The Associate Press, let by Tom Curley, their president and chief executive, has lost their mind. If you haven’t been keeping up (hey, it’s been a busy week), the AP has decided to begin cracking down “on unpaid uses of articles on [the] web”. Specifically, Curley says:
[T]he company’s position [is] that even minimal use of a news article online required a licensing agreement with the news organization that produced it. In an interview, he specifically cited references that include a headline and a link to an article, a standard practice of search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo, news aggregators and blogs.
“We’re not picking the legal remedy today,” he said. “Let’s define the scope of the problem.”
It’s odd that he’s introducing a solution while insisting that they’re still trying to define the problem.
And speaking of the solution, that’s the most curious thing about all of this:
Each article — and, in the future, each picture and video — would go out with what The A.P. called a digital “wrapper,” data invisible to the ordinary consumer that is intended, among other things, to maximize its ranking in Internet searches. The software would also send signals back to The A.P., letting it track use of the article across the Web.
This technology doesn’t exist. At least not the way the NY Times describes it. As John Gruber aptly put it, Someone just sold the Associated Press a bag of magic beans. And although the technology is planned to be rolled out into the next year, Andy Baio shows that it doesn’t currently work. Keep an eye on his site in the future and you’ll see that it still doesn’t work.
I remember, back when the web was young, many news organizations attempted pay walls. It didn’t work. The walls eventually crumbled as the organizations realized that others who provided the information for free were quickly rising in prominence and displacing them as leaders in the field. Tom’s Hardware is one that springs to mind. After a year or so, they dropped the pay wall and have regained their prominence in the technology information field.
As Gruber points out in this article, pay walls work for niche fields. However, news isn’t niche. If people can’t link to AP articles, they’ll find another source. The only question right now is, who is going to rise up and fill the void AP is leaving behind?
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