Some media stories of note for Thursday, May 16, 2013:
It may seem incongruent, but as the White House deals with criticism of the Department of Justice's seizure of phone records for reporters at The Associated Press, it is reviving its efforts to create legislation that would shield reporters' sources and communications from disclosure. The New York Times reports
that the President's Senate liaison called Wednesday to ask a Democratic Senator to reintroduce a version of a 2009 bill that didn't make it through Congress.The New Republic explores
the context of the DOJ/AP phone-seizure issue by looking at the chilling effect official surveillance might have on national security reporting. It interviews journalists who believe their phones were tapped and activities tracked. Sources are less willing to part with sensitive information in this climate, the story concludes.
Ken Doctor, writing on "newsonomics" for the Nieman Journalism Lab,
examines what went wrong with NewsRight, the effort by the AP and others to deal with illegal or unfair use of their content online. NewsRight was wound up this week. Doctor chronicles the questionable and vague strategy, the evolution of the news licensing field with such players as NewsCred and Flipboard, and some of the decisions made along the way. "Thumbs down to content consortia," he writes. "Thumbs up to letting the freer market of entrepreneurs make sense of the content landscape, with publishers getting paid something for what the companies still know how to do: produce highly valued content."
Media stories of note for Tuesday, May 14, 2013:
The Associated Press revealed Monday
that the U.S. Department of Justice had secretly obtained two months of telephone records for its journalists at several of its operations. AP decried the move
as an unprecedented intrusion into the rights of a free press. Details of the probe are not known, but it was believed to be in connection with AP's reporting on a foiled terrorist plot. The New Yorker's John Cassidy looks
at the wider political implications of the issue for the Obama Administration.
The Bloomberg terminal controversy continues to draw commentary. It was revealed that reporters were able to advance stories on the basis of their monitoring of login activity of clients on the Bloomberg data terminals. Gawker notes that
the monitoring was supposed to stop, but didn't. And the Guardian suggests
the matter is not a big deal. That said, the Wall Street Journal reports
Bloomberg and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation are cooperating on examining the issue.
Joel Smith, writing for the Pacific Standard,
explores an innovative effort in sociology and journalism in Alhambra, California, to study the news consumption of residents and marry them to a grassroots organization that would use a range of contributors to produce community journalism. He writes that the effort has promise in linking expertise in consumerism to a market's need for content.
The Associated Press, the world's largest news organization, has revamped
its social media guidelines.
Among other things, AP indicates:
1. It is uncomfortable with employees posting opinions on contentious issues, although it is acceptable to discuss such issues as sports or entertainment in certain circumstances and in good taste. If an employee's unit deals with the topic, opinions shouldn't be shared.
2. It is important not to assume that privacy settings guard any posted content; in other words, assume anything created will be susceptible to public consumption.
3. News should not be broken by personal social media.
4. It is acceptable to Friend sources, but employees should be cautious about Friending those whose presence might pose a reputational issue. The same goes for Liking on Facebook.
5. Bosses should not approach employees to Friend, but can accept Friend requests from employees.
6. Reporters should always take steps to verify information lifted from social media and should not simply reproduce it without such effort.
7. Reporters should have one Facebook account for both personal and professional use (several organizations suggest separate accounts).
Today the Publish2.0 organization launched the
Publish2 News Exchange, what it calls a 21st century alternative to The Associated Press that freely moves news and other information between Web and print properties.
It's a little different than the news cooperative model of AP, in that the terms of sharing content are set by the source organization. It seems most clearly focused initially on supplementing and formalizing the newsroom-to-newsroom informal exchanges that already take place but often are tedious to manage and not necessarily helpful with real-time needs.
The platform provides Web publishers with access to print distribution, something they've had to work through individually or through syndication. And it permits them to set the terms by which they'll provide the content --- to whom, when, and for what price.
What isn't clear at the outset is whether the batch of content providers in the fold --- and there are some impressive ones --- cumulatively form enough of a content file for properties to cut the ties with AP. It's not an easy feat, as many have found, and it is best judged by the newsrooms themselves.
More details will emerge this week and are bound to gain the attention of newsrooms who find the cost of a full wire service too onerous. Did we mention the word "free" in the mix?
