Publishers: Work with the internet, not against it

Newsnow and the Newspaper Licensing Association are finding themselves in a battle of words over the question whether Newscom’s aggregation of newscontent deserves a payment to the original publishers. The debate resulted in an open letter from the Newscom CEO and a reaction by the NLA. While at least the debate is being held the parties appear to be diametrically opposed in their views.

Newsnow is the UK’s largest news aggregator after Google with 20% marketshare. The website posts headlines of major newssources with a small excerpt of the content. It then links directly to one of its sources. While it has been doing this since 1997 it has recently come under fire from an embattled publishing sector that is looking for new sources of revenue online while print revenues are declining. This includes legal pressure from: The Times, The Sun, The Guardian, Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, The Daily Telegraph, The Independent and the Daily Express.

Feeling under pressure from these perceived threats the CEO of Newsnow, Struan Bartlet has written an open letter 2 weeks ago. This has since provoked a response from the NLA that is centered around their wish for a form of payment for the sharing of news. The open letter from Newscom says:

“As you may know, people in some of your organisations have lately tried to characterise news aggregators as undermining your businesses. Recently your organisations have also sought to introduce new controls on our linking to your websites. Now, a number of parties have threatened us (plus other aggregators) with legal action if we do not either accept these new controls or else stop linking.” “We are aware that many newspapers are facing severe financial challenges1 and are urgently seeking a way to return to profitability. We can understand why you are looking for options.”

He then goes on the explain that they  have “had enough of indiscriminate attacks. To vilify all aggregators as “cheap worthless technological news solutions” 2 and “content kleptomaniacs” 3 is just empty rhetoric. Not only is that misleading — it is misguided.”

The explanation of the Newsnow businessmodel poses that it augments rather than detracts from the value of the content and that it merely gives extra traffic to the original publisher. Mr Bartlett urges for them to look for blame elsewhere and suggest they look at…the internet. He then suggests to  pubishers they should:

  1. Stop the legal threats;
  2. Recognise the place and value of legitimate news aggregation websites in today’s news ecosystem;
  3. Commit to upholding the freedom to link; and
  4. Support those of your readers who wish to find links to your websites on NewsNow.

 The Newspaper Licensing association responds to Newscoms assertions in the Econsultancy blog .The say they offered Newsnow to pay a  web database license fee of around 5.000 to 10.000 per year. They also make a distinction between the information that is freely available to consumers (they’re ok with this) and the business to business service that Newscom charges for (they don’t like this). They also suggest users of Newscom paid service pay a license fee of around $155,- per year. Newscom is refusing this payment. The NLA sas:

“One important point that, deliberatelyy or accidentally, NewsNow misrepresents, is that we are not seeking to disturb the operation of its free sites for consumers, these are notsubjectt to NLA regulation. In essence, we are deliberately drawing a line between paid services for business users and consumer services.”

The NLA clearly sees Newscoms activity as copying, even if it’s only headlines and excerpts. It is clear from the open letter that Newscom disagrees and feels they are doing the publishers a service by creating extra traffic.

…While thee two parties debate the issue Google launched improvements to their own news aggregation service. More on this tomorrow.

Marco | Editor

Editor at large and founder of a bunch of stockphoto businesses

One thought on “Publishers: Work with the internet, not against it

  • November 10, 2009 at 10:29 am

    Thanks for this balanced analysis.
    Readers interested in the full NLA story of what is happneing and why can go here:
    Disclosure: I work with the NLA

Comments are closed.