News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch is now condemning online aggregators as "content kleptomaniacs" who threaten to put news companies out of business.
Speaking at a media industry conference in Beijing, he urged more publishers to start charging for content, warning that otherwise content creators will "pay the ultimate price" while the so-called content kleptomaniacs win. He stated: "The aggregators and plagiarists will soon have to pay a price for the co-opting of our content. But if we do not take advantage of the current movement toward paid content, it will be the content creators, the people in this hall, who will pay the ultimate price and the content kleptomaniacs who triumph."
Tom Curley, CEO of The Associated Press, weighed in. "Random distribution of traffic by aggregators such as search engines directs audience and revenue away from those who invest in original news reports but assures the aggregators and their ad networks of a stream of revenue," he said. "Crowd-sourcing Web services such as Wikipedia, YouTube and Facebook have become preferred consumer destinations for breaking news, displacing Web sites of traditional news publishers."
For News Corp. and the AP to repeatedly cast search engines and aggregators as enemies is superficial and short-sighted. It's also pointless. Just ask the record labels whether the decision 10 years ago to vilify Napster helped the industry.
However it can be argued that search engines and other Web services are a boon to news companies. Search engines have allowed people to discover new publications, while newspapers get exposure, traffic and potential ad revenue.
Also, reporters and editors at every News Corp. property and AP bureau would rely on Google, Facebook, Twitter and the like when researching and reporting stories. "Reporters on deadline don't need to wait for a librarian to dig up old research, or use a paid database, when they can gather information through Google or Yahoo." Reported The Daily Online Examiner.
Last week, the AP floated a puzzling plan to charge some online publishers a premium to get access to stories for 20 or 30 minutes before they're distributed broadly, reported The Examiner.
They go on to say, "Who would pay a premium for an "exclusive" AP story that will cease to be exclusive the minute it goes live? After all, once people learn of news, there's no way to stop them from repeating it -- whether they do so by phoning their friends, emailing links, Twittering a 140-character summary, or rewriting the story and distributing it on their own Web sites. That's simply what people do with important news. And if people don't care about the news enough to want to spread it, then it probably isn't worth all that much, anyway."
OPINION/FEEDBACK TO THE EDITOR