Wednesday, June 18, 2008



AP shoots itself in the footThe attempts by the Associated Press to enforce its view of copyright law on a website that had excerpted a couple of sentences from AP stories is going to end badly for the coöperative, and it may also spill over to local media online efforts. For those of you who’ve either been on vacation or live in a cave, here’s the essence of what’s happened:

AP attorneys issued take down notices with The Drudge Retort (not the Drudge REPORT) last week demanding that it remove snippets ranging in length from 39 to 79 words. The lawyers argued that the site’s use of the material didn’t constitute “fair use.” The move blew up in its face, however, as observer after observer nailed the AP’s heavy-handed action as the efforts of a mastodon seeking a detour on the road to La Brea. The extremely negative coverage comes not from weirdos, but from extremely intelligent and thoughtful writers who understand the law far better than the AP. (Check here, here, here, here and here.)

And now The Drudge Retort is considering a lawsuit to have a court declare that its use of the AP material was, in fact, fair use. That would be a fatal blow to the AP and any other publisher wishing for absolute control of its output.

David Ardia, director of Harvard’s Citizen Media Project, told Online Media Daily that The Associated Press “has picked a bad fight here.”

While fair use can vary case by case, Ardia said that one factor that courts look at is whether any particular use decreases the market value of the original. Here, he said, it appears that Drudge Retort’s posts are increasing demand for the original stories. “Not only is it not cutting into the market for the Associated Press’s articles, but it is actually driving traffic to sites” Ardia said. “That’s what’s so strange from a legal and policy standpoint.”

The AP wants (needs) to establish private rules outside copyright law in order to continue as a walled garden provider of news to a membership that pays steep fees to participate in the coöperative. This is evidenced by an online AP permission form through software wherein publishers are charged a scale for excerpts based on the word count desired. For example, up to five words costs $12.50, and 51–100 words costs $25.00. If the AP can establish this as a standard, it will clearly profit from what the law states is a fair use of excerpts from AP copy.

But now political blogger Patterico is reporting that the AP lifted from his blog without compensation, which has started a whole “the AP should pay bloggers” stream of responses.

The AP issued statements through a New York Times article over the weekend that it wants to open dialog with bloggers over the issue of excerpts, but there really is no reason for bloggers to enter into such discussions. The fair use exception to copyright already exists, so attempts by the AP to create its own rules are outside the law and entirely self-serving.

These are difficult times for all of traditional media and the infrastructure that supports it, including the Associated Press. The AP cannot win this battle, and by choosing to take to the offensive on it, it risks more than just the $12.50 for five words. It risks competition from VC-funded alternatives that are sure to arise from this. After all, the VC community reads the people that are currently taking the AP to task, and there’s little doubt they smell downstream money. There’s also disenchantment from within, for Ohio newspapers are already working together to share content outside the coöperative. This could easily spread to other states, and where will the AP be after that?

If the AP really was thinking clearly, they’d heed well the advice of Apple’s Steve Jobs, who, in responding to criticism that the iTouch device would cannibalize the iPhone, said, “If anybody is going to cannibalize us, I want it to be us. I don’t want it to be a competitor.” If the AP is to survive well into the future, it must begin the necessary, albeit sad task of competing with itself rather than trying to transport its 20th century cash cow into the future.

I have been saying for years that the real disruption to traditional media today is not fragmentation or multi-platform distribution, but the personal media revolution driven by internet pureplay companies. The future way of doing things is THEIR way of doing things, and our blindness to tradition is robbing us of opportunities that lie within the disruption itself.    Link>


McClatchy LogoBloomberg News reports that the newspaper industry took its biggest hit so far in the first quarter of this year — with advertising sales dropping 14 percent. The all-important categories of real estate and recruitment saw their ads drop 35 percent. Almost immediately, the hatchet fell: McClatchy announced it’s cutting 1,400 jobs — 10 percent of its workforce.

Newspapers are losing their ad money. So you would think someone else is reaping the rewards. After all, if advertisers aren’t spending on newspapers, they have to be spending somewhere else. So where is the ad money going?

Turns out, it’s just going away.

Kip CassinoKip Cassino at Borrell Associates has the key quote in this article:

“This stuff isn’t going to online intermediaries, because if it were there would be three or four enormous sites for each of these categories,” Cassino said. “It’s going to companies that say, ‘I can do my own advertising.”’

The disruption is even worse news than media companies had feared. This isn’t simply a case of trying to grab shifting ad dollars. Advertisers, as Terry and I have written, are eliminating the middle man. Newspapers’ biggest competitors now, as Cassino puts it, is their former advertisers.

How big is this decline? It’s bigger than than the recession following 9/11. The biggest on record, in fact, going back to 1971 when the Newspaper Association of America began to keep such records. And while newspaper website revenue grew about seven percent, even that’s not good news — it’s the smallest gain since the group started recording Web revenue in 2004. And it’s certainly not even close to making up for the print side’s losses.

This is a coming attraction for TV.

What do we do in the face of this disaster? Unfortunately, there’s no silver bullet answer. But once again, we have a giant red flag waving at us. And it signals the urgent need for change.

