Paid content, pay walls and the link economy; topics receiving massive attention in the last week thanks to the document (via the Nieman Journalism Lab) distributed by the Associated Press which details their plans to reclaim their content and seek to make it work harder for them. It’s a troubling time for news companies as they struggle to find a way to make their websites profitable and look on in distrust as the aggregators increase their audience and in turn their ad dollars. Is locking up content behind subscriptions and selling online entities the rights to reuse it actually going to help them in the long run?

An interesting debate into this has been sparked by this article from Arnon Mishkin which elicited this response from Jeff Jarvis. They take opposing sides but at the same time both make valid points. Two posts worth reading!

In my opinion the answer isn’t charging for everything. Content creators have the right to charge for something if it’s valuable to someone else, the problem for news is that everyone writes slightly different opinions of the same thing (this post being one example of that). Newspapers and publishers need to have something unique to offer if they’re going to charge users to read it let alone charge others to reuse or further distribute. Some will be able to do this (the FT being a good example), others really don’t offer enough value to get away with it and I’m afraid I think their dreams of making the web their most profitable distribution channel are over.

One problem is that there’s only so many news stories out there and if everyone is covering the same thing then only the best coverage will survive (users will very quickly stop paying if the content isn’t good enough). The other problem I foresee for news is that if you lock your content away and prevent linking then you’ll kill the buzz that surrounds a good story you do publish (how many retweets will a pay walled article get?).

The web is built on links and content curation (not just creation); that’s how buzz explodes, memes spread and serendipity occurs. Cutting this off could just kill a lot of news sources as the more forward thinking (and innovative online) take advantage and continue to push the free and distributed model. Even newspapers get shared, picked up, discussed in the pub and curated. Will web pages behind pay walls have a lifespan or will they end up forgotten in some archive that Google can’t access?

I think linking’s vital to the webs survival and continued growth, it’s how it all started (my first job in web involved building link portals in 1995), and without it we’d be a much poorer community. Content creators need to find ways to monetize their assets while not hindering access or distribution, a new model is required.


Free linking is the lifeblood of the web, without it there would be no interconnections between websites in fact the web wouldn’t be so much a web as a load of separate entity sites which only come together in a list of search results. Imagine you had to get approval for every link you wanted to refer to? That could kill the web, couldn’t it?

There’s a court case going on in the U.S. which could decide the future for this. To me it seems impossible that this could ever get a ruling in favor of the plaintiff, but what if it did? Where would you see the web a year after linking was outlawed?

Court case details here (on The Boston Globe)… oops, that’s a link!

At long last Google has announced the launch of some technology on YouTube which aims to protect copyright holders. Called YouTube Video Identification, the system does what Google has been promising to do since June, giving content owners the power to block copyrighted clips as they’re uploaded to the popular video-sharing service.

Of course, Google’s post on their blog avoids the mention of ‘blocking’ content and focuses instead on how publishers can ‘manage’ their content ‘proactively’. They also mention all the other steps they have taken to allow content to be managed on YouTube:

  • Our strict repeat-infringer policy, which has been in place since our launch, terminates accounts of repeat infringers based on DMCA notices.
  • We take a unique “hash” of every video removed for copyright infringement and block re-upload of that exact video file prospectively.
  • We require a 10-minute limit on the length of content uploaded to the site.
  • We provide content owners with an electronic notification and takedown tool, to help them more easily identify their material and notify us to take it down with the click of a mouse.
  • We also publish copyright tips for users in plain English and clear, prominent messaging at the time of user upload.

Great propaganda guys… Here’s the details from the YouTube site. Will this be enough to fend off the copyright subpoenas? I think it probably will. This kind of proactive filtering approach is exactly what was needed to secure YouTube from the lawyers. Hopefully Google will continue to evolve this technology and stay ahead of the game with it, so securing YouTube’s future and allowing them to focus on the more important issues of monetising the video sharing site.

Some insights into the upcoming YouTube saving copyright filtering technology have been posted on the NY Times technology blog here. The text is a transcript from a session of the Viacom court case and is of one of Google’s lawyers trying to explain how the video signature fingerprinting technology will work.

It’s all as expected but makes for interesting reading.

A good post from Pete Cashmore on his Mashable blog here. Pete’s spotted, and disseminated, what instantly becomes obvious the moment you get onto the MySpaceTV site (launched today). It looks very similar to YouTube!

I’m sure MySpaceTV will be hugely successful amongst the MySpace community, but how successful it will be outside of that will depend largely on the content that MySpace can get onto it’s player. It’s going to need to use it’s relationships with media owners (NBC/News Corp anyone) to get prime content on it’s site if it stands a chance of competing. And that’s only competing on copyrighted content, how will it fair on user generated content?

As I said, they’ve got the social networking bonus of MySpace to play on, and you can bet that the player becomes the only video player allowed on MySpace, so they’ll get UGC from there. But will it have the pull to attract the guys who are making amateur films etc as those are the ones who have embraced YouTube so completely.

I don’t think this will kill YouTube to be honest. I think the connotations of being associated with MySpace won’t help, it’s my opinion that MySpace needs to adapt to survive beyond being a playground for teens and they currently show no desire to make that shift.

It looks like MySpaceTV has been launched as a YouTube killer, but I don’t think it will cut it without a killer gameplan as well!

Steve Chen (one of the founders of YouTube) has posted on the Google Blog to clear up the details of the video id (read copyright protection) software they are trialling.

He again confirms the use of Audible Magic for helping identify the audio content of music partners like Warner Music, Sony BMG, and Universal. And goes on to describe the video system as one that extracts key visual aspects of uploaded videos and compares that information against reference material provided by copyright holders.

His post is in response to the press and blog stories about the video technology.

Bebo have announced that they are now going to use Audible Magic to check content for copyright. This makes them the third social network to use them after first MySpace and then YouTube announced it.

Audible Magic must be doing very well indeed out of all of this, I would imagine they are wishing lawsuits on websites that haven’t yet trialled their software…