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4/8/2009
06:49 PM
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn
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Lawsuits Won't Save The AP's Business Model

The AP's peevish bid to become, as TechCrunch's Erick Schonfeld puts it, "the RIAA of the newspaper industry," is off to a bad start.

The AP's peevish bid to become, as TechCrunch's Erick Schonfeld puts it, "the RIAA of the newspaper industry," is off to a bad start.The AP sent a cease-and-desist letter to one of its affiliates, country radio station WTNQ-FM in Tennessee, directing it to stop posting videos from the AP's YouTube channel on its Web site. (The AP could have disabled video embedding but didn't.)

The AP is mad as hell at content aggregators and isn't going to take it anymore.

Of course, as Techmeme founder Gabe Rivera points out in an article by CNET's Greg Sandoval, the New York Times, an AP member, aggregates news from other sources, the very practice the AP is fuming about.

The AP should consider what would happen if its sources sought to enforce the same narrow interpretation of fair use that the AP seems to be advancing. The news organization might face claims for copyright infringement because its reporters lifted quotes from e-mail correspondence or industry reports.

Copyright violations online are like shoplifting in retail: You have to do something about the problem, but you can't afford to do too much.

Somewhere between theft alert systems and cavity searches, you'll start driving customers away.

Though the worst news thieves may warrant legal action, the AP would do better to realize that if it is to survive, it needs to diversify beyond news. News just isn't that valuable anymore, except among stock traders.

As InformationWeek's Alex Wolfe argues, most people, if pressed to pay to read news online, "simply wouldn't read the news. They'd play Nintendo, or whatever other time-waster presented itself as a work alternative."

The AP needs to stop trying to fight the future. Instead, it should offer information services to augment the news and make it valuable enough to sell.

It should be offering early access to stories for those willing to pay. It should be working with groups like the Sunlight Foundation and Pro Publica to provide insight into political funding, public relations spin, and influence peddling. It should be building online communities and social networks.

The AP should be working with Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and their ad partners rather than against them.

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