I have never believed that newspapers had a problem charging for their content. Newspaper content has always been free or nearly free. When I was growing up in Worcester, Massachusetts I remember being shocked to hear that the 25 cents we paid for the Worcester Telegram and Gazette barely paid for the delivery boys. It actually cost a couple of dollars to print and deliver that daily paper and money to pay for it came from advertising.
But if advertising is lacking in a newspaper’s business model why not restructure so newspapers are paid for their original content creation based on the “Internet currency” easiest to monetize; attention delivered. Simply stated, if newspapers could get more attention/eyeballs, they could get more online readers, and more ad revenue.
The arbiter online “attention delivered” is search. Google, Yahoo, and Bing, determine where vast majority of online attention is directed. But search is blind to many things, among them, whether content is original or aggregated. This “blind evaluation” heavily disadvantages original content publishers and favors aggregators.
It is hard for original content producers to become aggregators because it is hard to aggregate content from direct competitors. Ironically, it is easier for organizations that generate no content, and compete with no other media, to be aggregators.
So here we have an unsustainable model: the people aggregating content are getting the majority of the traffic, and therefore revenue. The people creating the original content get less traffic and revenue.
Addressing this issue for the news business, media consultant, Arnon Mishkin, partner with Mitchell Madison Group, says,
“The vast majority of value gets captured by aggregators linking and scraping rather than by a news organizations that get linked and scraped. We did a study on several sites that aggregate purely a menu of news stories. In all cases there was at least twice as much traffic on the home page as there were clicks going to the stories that were on it. In other words a very large share of the people who were visiting the site were merely browsing to read headlines rather than using the aggregation page to decide what they wanted to read in detail.”
Long term this is an unsustainable model. But I propose it can be made to work with “search credits.”
I propose we reward original content creators with “search credits” which would raise original content higher in competitive search rankings than the same content posted as aggregated content.
There are already people in place who could make this happen. Most original content producers have SEO staffers who would be delighted to tag their content as original if it meant higher rankings on Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Search engines could adjust their algorithms to respond those those tags.
With aggregators and original content producers alike often getting a majority of their traffic from search, giving “search credits “ to original content creators would justly reward content originators and assure their survival. Their survivial is also good news for content aggregators.
Newspapers, and other original content producers, would find their search rankings rise, their web traffic rise, and their revenues rise.
I challenge Google, Yahoo, and Bing to consider the harm they are doing to original content producers by giving the same search rankings to original and aggregated content.
Can content producers such as, magazine and newspaper publishers organize to insist that original content be prioritized higher at search organizations? I'd be willing to help out anyone at the MPA, ABM, or the NAA who wants to start the conversation.