s nanny nattering at me and other bloggers over the AP Affair.

What the AP and The New York Times’ Hansell don’t seem to realize is how hostile an act it is to send lawyer letters to individuals. They have armies of attorneys. We bloggers don’t. The mere act of sending us a letter can cost us money out of our own pockets. Sending a lawyer letter is an assault.

Saul tweaks me about having a conversation first: “Mr. Jarvis, in particular, often talks about blogging as a conversation. It seems like the A.P. wants to talk, and many bloggers would prefer a temper tantrum to a discussion.” Saul, I don’t think you’re cut out for a career as a playground monitor for you don’t have the most basic skill of the job: recognizing who started it. The AP sent its lawyer letters. It declared war.

And so, Saul, I’d say you should pose this to the AP: Why didn’t it start a conversation — an open conversation — before starting war?

I would have appreciated it very much if Saul had noticed my efforts at conversation namely this post in which I tried to explain to the AP our ethic of the link and suggest that they try it on. The AP’s Jim Kennedy called it constructive.

I think Saul misses an important point made in the blogosphere: that it’s not up to the AP to set the definition of fair use. They can’t rewrite the law. You may say that they are trying to create safe harbor by setting their own rules. From our view, they are trying to put up a fence where it cannot legally exist. All they can say is this is when they will and won’t sue or send their threatening letters. That’s not saying whether they’ll win or should. It’s not so much a safe harbor as slightly shallower water. See fellow big-media blogger Matthew Ingram:

But that’s kind of the point: the AP doesn’t have to offer a “safe harbor” to bloggers or other media sites under certain circumstances. The fair use exemption under U.S. copyright law already does that, whether the newswire likes it or not (and clearly it doesn’t). If it wants to get someone to say whether a few sentences excerpted on a blog qualifies or not, then it can go to court and try to get a judge to do so. But sitting down and trying to negotiate some kind of blanket pass for something that is already permitted under law seems like a mug’s game.

Finally, Saul says it’s silly to talk about boycotting the AP because bloggers don’t pay it (yet). That’s where Saul is farthest off the mark. He’s ignoring the value of links. More on that in the next post.

AP, hole, dig

In Saul Hansell’s NY Times report on the AP affair, they only dig themselves deeper, saying they don’t want us to quote their stories but to summarize them. That, you see, is the AP way: the mill. That is not our way: the ethic of the quote and link. The AP is still trying to preserve its way. But, as I often say, protection is no strategy for the future. In the story – which, note, I’m only summarizing here, without the quotes from the AP that might better state its stance (ahem) – the agency comes off like a policy ping-pong game, going back and forth: We want to threaten but not to sue, we want to be reasonable but we’re still going to demand that Cadenhead take down excerpts, we don’t know what the hell to do. Maybe back off, AP. Because we won’t.

: Later… A few more points…

* Remember, AP, you declared war on the bloggers. Remember that.

* I don’t really give a damn what your guidelines are. I have my own guidelines. I stated them below. The point of fair use and fair comment is that there can be no set guidelines. That’s just ridiculous.

* I will say again that the AP should start using our linking and quoting guidelines rather than its homogenization practices.

* You’ve really done it now: You’ve pissed off Michael Arrington, who has joined the AP boycott.

The A.P. doesn’t get to make it’s own rule around how its content is used, if those rules are stricter than the law allows. So even thought they say they are making these new guidelines in the spirit of cooperation, it’s clear that, like the RIAA and MPAA, they are trying to claw their way to a set of legal property rights that don’t exist today. And like the RIAA and MPAA, this is done to protect a dying business model – paid content.

* Where’s my Reuters T-shirt?

* Note that TechMeme is ready to automatically substitute links to blog posts instead of AP stories.

* One last bit of advice for the AP before I get on my plane: Back off.

A proposal to the Associated Press: A link ethic

I propose to the Associated Press that it immediately begin linking to all its sources for stories, especially to members’ original journalism because:

* This will support journalism at its source. As I’ve written here, it is vital that we link to original journalism so it can receive traffic, audience, branding, credit, conversation, and advertising.

* This will provide a better service to readers and clients, enabling them to find, read, and link to original reporting.

* This will be an act of transparency that everyone in journalism should be practicing. As they say in the math test, we should show our work. The AP can provide an example that other news organizations should follow.

This comes out of the ethic of the link and quote that I have learned from blogs. It says to our readers: Don’t take my word for it, go see for yourself. And: Here’s what the source said; I won’t rephrase it but I will quote it directly so you can see for yourself.

The Associated Press, like its industry, has been operating under a different ethic for a different time: the ethic of ownership and control.

These two systems are coming into conflict now, but they need not conflict. As Prof. Rosen has been trying to teach journalists in another context: “Newsroom people, hear me out. You don’t have to leave the moral universe you grew up in. Just admit the possibility of another valid one beyond yours.”

The AP sent Drudge Retort and Rogers Cadenhead takedown notices for brief excerpts from and links to its stories. I reacted strongly but I’ll now try to explain calmly what’s at stake here.

