Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Support the Source: Creating a New Media Business Model and Keeping the Web Open

Posted by Tom Foremski - June 22, 2008

Linking and quoting content from web sites is what makes the world wide web into a true web. It's a fantastic media technology that can publish content and distribute it to almost anywhere in the world in seconds.

Associated Press recently took steps to limit the web by preventing unlicensed sites from quoting from its news stories. This is a bad policy because it is restrictive and it lessens the value of the web, and in my view, it is uneccessary.

Fair use frustration . . .

AP's policy is born out of the general frustration felt by the media and other content creators when their content is used by others for profit or for publicity--and the content creator doesn't share in the value reaped by others.

Those that take large chunks of content from AP or from other sites under undefined fair use policies say that they are driving traffic to the source site. But anyone that has access to their server logs knows this is only slightly true. The problem is that only a small fraction of traffic goes to the source site. And only a small percentage of that traffic can be monetised by the source site.

So that means content creators, if they produce something of value that is widely quoted and distributed, are unable to benefit much from the value they create for others that use or reference that content.

Clearly, that's not fair use, because creating news content for example, is expensive. You need journalists, editors, pension plans, offices, administrators, and janitors... Google News and other news aggregators machines to harvest that content - that's a low cost of content--all harvested as "fair use."

Bloggers and others, do pretty much the same: they take and quote freely from content such as news stories and they benefit from that content--they create a personal brand and following that helps them in their day job-- they profit from it. But the content creators don't get to benefit from the value that is created by those that use or reference that content.

Meritorious support . . .

It doesn't have to be that way. And we don't have to lock up content and make the web less useful, as AP appears to be doing. There is potentially another way in which content can be created and distributed freely and which would support content creators to create more content.

My proposal is a voluntary system in which you quote freely from a site and you republish an "adtribution link" next to it that would help support the source site. An adtribution link would be a simple text link ad set by the source site. This would meritorious support because only good content gets quoted and the bad doesn't.

The adtribution link could be identified this way:

Support the source: Rave reviews find out why! - Order the The Amazon Kindle Electronic Book Reader!

The "Support the source" identifies the adtribution link that could be in green to signify its link to money.

If you quote from a page with an adtribution link you would copy and paste the entire link, including "Support the source" which identifies and links to the source site. It shows that you are respectful of the work of others and it also allows you to support your favorite sites without it costing you anything.

In this way good content gets the distribution it deserves, and so does the adtribution link that helps support that content.

It is a win-win situation. It doesn't cost anything to "support the source." And it would help great content producers create more great content -- creating a virtuous circle.

Would you support the source? How often do you get the chance to be among the first :-)

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[Please copy and paste the following link:]

Support the source: Rave reviews find out why! - Order the The Amazon Kindle Electronic Book Reader!

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