It’s old news that the AP is gearing up to sue aggregators. But ever since the story broke (two days ago? Really?), I’ve been quietly laughing about why this seems to be happening. And, now that I’m not studying for an exam… well, it’s time to blog about it.
Again, it’s nothing new that newspaper readership is declining, that newspapers are folding, etc. Now, it looks like the AP is taking a stance for the newspapers, right? With decreased paid readership, somebody needs to take a stand to protect the newspapers’ quality content from the likes of aggregators!
If that’s what you’re thinking, I suggest trying on a new pair of lenses.
Think, for a second, back to the heyday of the newspaper. When you got your fill of local, national, and global news… before the internet. Hell, even before AP/Reuters started standardizing the content. Articles were written by authors you recognized and trusted… maybe even knew. They were, without a doubt, written by a member of the community you were a part of — after all, your community was reading and writing the same newspaper you held in your hands.
Then the AP/Reuters/other syndication services came along. And they made everything a lot cheaper and a lot simpler: if a story broke, they’d have the facts and they could quickly get the news to your paper’s (and a boatload of other papers’) editor(s).
Your local newspaper suddenly had a quality story without having to fact-check the article. You, up in Toronto, were reading the same stuff as your cousin in Boston and your nephew in London.
But the individualized, local flavour your paper once had when reporting these events? Gone.
Now, aggregators are being blamed for harvesting and unfairly using content. But imagine using Google, or any other web service, to compare the differences between local reactions to a story. These aggregating tools, all of a sudden, are providing a unique service that our current news-making (and news-serving) model could really take advantage of.
But instead, we have countless copies of syndicated articles clogging up our inter-tubes.
Call me a child of the information age, but I’ve never thought of a newspaper as simply a way to get the news. I’ve always thought the Montreal Gazette should be the Montreal Gazette. The Toronto Star should be the Toronto Star.
If all I wanted was a universal report on current affairs, I wouldn’t open either of these… or any other local paper.