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Mick Weinstein
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Mick was editor-in-chief and VP of Content at Seeking Alpha from November 2005 to April 2010. He's now the head of content at Covestor. Contact him by emailing mbweinstein (at) gmail.com or follow him on Twitter (http://twitter.com/mickwe) or on his Tumblog (mickw.com).
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  • The ethics and economics of linking out 5 comments
    Apr 20, 2009 11:46 AM | about stocks: NWS, GOOG

    Kara Swisher has a lengthy post describing her site AllThingsD's adjustments to its Voices section, which links out to posts from around the web. Dow Jones (NWS)-owned AllThingsD had come under some scrutiny from Andy Baio about its format for linking out in this section, and Swisher also found herself needing to reply to a recent comment from her colleague Robert Thomson, Dow Jones editor-in-chief, who opined “There is no doubt that certain websites are best described as parasites or tech tapeworms in the intestines of the internet.”

    I was always under the impression that ATD received prior permission for Voices excerpts, but apparently that wasn't the case. At Seeking Alpha, we also link-out to interesting items from around the web in a prominent fashion from our Market Currents and homepage central column, so I find this an interesting development toward developing some kind of standard around editorial link curation. Some initial thoughts:

    • I think the manner in which ATD had previously linked-out was, while on the aggressive end, perfectly legitimate, so I find it a bit hard to identify with the criticism from Joshua Schachter. The Voices excerpts never gave more than a brief introduction to the article, so it was always clear that the ATD editor intended to send to the reader to the original source if the item piqued their interest. In almost all such cases, I would think the original author gains from the increased exposure far more than s/he 'loses' in any revenue gained by the aggregator (does the author really 'lose' that at all?).
    • The new format does direct more attention and traffic to the original site, which should allay any scuh concerns, but I wonder if the shorter excerpts now give enough of a taste to the reader to accomplish the goals of the Voices section.
    • I  appreciate the manner in which this disagreement played itself out - for once, a respectful process to address a dispute among bloggers and larger internet publishers.

    On the broader issue of directing blame toward Google and link aggregators for the woes of traditional media companies, I find myself simply astonished by how oblivious the executives of these companies remain regarding the economics and dynamics of online content. It seems to betray a healthy dose of what we call in Hebrew tsarut ayin - base resentment of the success of another, dispaced anger for one's own misfortune or poor choices. Mathew Ingram is certainly right:

    "if a newspaper or media outlet finds its business model severely impacted by the fact that Google excerpts a single paragraph of a news story, then it deserves to fail... The bottom line is that newspapers need to think about what kind of value they are adding and focus on that, instead of trying to either beat Google at its own game or pretend that it doesn’t exist."

    Disclosure: Kara Swisher and AllThingsD are Seeking Alpha contributors

    Themes: internet, internet content Stocks: NWS, GOOG
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Comments (5)
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  • AMEN!
    20 Apr 2009, 12:58 PM Reply Like
  • Mick,
    Great post. I agree with everything but this line you excerpted from Ingram -

     

    'The bottom line is that newspapers need to think about what kind of value they are adding and focus on that, instead of trying to either beat Google at its own game or pretend that it doesn’t exist.'

     

    The problem here is with the attitude that newspapers like the NY Times and Wash Post should continue to produce great content but 'no one should ever have to pay for it again.' The free model will only work until enough of these guys go under and the quality of newspaper reporting really begins to go downhill. There's just no way the Times or any other global paper can support a staff of thousands to create the great content they do by giving it away for free and selling ads (at least it seems like it's not feasible to me).

     

    Have the newspapers been dinosaurs in their willingness to rethink their models in the internet age? Absolutely. Can the reading public continue to expect to get papers like the Times entirely free and not expect a fall-off in quality? I'm not sure this is realistic long-term. Something will have to give.
    20 Apr 2009, 03:11 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » Yoni, it's clear that companies like the NYT are in a period of transition - trying to figure out still the economics of online and how much they'll have to reduce their staff in this framework. Right now, as the big papers continue to restructure, it seems we're still reaping the benefits of the old, larger staffs - but that's likely to change. I think we just may not have some of the quality journalism that we now enjoy.

     

    There are no 'shoulds' here, as I understand it. There are only the realities of online media economics. We aren't owed anything from the media companies (including free content) - but they also won't be able to demand anything that the market won't support. The companies feel stuck right now, thinking the market owes them something - but the market doesn't care. It's cold and mean and it will go elsewhere for content. It doesn't feel any obligations.

     

    This is harsh, but it's reality, and from what I see, media executives still aren't prepared to swallow it. Instead, they're looking around and saying, 'Who took all our revenues?!' and finding some profitable online companies like Google to blame, since Google is simply winning at one aspect of the online media game. But it's so clear that swiping at Google and other link aggregators will do nothing to really heal what ails them.
    20 Apr 2009, 03:56 PM Reply Like
  • Agreed. There are definitely still in a state of denial.

     

    I do think ultimately there will be a market to support one or two New York Times caliber papers - and this could very well be supported by the subscription model once enough of the smaller/less astute players fall by the wayside. This is along the lines of the WSJ's current model, though lord knows they're currently suffering too. There are enough people willing to pay for quality that can't be obtained elsewhere. I agree there definitely isn't a market for 7 or 8 major U.S. papers with large newsroom staffs for things like international and features news.
    21 Apr 2009, 03:07 AM Reply Like
  • This is interesting - www.marketingcharts.co...

     

    The Times must be doing something right to be up there with People ;-) It kind of prove what Dinosaurs they are if they're having trouble monetizing that kind of traffic.
    21 Apr 2009, 06:40 AM Reply Like
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