AP to Make it Even Harder to Read Traditional News

PC World reports that the Associated Press plans to take legal action against web portals and other web sites that use its content without paying for a license.  Taking a page from the record labels, the AP blames “news theft” for some of the news industry’s recent difficulties.

But here’s the thing: if it wasn’t for sites like Google News and Yahoo pointing to specific stories of interest on newspaper web sites, tons and tons of people would never see them.  Does anyone actually click through a newspaper’s web site looking for news anymore?  It seems to me that an argument could be made that the portals ought to be charging the newspapers for sending traffic to the newspaper, not the other way around.

Take Google News, for example.

I count 3 links to newspapers, 1 each to Reuters and the AP and one to ABC news.  Maybe I’m missing something, but how is it hurting those news organizations to be at the top of the Google News page?

The question, of course, is what constitutes “news theft.”  If we’re talking about the full or substantial reproduction of an article, OK.  But I suspect the AP will try to draw the battle lines at something less than that.  Are they saying links with headlines are impermissible?  So far, it’s not exactly clear what they are saying.  PaidContent has a brief interview with the AP’s commander in chief, which sheds no real light on what the AP really wants.  At the moment it seems they are developing “rules of engagement.”  It could be these rules have something to do with the pending expiration of the AP’s existing deal with Google.

And if the issue is search results, how exactly are we supposed to find news stories on topics we’re interested in?  Surf from news site to news site and read thousands of headlines to find the 10 articles we actually want to read?  Obviously, that’s not going to happen.  And this is good for advertisers how?

Warner Crocker calls it like he sees it, saying the news organizations have:

thrown down gauntlets and are gearing up the legal rhetoric in what appears to be a desperate attempt to stop the bleeding that is going on in the news industry. In reality it will stir up a lot of fuss . . . and eventually prove to be last big noise before the big flame out that scorches the paper some of their products are printed on.

TechCrunch draws the obvious comparison:

The AP, it appears, wants to become the RIAA of the flailing newspaper industry-ferreting out information pirates and threatening lawsuits if they don’t turn over some of their Google gold.

Perhaps I am missing something, but it looks to me like the AP wants its readers to find their way along the information superhighway without a map and without exit signs.  I don’t see how that’s good for anyone.