The aggregated newspaper

The Reuters deal to provide business content to the International Herald Tribune online and in print — and share revenue with associated advertising — could, I think, be a model for other news organizationst to take care of commodity news.

Why shouldn’t newspapers across the country — which have pretty universally bad business sections — do likewise for national and international business news? Why couldn’t ESPN provide them with national sports? People magazine with celebrity news? Prevention with health news. And so on and so on with brands and content from Consumer Reports to TMZ. It also makes sense for chains to centralize the editing and production of commodity news.

This is more than syndication: buying a piece of content. This is a form of outsourcing — you take care of that so I don’t have do (and so I can concentrate on my real value — hint: local). And it’s not unprecedented. When I was Sunday editor of the Daily News in New York, I worked to get the Tribune syndicate to take over not just the supplying of content for but the editing of all the paper’s TV listings and coverage so we could have taken the two headcount devoted to that and use them for more valuable reporting. This is also what a colleague of mine and I pushed the Associated Press to do online many years ago when they started a cobranded news destination site when we said they should have cut themselves up to be distributed wherever. It’s widgetthink and though CNET refuses to call what they’re doing widgets — I wouldn’t know why — it is also engaging in a distributed strategy, according to PaidContent.

It makes sense for both ends of the transaction: The creator of the content gets distributed and gets revenue without having to create a destination and market it and generate all its revenue there. The aggregator gets content at low cost and risk with a good brand and gets to devote resources to its unique value: Do what you do best and link to the rest.

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  • I normally agree unreservedly with much that you say, Jeff, but on this occasion I really can’t.

    When you were in the UK, did you ever listen to our commercial music stations on the radio? It’s probably the same in the States too. You’ll go from channel to channel and they’ll all be playing the same song. It’s horrible.

    God help us if our newspapers start following this model. The less people that report news — even commodity news — the less diverse a media we will have.

    The pool of good reporters will diminish (think how many jobs would be lost in the process), and before you know it, we run out what you call the stuff that really matters… the local journalism.

    A horrible idea, I think.

  • Dave,
    They don’t report the commodity news now. They run the wires. Or they do send someone who covers the same damned press conference. I’d rather see their journalistic resources put to unique journalism: reporting, investigation, local…. If ESPN tells you who won the game or Reuters tells you what the market did yesterday so reporters can report — as staffs shrink — I think that can yield better and even more journalism.

  • I’d hope so. Although in the current climate I’d bet that publishers would see such a deal as a chance to get rid of journalists, rather than an opportunity to redistribute them into local news.

  • Dave,

    To echo what Jeff says, but with a little twist, in the past some percentage of staff journalists at newspapers and broadcast media were not as industrious as they might have been because the wires did it for them. When I started work in a wire service bureau an associated newspaper occupied the same office. The wire reporters would dutifully and often furiously produce their copy to beat their competitors by a few seconds or a minute or so. At mid afternoon the corresponding newspaper reporter would walk over, coffee in hand, physically rip off the story from the printer, then metaphorically do the same by topping and tailing it as his own, adding the odd quote.


  • BTW, if I recall correctly, the business editor of the IHT is a highly experienced ex-wire service reporter well-used to making the most out of limited resources in a hyper competitive environment.

  • News organizations can strike a balancing act between nationally syndicated content and content developed by local reporters. It doesn’t have to be an “all or nothing” scenario. In this way, I agree with Jeff – and it points to the need for news organizations to create more efficient ways for keeping content fresh. The same goes for advertisers. They need to constantly be on the prowl for new ways to impove the media buying process so that they can take advantage of opportunities that a more aggregated news environment will provide. In Jeff’s scenario, an ad placed through ESPN could also be distributed to sports sections in news organizations all across the country. And with ad share for the publishers, it will be a win-win for all parties.

  • I have to agree with Jeff. Its pure market economics – focus on what you do best, leave the rest. We hear journalists and MSM complain about losing staff and money, so the obvious answer is to optimize allocation of scarce resources by specializing in what you do best (whether thats covering local news, sports, or Britney Spears). If a digital newspaper can aggregate efficiently, pulling the best content from the sources that specialize in that content area, it could add significant value. Of course, as Jeff suggests, the aggregator has to add some value of its own, and local news might be the ticket. Good post!

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