The AP was calling bloggers unethical even while the bloggers were operating under their own ethic of the link and the quote. The bloggers believe they are doing the right thing in quoting directly and they think they are doing the generous thing — generous to both their readers and to the AP — in providing links to the source material. The bloggers will also say that this is an ethic the AP itself violates when it homogenizes and commodifies news, rewriting it and stripping it of the identity — and now the address — of the original reporting done by its members and other sources.

But the AP will say that it has a right to own that content and others, including bloggers, do not, so it believes it is protecting that license. That is its ethic.

Of course, these two ethics need not be mutually exclusive.

Bloggers should not quote excessively from others’ content and when they quote it should be for a reason — to agree, disagree, comment on, recommend, correct (there can be many reasons). This is fair use and fair comment. There can be no word-count limit because it depends on the use. If I want to fisk a story, I may well quote the whole thing because I am commenting on it all. The test is reasonableness: a fuzzy test, but life is fuzzy.

The AP, for its part, should recognize that they and their members now live in a new media ecology constructed of links, one they do not and cannot control any longer. To be good citizens in this new economy, the AP should respect the rights of readers who write and recognize the benefits of receiving links and credit, as the bloggers give it. They should further extend this ethic to their own work. And if there is conflict or questions, their reflex should not be to send their lawyers to write letters. Remember that you are dealing with individuals, not corporations. This was a hostile act and that is why it was met in return with hostility, deservedly so.

Now let me make clear that the AP is no idiot. Jim Kennedy, its head of strategy, who responded to my rant in the comments and has done so on other blogs, has the best strategic mind in the industry (if only there were more of him). He has inspired much of my thinking about the ecology of links in news. Tom Curley, his boss, has spoken eloquently about the need to separate content from the container — to, indeed, look at new means to distribute news (by blog quotes and links among them, I’d say). The AP has been dealing with issues of credit for years when TV stations pick up stories reported by newspapers and then rewritten by the AP, giving no credit to the source; the same happens with photos, as someone said in my comments.

No, the AP is no fool. But it acted like one in this episode. I wanted to throttle them. And so I did. My problem is not just that they threatened bloggers foolishly and needlessly and assaulted the right to fair use and fair comment but that it made them appear so clueless. I believe what they did could harm both the AP and the foundering news and newspaper industries.

How could it harm the AP? Well, I return to the case of the Ohio rebellion, where papers are now sharing their original journalism without the AP and its content mill. I think there well could come a day when local papers decide to share their own content around the AP and even to do without the AP state wire. Those same papers may decide to stop covering the world or at least to do it with links instead of syndicated, commodified, expensive wire content. At the same time, as Jon Fine says in his column this week, newspapers will shrink (or disappear). So I suggest that the AP had better reconsider its relationship locally and it may need to be more of a curator than a mill. It may need to provide not rewritten stories but instead selected quotes and links — as bloggers do.

I also believe that in an economy of links, the AP should reconsider its role. Many years ago, when I still worked for a newspaper company, I told the AP that I thought it should become an ad network; that’s what we need. Maybe it should be an aggregator, or perhaps a curator. But I do not think there is a future in acting as an owner of recycled content in an age when the link also commodifies all information in an instant. That becomes a pointless game of wack-a-mole that turns us — the AP’s readers and promoters — into moles.

My suspicion is that it’s the lawyers who got the AP into this mess. My best advice for the AP’s executives is that they should try to practice the bloggers’ ethic of the link and quote themselves (updating their news values with one more value). My next-best advice is that they should walk down the hall and tell the lawyers to put a damned sock in it or send them off for a very long off-site on a golf course where they can do no harm. This is not going to be resolved enforcing the fine print of outmoded laws built for an extinct age. This is a constantly changing landscape that must be maneuvered with flexibility and openness. But if those lawyers continue to threaten bloggers who know more about this new age and are only practicing their appropriate ethics, I will continue to use this space to suggest where socks should go.

[Disclosures: I have many dogs in this hunt, which I try to point out whenever I write about this but I’ll make a fuller statement here. I am speaking for myself and none of those dogs. I am a partner at Daylife, which collects news and is a platform for links among news sources. I am on the board of Publish2, which will provide a platform for journalists to provide links to their sources. I am a member of the Media Bloggers Association, whose founder, Bob Cox, a more reasonable man than I, is talking with the parties in this story. I am writing a book about Google and believe that its role as aggregator, linker, scraper, and search engine is vital to the new ecology of media. I quote from and link to AP and others’ stories constantly. I have worked with and consider myself a friend of the AP, though they might disagree right now.]

FU AP

I talked to a reporter this week about the embattled Associated Press and said three times that I didn’t want it to die. I might take that back.

The AP has filed truly noxious takedown notices against Rogers Cadenhead’s community-created Drudge Retort, arguing copyright violations for quotes from 33 to 79 words long.

For shame, AP.

An example from Cadenhead:

Here’s one of the six disputed blog entries:

Clinton Expects Race to End Next Week

Hillary Rodham Clinton says she expects her marathon Democratic race against Barack Obama to be resolved next week, as superdelegates decide who is the stronger candidate in the fall. “I think that after the final primaries, people are going to start making up their minds,” she said. “I think that is the natural progression that one would expect.”

