How the AP et al can make money

Dear AP et al,

So prompted by this and this in response to this and this, I feel obligated to suggest one way for you all can make money off of your content without being complete dicks. The basic issue is that you don’t want “unauthorized use”, which, as far as I can tell, means “stop copying and pasting our stuff — we wanted you to pay pay for that”. Your solution is, as far as I can tell, to use DRM to track how your content is used.

In other words, you plan to sue people who copy and paste. Well, good luck with that.

Now if you’re done being silly, riddle me this: what exactly is the problem with people copying and pasting and forwarding your content? If I worked in marketing and if that happened to something I wrote, I’d strip down naked and run around the office screaming, “We’ve gone viral! We’ve gone V-I-R-A-L!” Then I would buy a new car.

People have short attention spans. It’s a function of having limited time. And time is money. So by chipmunk logic, the ability to command people’s attention spans is worth boatloads of money — a principle that justifies the existence of advertising, once allowed newspapers to charge no more than a quarter for a copy, and currently fuels Google’s march to take over the world (for good, of course).

Your real problem you all have is that in all the copying-and-pasting (and link farming and RSS feeding and wombat beating), your readers have stopped paying attention to you. It may be your content they’re reading, but they’re reading it in the context of a blog, an email client, an aggregator, or a crumpled up piece of paper clutched tightly by an unhappy womat. And in that context, you’ve lost control — your advertising is stripped, your paid gateways don’t work, and all your attempts at relevance are mercilessly, mercilessly mocked. Google makes money off your work. The blogs make money off your work. But you sit there alone. Beaten.

So what’s an honest news reporter to do?

Well, it so happens that a good way to do business is to figure out what your customers want and to cater to them. And one things your readers want is authenticity. People don’t trust information from the Internet — I mean, Wikipedia is usually pretty reliable, but if I cited Wikipedia in an academic paper, I’d be hung by my feet and whacked with a dead fish. In the wacky wretched wilderness of the world wide web, the mainstream media (minus Fox News) hold a position of incredible authority — i.e. I can cite the Reuters website in a paper but not a random blog post by some dude named Markos.

It also so happens that you can’t copy and paste authenticity. Copy and paste permits editing. And editing permits taking stuff out of context. Like this.


The Associated Press Board of Directors today directed The Associated Press to create a news registry that will tag and track all AP content online to assure compliance with terms of use.


The Associated Press Board of Directors today directed The Associated Press to create a news registry that will tag and track all [filthy hobbits] to assure compliance with [the laws of Sauron, dark lord of Mordor].

And in that, we have a business model. You provide something of value — authenticity — that is relatively scarce and people pay you (directly or indirectly) for it. Here’s one possible scenario for you. You write a simple online widget that shows your content. Bloggers can direct the widget to highlight certain excerpts, but the full text of the article, along with an official “AP seal of fairness and balance”, is easily accessible without having to leave the page. At the same time, you can include advertisements in the widget. In fact, you should use Google Ads, if only for the delicious irony of having Google pay you everytime someone clicks on one.

Let me repeat that. You can have Google PAY YOU MONEY.

What’s more is that you can build your widget in a way such that if people copy and paste it directly, it’ll include the bundled ads with it, thereby turning copying-and-pasting-and-forwarding into a profitable activity. You can also include other things besides ads, like links to everyone else using your widget, in order to encourage people to actually want to use your widget. Making money by actually creating things of value. Imagine that!

It’s a win-win for everyone! Except for people with crappy browsers that throw up on excessive Javascript. But that’s okay. The web’s been crapping on them for the last five years or so. Them and the wombats.