I just read a story on the Winston-Salem Journal's website that its parent company is one of a group of news organizations spearheaded by the Associated Pres that's launching a company called NewsRight. The purpose of this company is to track the usage of news stories on "unauthorized" websites, blogs and other newsgathering services and turn those users into paying customers. Later in the article the president of the company talks about using the data to inform advertisers about who's reading which articles, but let's be honest here – they're going after folks they think are impropertly profiting off of content they've created.
On the surface I have no problem with the idea of content creators getting paid for their content*, but I get a little tired of newspapers ignoring the flip side of the coin. You see there are a lot of people out there who use content appropriately – they quote a paragraph or two and then provide a link to the source material. Are the news organizations compensating the people who are providing a free reader to them? Remember, if someone clicks a link from this blog to a story in the Winston-Salem Journal the Journal gets to count that reader towards their ad count. Even if they only make a penny on that reader that's a penny I gave them and I didn't get compensated for it.
My point is this – they might want to view people who are properly using the information they produce as partners rather than customers. You know, maybe reward people like me for bringing you readers rather than assuming I'm stealing your content. Maybe that's what the company president meant when he mentioned the advertising, but I didn't take it that they were going to share ad revenue with "partners", but that they were going to use the data gathered to raise ad rates.
I'd love to know what John Robinson (recently retired editor from the Greensboro News & Record) and Lex Alexander (was responsible for the News & Record's online initiatives before he jumped ship) think about this.
*Back in the early days of my blogging ('04-05) I thought newspapers were wrong-headed for going after blogs that copied and pasted stories wholesale – basically I thought it was overkill – but since then I've changed my mind. There's no reason for them not to protect their product, but at the same time I think they truly missed an opportunity to develop a new business model that used those very same people to build their audience and profit. That's a longer post for another day.
BTW, if you're reading this and you work for Media General you're welcome for the link.