I was too easy on the AP

The Associated Press’s “Don’t quote us” policy is worse than I feared.
Not only are they employing DMCA takedown notices against clear cases of Fair Use and requiring payments for quoting as few as five words — their proposed licensing agreement has an anti-disparagement clause:

You shall not use the Content in any manner or context that will be in any way derogatory to the author, the publication from which the Content came, or any person connected with the creation of the Content or depicted in the Content. You agree not to use the Content in any manner or context that will be in any way derogatory to or damaging to the reputation of Publisher, its licensors, or any person connected with the creation of the Content or referenced in the Content [Ö]
Publisher reserves the right to terminate this Agreement at any time if Publisher or its agents finds Your use of the licensed Content to be offensive and/or damaging to Publisherís reputation.

Of course, this is exactly one kind case that Fair Use is intended to protect — criticism of poor reporting.
What’s interesting, and unknown right now, is the degree to which this policy was vetted by the AP’s board, which is made up of newspaper owners. There is no doubt that this policy is bad for AP’s owners, who depend on links (and the quotes that go with them) for a big chunk of their direct traffic, as well as their Google juice.
Personally, I’m observing this policy by posting some AP content to my (other) blog.
Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.

The AP's customers deserve better

I was surprised to find myself mildly sympathetic to the AP’s desire to keep bloggers from quoting from its stories. After all, unlike just about every other media organization on the planet, the AP doesn’t have a web business to promote. The distribution of AP stories to its clients is its core business and one that could be arguably threatened by unfair reuse. I’m also struggling to remain objective, because regularly I quote my local papers at length all the time in my own local blog — with their encouragement — but always urging my readers to read the whole story at the source.
But, ultimately, I don’t see how the AP can be right about this, and I suspect they’ll come to their senses.
The AP’s clients benefit from the traffic generated by these blog links. We’ve been encouraging them to seek out local bloggers to quote and link to their stories. This is going to complicate the outreach efforts of AP’s customers.
But the real reason is more simple, which can be seen in these 101 words I’m quoting from the New York Times story linked above:

“The principal question is whether the excerpt is a substitute for the story, or some established adaptation of the story,” said Timothy Wu, a professor at the Columbia Law School. Mr. Wu said that the case is not clear-cut, but he believes that The A.P. is likely to lose a court case to assert a claim on that issue.
“Itís hard to see how the Drudge Retort ëfirst few linesí is a substitute for the story,” Mr. Wu said.
Mr. Kennedy argued, however, that The Associated Press believes that in some cases, the essence of an article can be encapsulated in very few words.

If the essence of the article can be encapsulated a very few words, I’d argue that it wasn’t much of a story in the first place. Just as, I assure you, I didn’t capture the essence of the Times’ story above. It’s a much better piece of work than that. I urge you to read it at the source.
Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.

What CBS and CNET really need

CBS and CNET may be the worst possible partners for each other.
Back in the late nineties, I worked at CNET. It was a pretty heady moment. The company seemed to be setting new standards and best practices every day. But now, CNET doesn’t seem interested in setting the pace any longer. It couldn’t even get out of its own way long enough to come up with a widget strategy that is early or novel, and has opted out of leading a technology ad network. CNET still has a great content product, excellent editorial and infrastructure staff, and deep experience in premium online advertising. CNET needs ownership that is going to push it to become a stonger content and advertising network, rather than becoming some corporation’s Internet trophy bride. CBS has saved CNET from getting the tough love it needs.
Meanwhile, CBS needs more distribution and network power and fewer content businesses. We’re moving into a world where (at least in the near term) there will be greater separation between the distribution and creation of content. Media companies must get out in front of that trend. This is particularly true of CBS, whose broadcast network is increasingly threatened by cable and the Internet. They need to remember that they’re in the network business. And they’re only in show biz because they own a powerful distribution network. It’s easy to forget that they got where they are by laying coax, setting up microwave towers, and fighting for affiliates in scruffy little towns.
In this world, Cox’s acquisition of Adify looks a lot smarter, giving them more network and infrastructure expertise and a business that is poised to grow. It’s not as glamorous, but it should be a solid and important business as the network economics of media become more clear.
The good news for both partners is that CNET still has tremendous potential. But CBS is going to have to learn how turn it into the kind of content and advertising network it should have already become by now.
Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.

I love Google's new primary reporting tool

Google’s new primary tracking map is amazing. The level of data-intensity is amazing and I love the sparkline-inspired charts for each county. This is a wonderful example of how to illustrate a massive amount of information in a a simple way.
It’s churlish to want more, but what I really want is something that allows me to analyze the results, and not simply to report them. But I guess that’s why I’m doing this job.
Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.

What newspapers can learn from radio

Tribune’s hiring of executives from Clear Channel is an interesting idea, but hiring programming executives seems like a mistake.
The competitive instincts of radio might do the newspaper industry some good. But no media industry treats its audience with more contempt than does commercial radio. Then there’s this:

Meanwhile, at Tribune, the hirings suggest that Mr. Zell, who himself owned a radio broadcaster for a time in the 1990s, may put more emphasis on the broadcasting side of Tribune, a side of the business that generates higher profit margins and doesn’t face the same rapid falloff in advertising as the newspaper business.

Yes, and oranges are juicier than apples.
Not to mention the fact that broadcasting is being teed up for its own day of reckoning.
Where could radio’s cutthroat competitive instincts do newspapers the most good? Radio advertising executives understand how to sell locally and competitively in ways that newspaper ad teams only talk about in PowerPoint charts.
Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.

