Posts about newarchitecture

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.

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.]

Diggnation in New York

Last night, son Jake and I went Diggnation’s first New York — first East Coast — show. It is amazing, just amazing what these guys have built. Jim Louderback, the nicest CEO I’ve met in media and the head of Revision3, which produces the show, said that 2,000 people showed up and hundreds of them waited outside in the rain for the chance to get in. For these guys, Jake included, I think it is their generational and geeky equivalent of getting into a small club when the Stones came to town for my generation.

And I am of a different generation. I was no doubt the oldest guy there, which either made me very hip or very out of place. I was also apparently the tallest guy there. White hair sticks out at 6’4″. Some illogical geek behind me kept poking my back until I turned around and he told me to move over so he could see, which of course would only block some other short geek’s view. And there was absolutely nowhere to move; it was jammed up there in the Digg mosh pit. But you’re tall, the complainer said. Genes, dude, I said.

But I didn’t feel out of place. I watch Diggnation and know enough of the shtick. I’m a fan.

Diggnation NY

Before the show, Jay Adelson, president of Digg and chairman of Diggnation, came on stage to talk about Digg, not for very long. They said they are getting (as I remember) 26 million uniques a month. There are one million Digg users in New York alone. Last night’s crowd was a tiny but enthusiastic fraction of them. Though, of course, the media and circumstances are quite different, for comparison’s sake, that’s about the circulation of the New York Post or Daily News, both of which are bigger in New York than the Times.

Rose and company have built a real media enterprise from nothing but technology. What’s notable to me, more than its size, is the passion and loyalty of its audience, which was what was most evident last night. Could you imagine 2,000 fans standing in the rain for the chance to watch your local anchorman or hear your local editor? Is it possible for old media to inspire this kind of passion? I’m not saying it’s impossible; indeed, I’ve suggested that the Guardian should hold meetups and events in the U.S. to demonstrate to other media and marketers just how loyal their audience is.

And beer helps.

On the ride to Brooklyn, Jake and I listened to the latest TWiT podcast. Louderback was also on that and he and host Leo Laporte reminisced about their days on TechTV and how, from the closet in his home, Laporte is also building a media enterprise that rivals their old company in audience and is certainly one helluva lot cheaper to produce. Louderback also talked about the economics of internet TV vs. basic cable and the ability to focus in on a smaller and better audience and serve them well. That’s what these shows do.

During last night’s show, Zadi Diaz and Steve Woolf also announced that they are moving their Epic Fu show from Next New Networks (which is still a long way from its goal of 100 networks) to Revision3. It’s turning into a media empire. And Kevin Rose is its Rupert Murdoch.

The ethic of the link layer on news

A few shows ago, On the Media reported on a revolt against the Associated Press in Ohio, where papers across the state are trading and publishing each others’ original stories rather than sending them through the AP homogenizer. There are a few important implications in this, one about the fate of the AP and the other about an ethic I think news organizations must adopt to link to and promote original journalism.

The link layer on news

In the ecosystem of links and the new architecture of news that it spawns, I believe it is vital that we as an industry find ways to point to and give credit to original reporting. That is how original journalism will be supported, in the end: by monetizing the audience that comes to it, whether through advertising or contributions.

This leads to a new Golden Rule of Links in journalism — link unto others’ good stuff as you would have them link unto your good stuff. This emerges from blogging etiquette but is exactly contrary to the old, competitive ways of news organizations: wasting now-precious resources matching competitors’ stories so you could say you’d done it yourself. That must change.

This ethic of the link will become all the more important as news organizations pare down to their essence. I’ve said often that they will have to do what they do best and link to the rest.

And I believe that it will become important for us to link to our sources and influences — as well as transcripts and additional reporting — to show readers how we arrived where we have in a story. When I was last in London, Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger called this footnoting a story. He’s better educated than I; I’ll call it linkboxing.

Add that together and we end up with a new link layer atop the news: links to original reporting; links to complementary reporting; links to sources (not to mention links to and from discussions). It’s part of the new architecture of news that I wrote and doodled about here. Upendra Shardanand, the founder of Daylife (where I am a partner), wrote about it here, arguing that the key to the new architecturer is superior navigation to news.

This is why I got excited about working on Daylife, because I believe it provides key infrastructure for this link layer: It allows sites to link to the world’s coverage of a topic — so they can link to the rest and so they can put stories in context — and it also sends traffic to journalism. One thing we’re working on is finding ways to get better at sending traffic to journalism at its source. There are a few algorithmic solutions to see who was early in on a story, but this is also where the ethic of the link also comes in: If everyone links to — not just attributes but links to — the Washington Post’s coverage of Walter Reed then it will make it easier to find where stories begin. We should expose credit where credit is due.

