Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The sound a dinosaur makes when it dies

Ironically the online arm of a print publication, BusinessWeek, reports that the Associated Press wants to launch its own online news portal to compete with Google News. As Time-Warner found out with AOL (or vice versa), readers don't want a single source for their news or entertainment. The AP even claims Google is essentially destroying the newspaper business because, of all things, Google makes it easy for readers to find and click through to stories they want to read. Yet the AP licenses its content to Google!

Newspapers should be knocking down Google's door trying to get their stories posted higher on Google News, yet here they are deploying "coding to lock out Google robots" (actually nothing more technological than putting a small, commonly-used text file on your site that tells Google to ignore your pages).

The only strategy that could possibly save the AP and its member papers from extinction is actually to stop licensing its content to online-only outlets like Google, Yahoo!, MSN, and AOL. The AP should also ban its offline subscribers from posting any AP content on their online outlets, or at least require it to be accessible only to signed-in subscribers who pay a certain minimum monthly charge. The only way the AP can save print is to boycott online. Subscriptions are a hard sell, and won't be popular. The market size is several orders of magnitude less than free.

If the AP is not ready to make the leap to a full-fledged boycott or require paid access, and my guess is it doesn't have the guts to, it needs to stop complaining about honest sites like Google News sending readers to its stories on its member's sites.