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.
The tradition in news organizations is to believe their work is definitive. The corollary of that belief is that others' work is inferior. The product of that belief is to dismiss, disregard and even discredit anyone else's work.
The new ethic, though, is quite different. The news organization exists in an era of easy access to abundance. There is no pretending any longer that others aren't producing some of the same journalism --- or even beating you to the story.
For some time now many organizations have been linking out, curating content online for users and recognizing that there are many elements worth consuming --- and, thus, they ought to be consumed readily without arduous searching.
Ryan Sholin posts in BeatBlogging.org some key arguments for news organizations to link:
1. We owe it to readers to give them as much as we can.
2. Linking out is a key to being a citizen in the digital sphere.
3. It's the best way to link with the community in your town.
4. We don't know everything, but know where to find what we don't know.
5. It makes our jobs easier.
There are several possible implications to today's one-day court case and settlement involving the Boston Globe (part of the New York TImes Co.) and GateHouse Media, which sought redress for the cut-and-paste aggregation of its content by the Globe.
The first is most obvious: A chill. Will media feel less emboldened to link and attribute content to others? I have to think that, and I would imagine many others will do so, too, even if the settlement appears vested in two parties and two parties only.
The second is less obvious: How do we develop a link economy if there are bilateral or multilateral agreements all over the place guiding the conduct of sharing content? It layers what could be a more you-scratch-my-back, I-scratch-yours world. If linking is the foundation of the work of curating, then how is it affected by exemptions and specific deals?
I don't know my American media law, so I'm not sure why the arrangement was so quickly enacted, but it seems strange considering the generosity and assistance of the NYT Co. that it would so quickly fold its hand.
I need a few days to think about this. Meantime, fellow Canadian Matthew Ingram posts on it at the Nieman Media Lab here.
John Thompson posts on Journalism.co.uk 10 things every journalist should know. It's a great list"
1. That it's imporant to use Twitter.
2. That it's important to use RSS.
3. That link journalism is important.
4. That your readers are smarter than you.
5. That chunrnalism --- simply redistributing press releases --- isn't fooling anyone.
6. That Google is your friend.
7. That many of the new tools are free.
8. That mulitimedia should not be done for multimedia's sake.
9. That journalism needs to be search engine-friendly.
10. That it's important to learn about privacy.
He links. Frank Rich, the New York Times columnist and author, links out.
He does so often, which puts him in rare company in legacy media, as the Nieman Lab profile suggests. He does so to back up his arguments, direct people to interesting reading (extracurricular activity, he calls it), and to be transparent.