The link layer is also why I got involved with Publish2, sitting on its board, because it will provide the platform for that linkboxing. I say all this not just to plug two companies in which I have an interest but to show that there is a method to my madness. I want to be involved in building of the new architecture of news.

The Associated Press and the link layer

So now I return to the Associated Press. This new ecology of news is what’s at work in Ohio. By running other papers’ stories, the newsrooms are participating in a print version of linking to original journalism. Importantly, these stories are not going through the AP mill, being rewritten under an AP style and brand (which its contract with papers allows because the AP is a cooperative). Instead, now the original stories are getting more attention across the state.

Susan Goldberg, editor of the Plain Dealer, told Bob Garfield on OtM: “I think it’s a lot better because we can get the stories faster. Nobody is rewriting them. … We don’t really need that function.” And later: “I frankly think we’re getting better, more distinctively written stories because they’re not going through the AP mill. But I also think that it does allow us to make some smarter choices. We, and everybody else, have smaller staffs than we used to, and we’ve got to pick some priorities.”

What she’s saying, to translate into Buzzmachinese, is that they’re doing what they does best and linking to the rest and they are linking to original journalism: the new architecture at work.

I have no doubt the Goldberg-Garfield interview caused a hard gulp down the street from me at AP HQ, where they’re dealing with budget-choked newspapers complaining about rates. That is what this little revolt is really about. These dissidents are not trying to kill the AP; they depend upon it more now that their staffs are shrinking. But one wonders what a world looks like with a shrunken AP or, God forbid, without one.

Does the AP possibly become more of a curator of original stories than a reprocessing mill? What reporting does it still need to do complement the work that local papers do best? Do they still need state wires and bureaux or can papers indeed go it alone? As papers inevitably become more local, will they — should they — even bother with national and international news or should they just link to it via smart aggregation?

How does competitor Reuters play into this? Is it in a better position because it is not hampered as a cooperative and is building a consumer brand? I’ve talked about a reverse syndication model as a new opportunity, which was actually sprung from a talk with an AP executive but it is Reuters that is executing on it (rather than syndicating its content to Yahoo, Reuters is now sending them headlines, Yahoo sends Reuters traffic, and Reuters shares the revenue that results; this is linking with money attached). What does a combination of Reuters’ original reporting and, say, Daylife’s aggregation provide in covering the rest of the world?

This gets even more complex when journalism busts out of its professional fence and it is practiced by many people in many places: the ecosystem only explodes. The AP acknowledges that new structure in its deal with Now Public and Reuters does likewise in its deal with Global Voices.

The transformation of news is obviously not as simple as taking print stories and putting them online and even getting fancy adding video and comments. This transformation is happening at a fundamental, architectural level that has impact we are only beginning to figure out.

But out of this discussion, I’d like to start here: with a discussion of the ethic of the link in journalism.

: LATER: In my email, I just got a link to an important study the AP conducted on news use in the next generation. The PDF of the presentation is here (I don’t see a link to the PR yet). The AP’s Jim Kennedy told my students at CUNY about this. They propose a new model of multiple entry points into news — a new way to look at the process — around facts, updates, background, and followup.

Note well that the AP is trying to get its industry to think ahead and rearchitect news but that’s no easy job.

: Reading the AP study… One of the most intriguing findings is that young people use news to build social capital (to converse or to impress).

Blasted Broadcasting Corp.

In a case of any-enemy-of-yours-must-be-a-friend-of-mine, the Guardian PDA blog invites sworn enemy Edward Roussel, head of Telegraph digital, to comment on their mutual bete noir, the BBC, and a report of tremendous overspending on its digital efforts. Emily Bell, head of digital at the Guardian, and Jemima Kiss, doyenne of tech and media bloggers there, weigh in. So did I:

I know this is naive (and American) of me but I wonder about turning the discussion around and asking what the BBC can do as a platform to support diverse voices not controlled there, including those of the Telegraph, Guardian, Times, et al, not to mention bloggers and media and information entrepreneurs.

For example, shouldn’t you all be demanding access to the iPlayer?

Shouldn’t you demand access to any and all code created with license fees?

Shouldn’t the BBC make it part of its mission to support diverse and quality voices throughout media — again, commercial newspapers, blogs, podcasts, anything — with promotion, traffic, technology innovation, open-source invention (and even, as I suggested at the Online Publishers Association panel I moderated with the Guardian, the BBC, and Reuters, the BBC taking on ad sales of UK sites’ international traffic as it begins to sell ads internationally).

What if the BBC became an open network? What if you could build upon it the way many have built businesses atop Google?

I know that Ofcom (with Tom Loosemore) have been grappling with the question of what public-service publishing/broadcasting/internetting means. But how about this:

What if the BBC were to become the public-service platform?

