If you’re not aggregated, you’re nowhere

If you’re not aggregated, you’re nowhere

: One of the online issues I’ve been meaning to catch up on is the report that the Associated Press is following Agence France Presse in going after GoogleNews.

My two cents: It would be a big mistake to pull out of GoogleNews. The reason:

In this new world of distributed media, if you’re not aggregated, you’re nowhere.

The prior law was: If you can’t be scraped and then found via a search engine, you’re nowhere. The idea that media can or should control presentation and distribution is over. Toast. Control has passed to the public, and search engines, aggregators, browsers, and the internet are their tools of presentation and distribution. Media have lost control. The flow in the pipe has reversed. So go with the flow, mediamen, go with the flow.

And there are more pigs in this pipeline: If a site does not have RSS, it soon won’t be seen by many, for example. Google is trying to turn video into a searchable medium and TV stations will be fools if they don’t put up their media with metadata to be found. Radio listeners are now demanding on-demand content thanks to the precedent of podcasts and radio stations should follow the examples of WNYC and the BBC and pod’ their stuff.

Media must figure out how to embrace all these tools of consumer control.

So now back to the AP: When GoogleNews points to a wire story, it points to that story on a member’s site. Keep in mind that the AP is owned by its member news organizations; it is a cooperative rather than a company. So if the AP pulled its content out of GoogleNews, it would be pulling traffic away from its members — its owners — and that would be a big mistake.

Last I heard, Drudge is the No. 1 referrer of traffic to The New York Times and The Washington Post online (not to mention Josh Marshall). You don’t hear them telling Drudge to knock it off with the links, do you?

Ah, but I hear some saying, GoogleNews makes a fuller presentation of the news. But it’s not so full that I could just look at that page and get all I need; I use it to link to the news I really want. And GoogleNews’ fuller presentation only makes it a better aggregator with more information — a headline taken from the news source (rather than spit out by Drudge) along with a lead — so readers have a better idea of whether they want to click on the links. In other words: GoogleNews delivers more interested (or, as we say in medialand, “qualified”) audience. I know there are more aggregators on the way that will do likewise.

YahooNews, on the other hand, does license the AP and use it to create a full presentation of the news. The problem with that, for AP members, is that readers do not need to — and do not — leave YahooNews. Other news organizations see YahooNews as a competitor.

News organizations are developing a funny, mixed relationship with Google. In terms of news, they hope that GoogleNews will continue to be their promoter. I hear many an (enlightend) editor wonder how to get more links from them. But on the business side, things are more complicated: Many media organizations are using Google AdSense to make money via targeted text ads. But the day is fast approaching when Google will compete with newspapers and local services for retail advertising.

Still, when it comes to search and aggregation — text or video — media organizations will want the links. Otherwise, they will become the dead trees that fell in the forest and no one was there to read or watch them.

By the way, at the recent Reuters panel on blogs and big media, Patrick Phillips of IWantMedia asked the top execs of that wire service whether they were going to follow the AFP lead and go after GoogleNews. Absolutely not, the bosses said: They want their stories read.

So, I’m often asked, why did AFP do this? I have only one answer: They’re French.

: MORE: Susan Mernit (who has consulted for the AP) has a different perspective, saying that the agency and Google should have an agreement.