The Associated Press has sent new signals in recent days of its intention to protect its content and deal harshly with those who use it extensively. It has proposed a news registry to tag and track its content as it's being used, with the intention of working through arrangements with users to pay for that content.
Setting aside the technical questions about such an approach --- most bloggers and aggregators find it simple to cut and paste content in such a way as to bypass something like AP is proposing --- the larger question of the inherent approach has touched off some extreme criticism of the venerable news agency.
Jeff Jarvis, one of the more notable critics of AP's approach in recent months, is arguing that the assets inside the Internet offer more than AP could --- thus, individuals and organizations should mass and replace it.
In Techdirt, Mike Masnick implies (but doesn't provide clear sourcing) that insiders are critical of AP's approach. He is suggesting Reuters step in and pick up the ball. It should encourage bloggers to link to them instead, he argues.
Associated Press has generated a lengthy newsfeature on the debate involving whether it's smart to charge for online news. AP itself is in the midst of testy discussions with search engines like Google and Yahoo and with the blogosphere over their use of AP material.
Given AP's recent aggression toward those who clip too much of its dispatches, let me suggest you follow the link here and have a look.
There is very little new ground covered, but it does end up suggesting that niche material has the best opportunity for monetization. That said, it also quotes those who doubt newspapers are sufficiently savvy to identify and milk those niches.
Jason Preston's EatSleepPublish posting identifies some principles and practices designed to rein in the concerns about Associated Press and its intentions to target blogs using its content.
Preston has some fairly straightforward ideas: Make a blog with more than $250k in revenue subscribe, leave the others alone. The principle he invokes is a sound one: Don't harass the small fry but be direct with those clearly attempting to (and succeeding at) making money off your content without paying for it. In other words, separate the enthusiastic fan from the enthusiastic entrepreneur.
The only concern I'd have about such an approach is the way blogging firms could diversify their holdings to avoid a fee, much in the way they might to avoid a large tax bill. But that's for a brighter mind to figure out.
In his latest Buzzmachine post, Jeff Jarvis minces nothing on the Associated Press' attempts to fend off use of its material online by others: You're the problem, you homogenized the content, and now that you can't take advantage of the link economy, you're suggesting you're Don Quixote.
He ridicules the AP's plan to establish a portal. He suggests that, rather than attack bloggers who repurpose its content, AP should be part of a solution that links to original content --- as should aggregators and search engines. Rather than fight the Internet, why not use technology to feature the original work most prominently?
He goes on at length and suggest the AP is the enemy of the newspaper, which offers original work and watches it rewritten and redistributed.
I would suggest that AP was the original participant in a link economy in a pre-Internet age, in that it worked as a cooperative to do what Jarvis suggests: do what you do best, link to the rest. Only, in the AP era, it wasn't a link, but a throw --- a technical distribution of that content to some paper far away that couldn't gather the information for itself. It's a different era now.
The Google policy blog has a considered response today to the Associated Press announcement Monday that it intends to crack down on the use of its copyrighted material.
Alexander Macgillvray, a counsel for Google, notes that AdSense attached to newspaper Web sites delivers hundreds of millions of dollars to the newspaper business. There are fair use provisions to permit snippets of AP content, but Google's job is to drive and retain traffic for those sites, he asserts.
The AP move doesn't pertain to Google, he said.
The Associated Press, the venerable news agency with resources worldwide, intends to crack down on copyright violators and will try to direct traffic away from sites improperly using its content.
This is a major development in the largely laissez-faire environment in which content is cut and paste with no real accountability. AP is essentially saying it'll pursue those who aren't linking properly and who are taking its material and gaining traffic and revenue without paying.
The New York Times reported later Monday that the move is directed particularly at search engines like Google and Yahoo and aggregators like Huffington Post.
AP chairman Dean Singleton, CEO of MediaNews Group Inc., puts it this way: "We can no longer stand by and watch others walk off with our work under misguided legal theories. We are mad as hell, and we are not going to take it any more."
What is unclear is how it will pursue the offenders, what it will permit sites to use fairly and freely, and what others might do to follow suit. But the implications are substantial for those who have with impunity used AP content to bolster posts or even posted AP content inside their wireframes.