Tuesday, May 29, 2007

What Wire Services and Britney Spears (Could) Have In Common

Ah, I just love the smell of plagiarism in the morning.

If wire services could talk, that's what they'd be saying, according to a recent article by CNET News writer Greg Sandoval. Apparently, newspapers aren't too happy that Google indexes their content without ponying up the cash for it.

You could say that the old newswire bus has crashed into the technology car at a major intersection, and the wire is not about to dole out its insurance information.

Even Sam Zell, the new owner of the Tribune Company, chimed in on the issue: "If all of the newspapers in America did not allow Google to steal their content, how profitable would Google be?" he asked reporters during a speech at Stanford University a month ago. According to the Washington Post, he didn't wait for a reply. "Not very," he said.

Business versus journalism. The business of the news. Selling information.

Maybe calling this the "Information Age" isn't such a corny moniker after all.

To date, Google has stood firm, refusing to pay to index news content. After all, in their eyes they're just pointing people in the right direction. And it's apparent that the newspapers need the traffic -- the article notes that newspapers get a quarter of their total traffic from search engines.

Yet at the same time, Google's been slowly making agreements with major agencies -- The Associated Press and Paris-based Agence France-Presse, for starters.

So who's to blame at this moral impasse?

It's apparent to me that the newspapers should reevaluate how much money they're losing. In fact, they may end up actually making money from the additional traffic.

Yet no one's conducted such a study.

Let's say the Wall Street Journal wasn't all that happy that Google News indexed its content (after all, Dow Jones has its own newswire). In the end, is the paper actually making more money from additional advertisement impressions and (digital) subscriptions than what it hypothetically loses from the exposure?

How do you even measure such a thing? The whole concept reeks of speculation. But without some way to measure it, there's no point in continuing the argument.

In the meantime, newspapers could pretend that they are celebrities. They could stop wasting time trying to fight the Google News 'paparazzi' in lieu of learning how to act in front of them.

Get used to being covered. Make it work.

In other words, stop getting angry that you're being covered and start putting energy towards being covered in the best light. It's one big game of whisper-down-the-lane, but every time someone whispers, it comes with the original attribution.

What's to complain about that?

Really, it seems that newspapers are uncomfortable making headlines. They're too busy worrying about the value of their own news than being in another's. And it's no surprise -- every time a newspaper makes headlines, it's usually for a bad reason.

Time to break the habit. No more 'no comment.' When circulation is down, whining and crying about unintended syndication is only shooting yourself in the foot.

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