Why top-down syndication is broken

A couple weeks before the latest brouhaha surrounding the Associated Press broke over the Internet, a group of web innovators and citizens were discussing the viability of the AP model at the Poynter Sense-Making conference in March.

Below, Greg Elin of the Sunlight Foundation reacts to a presentation by the AP’s vice president and director of strategy Jim Kennedy on a “new model for news consumption,” given via teleconference to the room.

The issue is two-fold. First, as Jeff Jarvis points out, the AP’s very business model is antithetical to how the Internet works:

Journalists doing original reporting everywhere should resent the AP for turning all the knowledge they create into commodity news — and selling it with no benefit to them in the form of payment, credit, or links. The AP is built for the content economy and is incapable of shifting to support its members or compete in the link economy.

The AP syndication model works in an economy of information scarcity, whereas the web represents an economy of abundance.

Second, what the AP has failed to grasp is that the evolution of the participatory web has blurred the line between content producers, distributors and consumers to the point where everybody can be any and all of the three. The news wire of the future will not be centralized and top-down, but rather distributed and bottom-up.


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  • I cut my teeth in the virtual world with open source (OS) ecommerce software. Obviously the industry are different, however Jackie, as you stated, “The evolution of the participatory web has blurred the line”. This is also true in the OS space. Independent firms, as small as one person, use well-known OS products to quickly create and launch their brands. The result is many small firms providing more personal services to their clients. Of course not all things are equal; but it works out well in the end.

    I have recently read Jeff Jarvis’s book titled What Would Google Do? I have to agree with him and it seems you as well. The modern firm will have to be open and accessible, understand abundance and work with extended networks.

    The people have power and their not afraid to use it. Now if I could just figure how trackback links work I may launch my carrier as a professional blogger…

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  • Thanks for your comment, Gerald. You make a good observation about the parallel changes the Internet has brought to a variety of fields. It’s a shift from large homogeneous corporations to small personal brands, and it’s happening in software development, the music industry, and now the media industry.

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