Posts about linkeconomy

Distributing investigations

I’m delighted that the Associated Press is going to distribute the reporting of four nonprofit investigative news organizations: the Center for Public Integrity, the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University, the Center for Investigative Reporting, and ProPublica. That will get their work seen in many more print outlets. Print.

Except — and I hate to have another exception with the AP — online that isn’t necessarily the best service to the work. In a search-driven ecology, the better thing to do is to send all traffic to the reporting at its source so that can rise in search. It also means that as stories are updated, readers can get the latest. And it gives these centers the opportunity to raise money with readers who care about their work. So I hope that the papers that print these stories online also link to the source.

Link to the best

After we had breakfast a week ago and talked about possible new roles for wire services in the new world, Wolfgang Büchner, who’s soon to take the top edit position at the Deutsche Presse Agentur (the German Associated Press), send me a link to this example of the agency curating and pointing to journalism at its source, which should surely be its most important job in the link economy.

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.

Since you asked, Gatehouse

Yes, I think you’re stupid. And dangerous. And doomed.

Gatehouse link stupidity reaches settlement

Thanks to a commenter, here’s a link to the PDF of a settlement letter between Gatehouse and The New York Times Company over Gatehouse’s inane suit over links. The Times agrees to take down its links and not put up links to content that has a Gatehouse label attached (in the legal wording, a technological solution to prevent copying of its content and RSS feeds). Yet they still agree they can link and deep-link to each other.

I’m glad that this idiocy led to no precedent. Pity, though, that Gatehouse proves to be such a fool.

A danger to journalism

The more I think about it, the angrier I get at Gatehouse for its dangerous and hypocritical crusade against links.

Links are the bloodstream of the web, carrying its oxygen. Links are how original journalism will get audience, traffic, branding, attention, credit, and monetization. Links are a gift and a courtesy. Links are the means to better-informed communities. Links tie people together with each other and the information they need. Links are necessary. Links are good.

But Gatehouse (like the AP before it and the French often) is fighting links from Boston.com. That’s a case of cutting off its nose to spite its face: Gatehouse is turning away traffic and audience. Suicide. But it’s also attempted murder: If on the very slight chance that an equally clueless judge lets this suit proceed, it could put a chill on linking just when we need it most. That’s what’s dangerous. That is irresponsible on Gatehouse’s part.

Indeed, we need more links to more journalism at its source, as I proposed to the Associated Press in the midst of its aborted antilink crusade. Links are also the key to specialization and efficiency; they will allow a local publication to do local well and link to other stories rather than rewriting them: Do what you do best, link to the rest.

In the comments on my post yesterday, Brian Cubbison (of Syracuse.com) pointed out the irony – make that hypocrisy – of Gatehouse’s link policy, as – just like Boston.com – it started a hyperlocal blog in Batavia – where, unlike the Globe, it has no paper – and it links to papers owned by other companies. See this post on the blog’s very first day. I’d say what it does is far worse for both readers and the competition: It summarizes stories (arguably making it unnecessary to click through; Boston.com instead quotes ledes that should entice readers to read more) and it links only to the home page and not directly to the stories (which is downright rude and inconvenient to readers who then would have go do digging for the content). This is closer to stealing content and journalistic value than what Boston.com does. See also this Batavia post today, which summarizes and quotes a competitor’s story – more than Boston.com has done – and links to it. And look at this post from a blog at Gatehouse’s Wicked Local – the alleged victim of Boston.com’s linking – which quotes news from Boston.com and doesn’t link to it. I’d say that is theft.

So what should happen here? Should Gannett sue Gatehouse? Should we all just sue each other for lnking to each other – for doing what the web is all about? As Mark Potts says:

This sort of nonsense really has to stop. Companies like GateHouse need to understand the medium they’re playing in, and how best to play in it, rather than trying to turn back the clock to some sort of imaginary time when they could keep their garden walls tall and stout.

If you can’t stand the links, Gatehouse, get off the web.

Gatehouse’s market cap is a measly $2.1 million. Why don’t we put together a fund to buy it and put it out of its misery and get rid of this ridiculous suit. Or let’s all appeal to Michael E. Reed, CEO of the embattled Gatehouse: Stop this dangerous and destructive suit.

: MORE: Henry Blodget mocks Gatehouse: “We hereby give the New York Times permission to aggregate any or all of our headlines and ledes anytime they feel like it. We’ll even give GateHouse Media the same permission. We can’t wait to welcome their readers to our sites.”

Journalistopia says:

If GateHouse were to have its way with its deep link argument, it would create a legal precedent that makes the act of linking to a copyrighted article illegal. It could mean a crippling of sites such as Romenesko and the Drudge Report, which can bring in enormous amounts of readers while being primarily built upon links to someone else’s expensive-to-create content. But, if enforced, it would also cut off the voluminous flow of readers who arrive to news sites via search engines and aggregators. That, too, has an effect on the bottom line.

