Thursday, January 5, 2012

NewsRight highlights the deep divide in modern journalism: newspaper executives want to be paid, while many newspaper consultants promote aggregation

While the consultants to the "digital first" movement continue to promote aggregation as a way to increase content and reduce cost (especially reduce cost), another segment of the trade are promoting paid content strategies that may interfere with that goal.

Hearst Newspapers today to announced their involvement with NewsRight, the alliance of media companies that have a rather vague mission. Is NewsRight a pseudo-wire service, or a new version of Righthaven? You decide.

“NewsRight’s mission," said NewsRight President and CEO David Westin, "is to make sure consumers continue to benefit from the all the original news reporting they want while ensuring those who republish content do so with integrity.”

“Working with NewsRight benefits digital innovators because they can license news content in their applications quickly and easily; news organizations that provide the content for those applications benefit because they can more efficiently license their content to a broader range of uses; and consumers benefit because they will have assured access to a robust supply of credible news and information in new and exciting ways,” said Mr. Westin.

Sounds like a paid content strategy to me. It does to Poynter's Rick Edmonds, who writes that the whole goal is to "license original news content and collect royalties from aggregators."

The media firms that have signed up are a pretty impressive group: Advance Publications, The Associated Press, Axel Springer Group, A.H.Belo Management Services, Belo Management Services, Business Wire, Community Newspaper Holdings, El Dia, Galveston Newspapers, Gatehouse Media, The Gazette Company, Hearst Newspapers, Journal Communications, Landmark Media Enterprises, The McClatchy Company, Media General, MediaNews Group, Morris Communications, Morris Multimedia, NPG Newspapers, The New York Times Company, Ogden Newspapers, Pioneer Newspapers, Schurz Communications, The E.W. Scripps Company, Stephens Media, Swift Communications, Times Publishing Co. and The Washington Post Company.

Don't confuse "Journal Communications" – the company behind the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, and a part of NewsRight – for "Journal Register", the company behind "Digital First", and conspicuously missing from this list.

"The news and information companies that have come together to form NewsRight believe strongly in the value of original content and its widespread consumption. But as we help content grow, we also need to uphold accountability and integrity—and that is exactly what NewsRight aims to do,” said Bob Nutting, President and CEO of Ogden Newspapers and Chairman of the Board of NewsRight.

Interesting that both quotes use the word "integrity", no?

Unmentioned in the other stories about NewsRight that I have read is any discussion about the prospects that the new organization has in securing payment from aggregators. Probably because the prospects are zero.

Online aggregators are in no position to be the cash cows for the newspaper industry. Only one company fits that description, and that is Google, and we already know how that story will end. Newspaper publishers who want to go after Google are quick to back down as soon as they are left out of search results, so who exactly are these aggregators who will be targeted? Probably other newspaper companies.

So NewsRight looks a lot like a protection racket to me: join or get targeted. That means that newspaper companies will be the ones paying to play, or playing not to play. But they will be paying.

I've always said that publishers are the easiest people to sell to.