If you follow the link, you’ll see that the blog entry reproduces 18 words from the story and a 32-word quote by Hillary Clinton under a user-written headline. The blog entry drew 108 comments in the ensuing discussion.

This complaint comes from an organization that leaches off original reporting and kills links and credit to the source of that journalism. Yes, it has a right to reproduce reporting from member news organizations. But as I point out here, the AP is hurting original reporting by not crediting and linking to the journalism at its source. We should be operating under an ethic of the link to original reporting; this is an ethic that the AP systematically violates.

What would be better for journalism would be for aggregators — Daylife (where I am a partner), Inform, Google News, Pro Publica — to link directly to original reporting without rewriting it through its mill. That is what is happening in Ohio, where newspapers are now sharing original stories. If the AP doesn’t watch out, that is what could happen everywhere.

I have also objected to the AP doing a deal with Google that put Google in the content business, hurting the AP’s members and other sources of journalism. We should want Google to link to original reporting. But the AP insisted on Google licensing its content.

In its complaint against Cadenhead, the AP is flouting fair use and fair comment. It is ignoring the essential structure of the link architecture of the web. It is declaring war on blogs and commenters.

So let’s fire back. I urge bloggers everywhere to go to the AP and reproduce a story at length in solidarity with Cadenhead and Drudge Retort. Here‘s mine:

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) — The Cedar River poured over its banks here Thursday, forcing the evacuation of more than 3,000 homes, causing a railroad bridge to collapse and leaving cars underwater on downtown streets.

Officials estimated that 100 blocks were underwater in Cedar Rapids, where several days of preparation could not hold back the rain-swollen river. Rescuers had to use boats to reach many stranded residents, and people could be seen dragging suitcases up closed highway exit ramps to escape the water.

“We’re just kind of at God’s mercy right now, so hopefully people that never prayed before this, it might be a good time to start,” Linn County Sheriff Don Zeller said. “We’re going to need a lot of prayers and people are going to need a lot of patience and understanding.”

About 3,200 homes were evacuated and some 8,000 residents displaced, officials estimated….

That’s just the homogenized AP version of the news.

Here’s original journalism: a story from Gazette Online and another; aerial photos; users‘ photos (not the property of the AP, I’ll bet). A look at the Gazette’s home page:

Picture 19

Who needs the AP tapioca when we can get reporting like this from the source wtih no more than a link? Isn’t it a better service to reader and journalist to link directly to the original reporting?

So, bloggers, unless the AP recants and apologizes to Cadenhead, I urge you to avoid linking to the AP and to link to reporting at its source.

We are not demos

The Associated Press just folded its well-intentioned but always ill-fated effort to bring news to the young, asap.

I don’t want to engage in I-told-you-so’s. Well, that’s a lie. I do.

asap was a decent product: good, lively, creative presentation of news stories. But it seemed to practically pander to its intended audience. When I first saw asap three or four years ago, I said it couldn’t work not only because of the business model — charging ever-more-strapped news organizations lots of money for syndication — but also because the very idea of targeting news to the young doesn’t compute. If it’s a good way to present news, it will be a good way to present news for most people. I’m not young (damnit). But I like lots of the things that supposedly appeal to the yunguns today. And them yunguns like plenty of old-style, traditional means of presenting news. It’s not about age and demographics, it’s about creativity, quality, efficiency, accuracy, directness. That is also the mistake that networks make when they try to target younger viewers (which, for them, means anyone under the age of 60 — really, it it does). They hire Katie or they use flashy graphics. I remember all-male committees at Time Inc. trying to come up with magazines for those women — what do they want, anyway? — and a woman who was then brought in to help edit one of them said these men saw women only “neck-to-knees.”

That says to us that we are going to be attracted by superficiality. And that is essentially insulting. Joan Feeney, a very wise editor I worked with a few times — as my partner on the launch of Entertainment Weekly — once said that if you start with a concept for a product you believe in and want, you might succeed. But if you start with a demographic you want to target, you’ll almost inevitably end up pandering or condescending. I’ve also long argued — ever since I worked for an editor at the end of my time at People who hated its audience — that apart from, perhaps, the editor of Barbie magazine, any editor putting out any product should feel a part of the community that product serves.

If you make journalism in the third person or second person, it will likely fail. You only have a chance if you make it in the first person.

So don’t look at all these newfangled internet thangies as if they are the province of them yunguns. Then you’ll never understand them. No, ask how you can use these new tools and methods to better serve yourself and you’ll likely serve others well. The only real requirement is an openness to change.

So it’s too bad that asap is folding. But I said at the time that instead of making it a separate product for a separate audience, they should incorporate its good ideas into the rest of what the AP and its clients do. I hope they still do that.

: MORE: Here‘s Steve Yelvington on asap, with more links. Juan Antonio Giner advises companies not to create “ghetto-sections” for young readers. And Scott Anderson analyzes the business proposition.