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.
Posts about reversesyndication
Among the great benefits – yes, benefits – of the internet for newspapers are opportunities to find new efficiencies. Do what you do best and link to the rest is one. Share is another. Newspapers have always been bad at sharing. That’s why they never managed to start a consortium to work together online (RIP NCN). That’s why they each spent a fortune buying custom computer systems even though they all did the same thing – because they thought they were special.
Now they’re learning to share because they have to. The AP has a roundup of what they’re doing with a sidebar I hadn’t seen before listing their efforts so far (to which I’d add the New York area newspaper consortium): There are content-sharing networks in Ohio among eight papers, Maine among five, Florida among four, Texas among two, the Washington area among to, in addition to the Miami Herald and St. Petersburg Times sharing a capital bureau and Mcclatchy and the Christian Science Monitor sharing international bureau stories.
The agreement will offer the two organization’s combined coverage to 60 newspapers and 40 broadcasters currently part of an advertising network run by Politico. Other media companies would be able to join.
In exchange for access to the news, the broadcasters and newspapers would allow Politico to sell online advertising on their sites under a revenue-sharing agreement.
So the members of the network get high-quality coverage at no cost – with revenue coming their way, even – and the reporters get support for journalism at its source.
There are new business models for news.
Following the post below on CNN trying to unseat the AP…. McClatchy and the Christian Science Monitor just announced that they’re going to share stories from foreign correspondents. No money changes hands, just stories do. We’re going to see a lot more arrangements like this in a marketplace of original journalism.
CNN is heading 180 degrees in the wrong direction with its attempt to start a wire service to compete with the Associated Press, I think. CNN is just trying to amortize the cost of its existing coverage by reselling it and it may find a few clients. But I’m dubious because newspapers and news sites are canceling every syndication contract they can (I did that six years ago when I worked on sites). Yes, CNN might undercut the AP, but since it takes two years to cancel an AP contract – and because newspapers have an ownership stake in the AP and because there is volume and quantity there – I don’t see CNN taking over a critical mass of AP business quickly.
But there’s a much, much bigger strategic mistake at play here:
What’s needed instead is an infrastructure to share and link to original journalism. Newspapers in Ohio are doing that now. Newspapers in the New York area have said they’re working on something similar.
That network could have been created years ago when newspapers created the doomed New Century Network but it died because they wouldn’t give up control or get along. But today, they’re desperate, absolutely desperate, to save any penny by using someone else’s stuff. No longer complaining about aggregation, they must aggregate themselves.
Many players can create the infrastructure that enables newspapers to share and link to their original journalism. (and, full disclosure, I work with one of them, Daylife). But they don’t even need infrastructure to get started. All they need is email or links and permission. That, I believe, will undercut CNN’s effort to undercut the AP.
CNN is holding a meeting of newspapers editors in Atlanta this week to sell them on the new wire. If I were there, I’d gather my colleagues over drinks and form my own wire service, for free.
Out of the dire need to cut back, news organizations are at last looking out and forming networks. Newspapers in Ft. Worth and Dallas are going to share news. Newspapers in Ohio have been doing that. Now TV stations in Philadelphia are setting up a separate company to make video.
It’s a start on a model that I think will be important in the regeneration of the news industry. And it’s a short step from sharing with fellow news organizations to sharing with independent agents in the public (starting with your own former employees who set up blogs and then working with blogfers).
Sharing will replace syndication, I think. That’s why I’m not confident in the success of CNN’s effort to set up a new wire service to compete with the AP, Reuters, and AFP. It might work for international coverage because it’s hard to share content with a source in another language and there’s a vastly different base of shared knowledge. But domestically and locally, I think that sharing and reverse syndication (a la Political) will win the day.
Piece by piece, new models emerge.
The BBC is planning new very local services and Mark Thompson told newspaper editors that it might pay them for local content.
I think in both the UK and the US we will find a complementary architecture for national and local news evolving: The national licenses and pays for or promotes and links to local content; the locals do likewise for national content because neither can afford to do what the other does. I’ll write more about this later in a post I’m writing about what I’m calling reverse syndication.
I wrote some of this back in May in a Guardian column suggesting such a relationship for the BBC and other news providers.