Local television still has the chance to act on several fronts:

  • The creation of original content online, working with advertisers
  • Building free classifieds sections
  • Creating “Continuous News” sites which allow higher sales rates by daypart
  • Embracing mobile with much stronger, more compelling offerings
  • Investing in ourselves and developing creative interactive experiences
  • Developing many more niche sites and products that allow targeted advertising

Advertisers will go where the audience is, if the audience is relevant to them. The “Large Number” audience that mass media delivers is not as useful as it once was. If we can deliver strong numbers of a well-researched, targeted audience, and if we can provide local advertisers with a compelling case, we can bring in the revenue.

According to Broadcasting and Cable. Nexstar reports that community sites, such as (run by WROC, but not awash in the station’s call letters) are the key to the company growing its Web revenue from $100,000 in 2006 to $5 million last year and $10 million this year.

Hyperlocal sites aren’t enough. We still need to reinvent ourselves and our newsrooms. But we’re already seeing this strategy bring in significant revenue. And that may be the difference between staying vibrant and closing the doors.   Link>


SliderocketPart of the reinvention is finding ways to make your life easier — and cheaper. Sliderocket is a new online service that helps you build and share PowerPoint-style presentations for free. And the presentations are slick.

Suppose you want to share a presentation with your managers or stations in different markets. Currently, there are mostly only paid choices. While Sliderocket won’t do all the things that, say, WebEx will do, it’s a “good enough” tool for sharing presentations.

Check out the product tour, itself a presentation deck you can control. You’ll see the many transitions and effects you can choose. Sliderocket also comes with clip art, and has the ability to import video from YouTube. You can upload your own video and images as well.

The transition effects rival Apple’s Keynote software and outshine Microsoft’s PowerPoint. You can embed the presentation on your site or blog if you choose to enable sharing. It’s a social PowerPoint.

It has integrated remote meeting software, so you can share your presentation with employees offsite. When you’re done, it will even give you some basic analytics and tell you who watched.

You can even watch a Sliderocket presentation on any WAP enabled mobile device.

The features go on and on. I’m not a Sliderocket salesman. I just like to find cool tools that will make your life a little easier. This is one such tool. It’s still in private beta, but you can sign up for an invite, and they are handing them out pretty freely. Sign up and play. I think you’ll be impressed.   Link>


Video is the growth engine of the Web, and while that’s good news for broadcasters trying to stem the tide of red ink, Google’s YouTube dominates the market like no other. In fact, according to new data released by comScore, nobody else even comes close. comScore recorded over 4 billion views via Google. Second was Fox Interactive with 558 million.

YouTube dominates online video viewing

Nearly 135 million U.S. Internet users watched an average of 82 videos per viewer in April, according to the report. Here are some of the other findings:

  • 71 percent of the total U.S. Internet audience viewed online video.
  • The average online video viewer watched 228 minutes of video.
  • 18–34 year olds were the heaviest viewing segment, watching an average of 287 minutes per viewer.
  • 82.1 million viewers watched 4.1 billion videos on (49.8 videos per viewer).
  • 46 million viewers watched 481 million videos on (10.4 videos per viewer).
  • The average online video duration was 2.8 minutes.

The strength of the viewing for young adults ought to show us where those eyeballs are spending their time, and if we want to recruit them, that’s where we need to be. This is why Steve and I always recommend that local media companies create a YouTube channel as a way of introducing their products to a younger audience. It won’t cannibalize your brand extension site, not in any way, because you’re dealing with two separate audiences.

Online video growth is good news, especially for local television, because TV is, after all, the video business. However, newspapers, magazines and radio stations are exploring online video in numbers too big to ignore, so the market is really wide open.   Link>


Mike Orren of Pegasus News here in Dallas is asking important questions about journalistic responsibility in an era when online search goes a long way toward determining a person’s identity and character. This is a new animal in the history of the press, and I think it bears discussion. Here’s the nut of it:

A media company with lots of Google Juice does a “man charged with” story. A search for that man’s name puts that story high in the search results. Later, the charges are dropped but the search results don’t change.

Orren, who cites personal examples in his post about the subject, thinks journalists might have some responsibility to update the original story in such a way that it assists the reader in determining the truth. That could be by adding a link to or otherwise re-editing the original text, things that could only be done with direct access to the database storage of the archived content produced by the media company.

This is new territory for journalism, because we’ve always been able to fall back on the notion that today’s content supersedes yesterday’s. You can get away with that as the “voice of record,” but nowadays, that position is increasingly being given to search engines and search technology.

It’s also interesting to me that these questions are coming from Mike, a guy who spends his life dealing with media at the hyperlocal level. It’s here — where your subjects are your neighbors — that the meaty issues of journalistic responsibility are most acute. For example, it’s one thing for the New York Times to “expose” a guy here in Grapevine, Texas, but it’s entirely another matter for the local paper to do the same thing.

Mike adds that “On average, we get a comment or two posted a week from people in the stories we publish. Almost all are respectful. Some are painfully thought provoking.” So the question is what’s our responsibility to these readers in today’s environment? Good question.   Link>


“I wonder whether any of the responsible journalists paused to think, Hey, this is really weird. We’re using our unchecked editorial power to soak the nation with our tears about our friend, and that’s unseemly!” Jack Shafer of Slate regarding the non-stop coverage of Tim Russert’s death.