What an AP alternative could look like

There’s a simple reason why no iTunes for the news exists yet: it’s because the journalism industry has thus far failed to produce any songs worth buying.

For that matter, the journalism industry has produced very few songs at all — the staggering majority of stuff being circulated today is commodity news, contextless updates with no replay value after being consumed once.

To flip the analogy, you don’t see Apple banking its iTunes business plan on selling loops and samples. The average music consumer has no use for them. Producers and remixers do, but you can bet they aren’t buying only from iTunes.

Instead, creatives on the web are increasingly turning to royalty-free stock sites as sources for their raw materials.

What can the journalism industry learn from this trend? The answer is two-fold:

  1. It’s time to take news to the next level, to a form that not only informs and educates, but also has strong replay value. Then, and only then, will people be willing to pay for it.
  2. There needs to be a well-organized resource providing the raw material to feed this new form. A traditional syndication company could possibly reinvent itself to fill this role.

The new, alternative platform would operate something like this:

  • Let members add original reporting, photos, videos and audio files to the system.
  • Sell this material to news producers and remixers under a royalty-free license. The original owners of the files get a cut of the sale.
  • Enable monetization of the link economy through ad revenue-sharing.
  • No DRM-like wrapper. No strings attached. This should be an open and transparent model that rewards rather than restricts those who add value to the news ecosystem.

If the AP won’t do it, someone else will. (Reuters, perhaps?) It’s only a matter of time before the news industry’s operating models dovetail with the natural economies of the Internet. Those who come out on top will be the ones who flow with the current rather than fight against it.


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  • Reuters certainly seem to be the best positioned for this type of move. Their work on Open Calais suggests they understand the value of data, and the possibilities there, although as with any news org there are conservative forces at play there too.

    • Open Calais does show promise. It’ll be interesting to see how Reuters plans to leverage the semantic web to improve online news, as well.

  • Yes I said yes I will yes.

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  • K. Briant

    The idea that journalism has ‘produced very few songs at all’ suggests a deep misunderstanding of what most mainstream media is doing and provides proof that you’ve never worked a beat or gone through the newsroom training that most working journalists have. And no, interviewing a bunch of economics professors about the stimulus, is not real journalism.
    if news outlets are producing only commodity news, as you say, how do you explain the fact they attracted 70.3 million unique visitors in June (35.9 percent of all Internet users)? Scores of others received news through aggregation sites that disseminate the information gathered by working journalists.
    Obviously, we need to find a pay model that works. And it’s commendable that you spend much of your time thinking about how to make that happen.
    But it’s unproductive and flat-out incorrect to dismiss the work of tens and thousands of working journalists who are doing the same important work journalists have for decades under increasingly trying circumstances. You might know what that feels like if you spent a decade — or even a few years — working as a journalist.

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