Thinking hard about social media

Bloggers already have access to some excellent tools for content management, but are falling behind in community-building. That’s why I’m excited by Chris Pirillo’s announcement that he wants to build an installation of Drupal that is optimized for social media. Even if you’re a big media company, or never use Drupal, this project could affect the way you run your site.

I donít want a social network, I want a socially *RELEVANT* network (both on-site and beyond). I donít want a community platform, I want a participation platform where members are rewarded and ranked appropriately. I donít want a place where people can just blog, because Iím going well beyond the blog. Itís not just about hosting videos, audio files, or any piece of random media – itís the discovery mechanisms between them that make them more relevant.
Itís discovery – no matter the community, no matter the type of content. Imagine coming to a site and not just reading about what other people are interested in, but what interests they SHARE with you! Imagine coming to a site and seeing how someone ranks in answers pertaining to your own questions! Oh, Iím confident you may have seen these features elsewhere – but what about for your own site, what about for your own community, what about for your own ideas?

Media are becoming social and many bloggers know they will be left behind by the revolution they started if their tools don’t get better. But competition is making everybody’s tools sharper. The last time I was in the market for a content management system, I was intrigued by Drupal, but I knew that I didn’t have the time or resources to build on its deep capabilities. There’s a reason most Drupal sites look alike. It’s difficult for the average site builder to transcend Drupal’s profound dorkiness.
Chris’s intense, well-thought-out description of the content management system he’d like to build is loaded with good ideas that every media company should consider for their sites and possibly demand from their vendors.
Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.

A commonsense approach to moderation

Our research shows that the people who post in online appreciate good moderation. I also know from personal experience that writing and enforcing a moderation policy is a thankless job. But it’s one that your users will appreciate, even if they don’t know why.
Boing Boing’s new Q&A-style moderation policy is a fascinating document. It ranges from straightforward to cranky and idiosyncratic.

Q. All the vowels have disappeared from a paragraph I wrote! What’s going on?
A. We did it. Someone (a moderator, one of the Boingers) was expressing displeasure at your remarks. The technique is called disemvowelling. It deprecates but does not delete the remark. With work, the disemvowelled text should still be readable.

But it’s also plainspoken and utterly appropriate to the tone of the site. At some point, we’ll come to appreciate moderation as any other editorial function, and one that is essential to the site’s editorial voice.
Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.

No "Wire" spoilers here

I’m not going to tell you how “The Wire” — arguably the best TV show ever — ends. Not till next year: I’m watching it on DVD via Netflix. I think it’s the best way to follow such a densely-layered, character-driven show.
I’m using Netflix to follow a number of HBO series on a Mac Mini with a 17″ monitor in our bedroom. And we’re using El Gato’s Eye TV hooked up to the cable for regular TV. That’s how I recorded and watched enough of “Mad Men” to decide to buy it from iTunes.
My wife got addicted to “The Office” buying it on iTunes. She has watched these episodes enough to have a disturbing command of the dialog. We were not happy with NBC’s iTunes boycott, but it did give us an opportunity to try it on Hulu.
Meanwhile, our 15-year-old daughter buys “Gray’s Anatomy” and “Lost” on iTunes and watches them in a window when she’s on the computer or on her iPod when she’s killing time.
The only person in our household who’s watching much regular old TV (ROT?) these days is our five year old.
These new distribution media aren’t going to eliminate ROT, but they can’t help but have a profound effect on its business model. And it’s already showing in the direction of network TV.
In the meantime, we’re living in both a new (and improved) Golden Age of television, and its Dark Ages.
Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.

Getting TV all of out of proportion

Television is in some kind of weird middle-aged adolescence. Everywhere you look, it’s awkwardly proportioned.
I’ve become used to widescreen TV’s electronics stores and public places showing regular old TV broadcasts stretched horizontally to fill the space. We wouldn’t want to waste all those pixels we paid for — or look like we’re just showing plain old TV — after all.
On a recent cross-country flight I enjoyed Virgin America’s new in-flight entertainment system. It’s very nice, except it insists on showing, say, The Office, in widescreen format — making the entire cast look a little chubby.
And no one seems to notice. One can only imagine in how many homes expensive, high-resolution home theaters are showing TV as it was never meant to be shown. And America is left wondering whether Obama has put on weight.
Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.

Think locally, act Googley

Google has announced that they plan to provide news by geography.
So far, what I’ve seen doesn’t work very well. For example, Google only seems to find the zips that are actually in the text of the story and doesn’t seem to reflect any actual geocoding on the part of the news organization. However, this is a clear signal to everyone in the news business to get their metadata in order.
All stories (or at least their database entries) should include all relevant location information, including all government districts, zip codes, latitude/longitude, etc. Publishers should begin the process of setting up their systems so that they can deliver this metadata with the story.
This leads me to two other big trends affecting the news business in 2008.
First, content producers should begin thinking of their content and systems as platforms for new applications. They will need to create new kinds of products and services on those platforms and open themselves up so that intermediaries like Google News can bring them into contact with new audiences.
Second, local content producers must now recognize that Google’s main search bar (not local.google.com) is now a big player in their local market and that their customers are already adding zip codes to their Google searches. They must have a strategy for dealing with the coming impact of Google in their markets.
I’ve got two reports in production on these trends already, and I will continue to explore them in 2008.
Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.