AP & Newspapers See Internet as a Threat

The Associated Press plans to go after news aggregators legally and through legislation (whatever that means) who ‘take’ AP headlines and related content.

Despite the obvious arguments of Fair Use and the fact that aggregators drive traffic to AP affiliated newspapers or even to the AP itself, AP Board Chairmen Dean Singleton sees it very differently. From a Wired blog article:

“We can no longer stand by and watch others walk off with our work under misguided legal theories,” AP Chairman Dean Singleton said at the AP annual meeting in San Diego.

Fair Use is, of course, not a misguided legal theory. It is intended to establish a balance between a copyright holder and the interests of the public. Among the greatest of all public interests is to keep it informed. What is misguided is AP’s knee-jerk approach to technology.

AP is upset by news aggregators who use their headlines and a possible excerpt of the first paragraph, as well as those who reproduce the articles in their entirety without permission or compensation. The former is intrinsic to the function of the web, the latter is clearly theft and copyright violation. The two are not equal.

The 600 pound gorilla in the room is clearly the failing newspaper business – AP’s main market. It’s failing not because people no longer want news, but because fewer people want news that is synchronized to a daily news cycle by virtue of it being printed on paper. This is the property of a 15th century technology, not a 21st Century one. People want news available anywhere, anytime and is constantly up to date, and the internet gives it to them.

Originally, advertising was meant to subsidize the price of a newspaper. At some point, owners figured out they could double-dip and make money on subscription, street sales and from advertisers. That became the lucrative norm. It is now a major part of the economic equation for print products like newspapers and magazines, and has been so for so long that no one can see any other business model. They literally believe no one will pay for news, information or entertainment, and that they only way they’ll cover costs is to allow advertising. They don’t believe in the core value of their product. This is also why they are failing.

As if to underscore this erroneous stance, this nugget from a Breitbart article comes to the fore:

“What the AP is doing now, like many newspapers, is too little too late in recognizing the threat of the Internet,” said Tom McPhail, professor of media studies at the University of Missouri, St. Louis.

The threat of the Internet? Technology isn’t the threat, it’s how others are using it – and using it more effectively to give people what they want. That is actually just good business; something that’s probably not even mentioned in J-school or ‘Media Studies.’

The value in an AP article is not the headline. The headline is only there to inform and entice the reader about the actual content of the article. It’s a label. It’s like the title of a book, not the book itself. Interesting to note here that book titles cannot be copyrighted.

Google has come under increasing scrutiny in this matter being one of the largest aggregators of news headlines and first-paragraph excerpts. It only reproduces the entire article under its hosted news service, for which it pays the AP. So what is the AP bitching about?

Even if aggregators were to accede to AP’s desire for them to not use AP headlines, I am sure the AP would still complain if somebody else wrote the headline. The AP’s argument seems to be: Mom – Google is staring at me! Tell him to stop it!

This is a reaction to a disruptive technology – and they reacting badly. If the state of the art was hand-written news articles, and the disruptive technology was this guy named Gutenberg, I am sure that the AP’s ham-fisted approach would be – stop the presses!

1 Response to "AP & Newspapers See Internet as a Threat"

  • battery-stores

    May 21, 2010

    Your point is very positive.
    I like your style so much, I am your honest reader.

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