In the end, we could see a long list of media companies flinging short-sighted lawsuits at each other, while suicidally pushing their content into black holes guarded by copyright law.

[Disclosures: I have an interest in the link economy as a partner at Daylife and a board member at Publish2 and an advisor to Outside.in. I am involved with those companies because I believe links are the foundation of news in the future.]

: LATER: Matthew Ingram has a v good response to the dustup:

With David Carr’s argument that newspapers should ignore the Web only a few days old — not to mention Joel Brinkley’s suggestion that anti-trust violations are a viable business model — I thought the market for stupid newspaper-related activity was pretty well saturated. But apparently I was wrong….

GateHouse apparently doesn’t like the way the Internet works. That puts the company in the same category as the World Newspaper Association and forward-thinking types like Chicago Tribune owner Sam Zell, who have repeatedly criticized Google for linking to news stories from its Google News search engine, or the Belgian newspapers that sued Google over similar tactics. All of these groups are trying to turn back time, to play King Canute with the rolling wave that is the Web, instead of trying to find ways of using that wave to their mutual advantage….

When did Gatehouse become clueless?

Gatehouse has been a smart if small – and getting smaller (stock=$0.04-$0.05; down 99.05% in a year; market cap=$2.1 million) – local media company. It is, for example, going into competitors’ markets to compete with them online with hyperlocal blogs. So I just can’t wait to hear their explanation and justification for following the Associated Press down the rabbit hole to sue Boston.com for daring to link to its sites.

Here‘s Boston.com’s version of the story; here‘s Gatehouse’s. As near as I can tell, Gatehouse’s gets it way wrong accusing Boston.com of copying whole stories. “Boston.com has posted as many as 30 stories per day of original GateHouse content on its Newton site,” the Gatehouse story says. But here‘s Boston.com’s Newton hyperlocal site; all I see are headlines, ledes, and links directly to complete stories on Gatehouse’s Wickedlocal with clear branding. The links are all the stronger because they include headlines (I argue in my book that online, your product is your ad).

Gatehouse should be sucking Boston.com’s toes begging for more links, not siccing lawyers on them as the AP did when a blog dared to link to its stories from headlines.

The move is not just brain dead but dangerous, for it threatens the ecology of links that I believe will be the underpinning of news online. Links are how original journalism will be supported.

Boston.com and its parent, The New York Times Company, need to fight for the right to link. Gatehouse needs to get a clue.

The journalism of filling space and time

Election days are — next to the days after Thanksgiving and Christmas — the worst days of journalism on the calendar. They are “yeah, we know” days. People shop. People vote. Tell me something I don’t know. Please. This is the journalism of filling space and time. We have to print an edition or fill airtime and this is what’s happening today and you’re going to come to us anyway so we’re going to tell you about it even if we have nothing — nothing — new and informative to say.

The journalism of links, on the other hand, would dictate that it’s not worth using resources to tell people what they already know because no one will pass that on and passing on is the new distribution chain for news. (People won’t just come to you anyway anymore.)

I’m not suggesting that news judgment should be determined just by what is passed around. We know how silly the most-emailed lists are; they’re the wacky stories, water-cooler journalism. Instead, I’m suggesting that if you can’t imagine anyone linking to your coverage — if you can’t imagine anyone saying “this was new,” “this is good,” “this was valuable,” “go here for more,” “I didn’t know this,” or “you should know this” — then chances are, it’s not worth saying and in the link economy it won’t get audience, and so it’s not worth making.

In that link economy — in the Googleverse — you stand out above the level playing field by creating something uniquely useful, informative, compelling, or valuable. As other news organizations cut back, they will more and more point to good work done elsewhere. So another way to ask this question is, “have I contributed something to the press-sphere (and will I get attention as a result)?” For elsewhere in the sphere, others are doing what they do best and linking to the rest.

At the Telegraph, online editor Marcus Warren just told PaidContent: “We are doing what we do best, main content, but also linking to the rest, as Jeff Jarvis would put it.” Or as Marcus Huendgen just said in Der Westen, “Do the fucking links.” Yes, I’m gratified at the spread of that meme. It’s not just advice. It’s a recognition of the new architecture of news and media.

A few years ago, the Associated Press did a lot of research among young people as it prepared to create a news product for them. One meme they heard again and again: “Don’t tell us what we already know.” Don’t waste their time — and your dwindling resources.

So I come to you today over-informed about how many people are standing in a random line or about a random machine that broke down and got fixed — because that’s where the reporter was standing and she had nothing else to tell me. Don’t bother.