Editing’s a drag

I’m not saying editing is bad. But as news becomes a process rather than a product, editing can affect that process. Note the lead story from the NY Times home page right now:

Picture 16

The edited, packaged story says that one person died in yet another crane collapse in New York today. But right below that, the lightning fast Sewell Chan has later, more up-to-date and correct information in his blog — two have died — which the Times wisely feeds directly onto the home page, contradicting their own edited story. In a breaking story, a blog in the hands of a good reporter beats a long line of editors.

This is one reason why Rupert Murdoch is complaining about 8.3 editors touching the average story in the Wall Street Journal. When I taped a segment for CBS News once, I counted 12 people who touched it before it was even edited for air. At Time Inc., the were famous for editing and re-editing every story until it was churned into butter. At The Times, there are three editors for every reporter. But when I consulted at About.com, it had about eight writers for every editor (that ratio has since changed). About.com, like blogs, is a publish-first, edit-later operation. On this blog, you could say that I have no editors — or you could say that I have 100,000 of you.

Clay Shirky in his wonderful book Here Comes Everybody calls this new process “publish first, filter later.”

The media landscape is transformed, because personal communication and publishing, previously separate functions, now shade into one another. One result is to break the older pattern of professional filtering of the good from the mediocre before publication; now such filtering is increasingly social, and happens after the fact.

So does editing.

Albert Wenger, the VC, takes that new biorhythm and applies it to not just journalism but financial information (talking about the company we both invested in, Covestor). This will be the nature of many business processes, including design and messaging. Process and structure change.

Editing of everything before publication has been seen as a necessity in journalism, but I think it will increasingly be seen as a luxury (and sometimes, ibid. Murdoch, a drag, an inefficiency). When I say this, traditional journalists are horrified. But that’s often because of their tradition and the necessities of production (e.g., fitting into a scarce space) — not to mention their jobs.

When I worked at the Chicago Tribune way back in the dawn of my career (pre-computers, children), we had to hammer on our (manual, kids) typewriters so the last of more than 10 carbons could be read. Why so many? That’s just what a new managing editor of the paper asked as he decreed that the 10-carbon books should be destroyed, replaced by five-carbon books. The office manager protested that it would be a waste. No, said the editor, I don’t want back sliding. Destroy them. So we typed on five-carbon books — for about two weeks. Then we backslid. We were told to put two five-carbon books together so everybody could get their copies again and so they could all weigh in on every story. This was editing as status.

Rather than assuming that everything must be edited, we will need to ask why something should be edited, what’s the goal and what’s the cost (to the product and its urgency and to the budget). As newspapers continue to cut back, what do they need more: reporting or editing? I say reporting. Editors will not and should not die, but they will become a scarcer species.

Blogs then and now

Steve Baker at Business Week is reprising and revising his cover story from three years ago about blogs. The editors have asked some of us bloggers to talk about the past and future of social media and they might excerpt some of the discussion for the story. So as I was thinking about what to say, I realized that Business Week itself is a good illustration of the changes. I witnessed that three weeks ago when I was asked in to hold an all-morning blogging workshop with 60 staffers at the magazine/site.

Three years ago, blogs were still a curiosity to a business audience, new enough to warrant a cover story, strange enough to require explaining. But now, blogs and social media are not only better understood and accepted but they are coming to be seen as a necessity in media and more and more in business. I’ve written three stories in the magazine about business using social media to rebuild relationships with customers — Dell blogging and collaborating with customers and Starbucks opening a platform for customers’ ideas.

Business Week itself has a score of blogs and when I went there for a blogging workshop, what struck me most was that I did not hear the usual objections to blogging that are thrown at me when speaking with a group of media people: that blogs are not professional and thus not reliable. One staffer who came late did fret about the amount of crap out there but her fellow staffers argued her down; I didn’t have to. The meat of the discussion was, instead, no longer about why journalists blog but instead about how to blog better, how to be more involved in the conversation.

Next, I think, Business Week’s writers and readers will move beyond the conversation to see that social media are changing their fundamental relationship with customers to be less about serving and more about collaborating. No, I don’t mean that every product will be the product of a committee. But customers who want to talk will and smart companies will not just listen but will engage them in decisions. This will have an impact not just on PR and image but on product design, marketing, sales, customer service — the whole company.

Three years from now, I predict that Business Week’s cover won’t about about blogs or tools but about companies as communities.

: ALSO: Forgot to mention that the magazine is moving to collaboration. See online editor John Byrne’s blog that asks readers for their story ideas; he promises to cover some of them. It’s very MyStarbucksIdea of them, wouldn’t you say. I’ll be watching this process with interest. For I do think that the readers should be able to tell the journalists what they want to know. As my students have asked, why shouldn’t the public assign us?