Gems from AP’s News Reclamation Papers of 2009

The now infamous AP3P plan [1] (obviously, infamy is clearly in the eye of the beholder, here), has been hanging around for the last week since it was first brought to the light of day by the Nieman Journalism Lab. For the second time, I went through it, but this time with an eye for something a little different.

The background: the “News Reclamation Papers of 2009” (as I’m calling it, because it’s catchy, accurate, and it has a slightly euphemistic tone if you stretch it) is a leaked memo from the Associated Press regarding its plans to monetize and protect its original content. The fundamental idea, confusing and convoluted at times (even if it uses pretty graphics that are ripe for foul-language farking), is that its most unique content would come wrapped in DRM-type tracking that would dictate how and who can use it.

However crazy the misunderstood the end they got to is, well, we’ll just have to see what ever gets rolled out. This post does have a valid claim: you see, at one point, the logic all made sense. The reasoning and rationale is there, as well as many of the facts. It’s how the AP chose to interpret it that left it stuck getting questioned for the potential model. Take the following claims and refutations. Court’s in session.

From Flickr user J. Stephen Conn

From Flickr user J. Stephen Conn

Claim: The source is not necessarily the common place that people get their news:

“AP simply can’t continue to provide the same quality of global news coverage under the current rules, where secondhand news gets most of the eyeballs.”

Verdict: True.

AP’s Conclusion: AP needs to “assert it’s intellectual property rights, make affirmative efforts to protect them and create a structured way to enforce them.”

Fact it missed: While they may not be the only place people see the story, they are likely still the plurality source. Those other portions are not going to one site, but dozens, hundreds (or more) different platforms with various levels of credibility. The audience they have has not shrunk through this – i.e., the new “secondary sources” are not a replacement for many of them – and squelching the other channels would cut the gross audience. The lost revenue isn’t as high as it seems because that audience may not have existed.

Claim: Google became a discovery engine that replaced browser-based bookmarks for portal sites.

“[T]he rise of Google taught people to search rather than surf for news…Traditional news providers are not necessarily built to exploit this activity.”

Verdict: Absolutely true. Ask Friedman.

AP’s Conclusion: Next sentence as the last one included above. “Destination Web sites, open or closed, are the principal resources that traditional publishers bring to this competition.”

Fact it missed: Your Web site is not your principal resource. I’m pretty sure it’s the writing and content. You can make such a better argument than that. Decide if you want to bring people in or push stuff out to them. The smart strategy is getting news to where people are and making sure they know where it came from (actually, it sounds like you’re aware of this from the point above).

Claim: AP is acting in the interests of journalistic integrity to make sure consumers get only verified versions.

“The obvious overall aim of our effort is to support and promote authoritative journalism while protecting original content from unlicensed use…even as much of the news online still originates with newspapers, consumers often end up reading second-hand and, often, inaccurate versions.”

Verdict: Jury is still deliberating.

AP’s Conclusion: I don’t know how to say it politely, so, we’ll go back to their quotes: “While the Internet has opened up exciting new opportunities for others to provide firsthand accounts and to comment on and share news, the critical role professional journalists play in newsgathering, sourcing, fact-checking and curating has been undervalued.”

Fact it missed: Actually, two facts it missed. 1) Fact-checkers miss things even, gasp, in traditional media. That’s the minor point. The bigger point is 2) reputation still has to be earned, even online. Credibility is still something that comes from those who are trusted, and that can happen online. There are bloggers and online commenters who research before posting.

As a closing statement, I turn to Scotsman Thomas Carlyle’s 1840 lecture that is considered the source for Burke’s quote providing the namesake of this blog. The emphasis is mine and, yes, this is as geeky as I get:

“Whoever can speak, speaking now to the whole nation, becomes a power…it matters not what rank he has, what revenues or garnitures, the requisite thing is, that he have a tongue which others will listen to.”

Point: it is more in your interest to teach people how to fact check, how to properly use your content without forced restraints, then to get on platforms about the straits in journalism. We aren’t getting further from widespread access to reporting, so it is in the best interest to embrace it so you can leverage that to build your institution, reputation, and, yes, business.

*AP3P stands for “Associated Press Protect, Point and Pay.” AP4 would have made too much sense.

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