Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Media Déjà Vu

Whether you believe that newsprint is solid and just going through difficult times, or it’s terminally ill, or just struggling to change its business model in a digital age, it offers a fascinating insight into a media sector from the outside. We often look at music and film as media sectors similar to books but in many ways newsprint and magazines offer as much if not more.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt spoke at the annual meeting of the US Newspaper Association of America and although he would like to focus on technology and the mobile challenges the debate on the use of news snippets on Google News is “fair use” under copyright law or an infringement. Google has long insisted that its use of snippets and headlines in Google News is legal. It also said Google News drove a huge amount of traffic to newspaper web sites, which the publishers can then monetize through their advertising. The argument sounds fairly familiar and we couldn’t help thinking we were suffering from déjà vu.

This week, The Associated Press said that it would work to require web sites to obtain permission and share revenue with them. Newspapers are in the often usual position of questioning whether they are consenting parties or want to stand up and face the potential economic position of being outside cutting off the traffic they get from Google’s search and news services and from other search engines and potentially find themselves alone in nowhere.

William Dean Singleton, chairman of The Associated Press and chief executive of the MediaNews Group, is reported saying “We don’t plan for anyone to use our content unless they pay for it. The licenses we do in the future will limit how and where our content is used.”

If we strip away the ecomomy, business models, the plight of editors and journalists and even digital change we appear to be left with something very familiar – the question of fair usage and infringement. The other familiar story is the incentive of money over rights. Interestingly we also see a few speaking for the majority but perhaps we are overly cynical.

No comments: