Tag Archives: wire-services

What will Times freedom mean for its wire service?

So the New York Times is free online. I won’t bother linking to all the blogs talking about this decision, or opining whether this is a good or bad move financially for the Times. I’m on the fence about this, since I don’t think advertising alone can keep a huge for-profit newspaper running.

One thing I will note, however, is its effect on subscribers to the NY Times wire service. Currently, small newspapers around the world (including The Gazette) run feature stories from the Times in their newspapers (The Gazette even has a page in its Sunday section dedicated to reprinting a Times feature). But the licensing agreement doesn’t allow free web publishing of these articles, to prevent a Maureen Dowd opinion piece to be available free on some small-market daily when the Times was trying to sell it on its TimesSelect service.

As a result of this change, will these papers now be able to publish these pieces on their websites? And perhaps more importantly, will these papers still be as eager to republish these pieces in their print editions now that they’re available free online?

Google the wires

Speaking of wire services, Google News, which used to be an aggregator of news content with links to full articles on their original sites (and for some reason annoyed content owners who I guess don’t want traffic from the biggest website on Earth), has come to an agreement with Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, Canadian Press and the U.K. Press Association to host wire stories on its site (as evidenced by that CP story hosted on Google).

The result of this is that when you see mention of “Canadian Press” or “Associated Press” in Google News results, that link will take you on a page at Google instead of some cheap generic small-market U.S. network TV affiliate who just republish unaltered wire copy online.

What it doesn’t mean is that you will be able to directly scroll the wires on Google. You still have to go through the Google News homepage. Fortunately there are other places that give you almost-direct access to unedited CP wire copy.

It probably won’t mean a huge deal, but you’ll note that wire copy on Google is much simpler and less ad-riddled than the places you’ll usually find it, which I think will lead to more people linking to stories off Google when given the choice.

Wire services are a double-edged sword

There’s an interesting trend happening in the news media. As wire services become ubiquitous, providing almost all the content for crappy, journalist-free newspapers like Metro, major news organizations are beginning to realize that they need to provide good, original content to distinguish themselves from these free alternatives. Otherwise, why would people buy their paper or visit their website when they can get the same wire story from another source?

Earlier this summer, CanWest completed its pullout of Canadian Press, the only nationwide news service in Canada. The decision cut CP’s budget by 9 per cent, and had some people crying that the sky was going to fall.

Although we’re only a couple of months into it, that looks unlikely. CP’s reliance on the big papers was already much lower than it had been previously, thanks to these free papers and other organizations like radio stations who are too cheap to have a news staff of their own. They’re also expanding their online presence, providing things like those Flash-based election tickers. (It’ll be interesting to see how CanWest papers handle general elections where the CP wire is of critical importance.)

I’ve heard a lot of people criticize the move, both inside and outside affected newsrooms, because it limits access to news from small regions, and because other outlets will run news they don’t have access to.

But I see it as a good thing. CanWest used some of the money they saved from dumping CP (though very little compared to how much they’re pocketing for shareholders) to expand its CanWest News Service, which before this summer was basically just the newsrooms of CanWest papers and a few reporters scattered in places like Ottawa, New York and Washington D.C. Now instead of one news service, we have two competing ones, and more journalists covering news.

In a similar vein, as of today CNN is no longer a client of Reuters news service. (If your first reaction to that news was “CNN was using Reuters?”, you’re not alone.) Instead, the news channel and Internet news giant will be boosting its own news-gathering, while still using Associated Press copy. That’s probably just some marketing speak and the investments will be trivial, especially when you consider that they were just looking for a better deal, but it’s better than nothing.

Wire services are very important, because they allow small news organizations to get news from far-away places, and provides an alternative to, say, expanding the White House Press Briefing Room to the size of a small stadium.

But in the Internet age, where a story carried by a wire service can be read from hundreds of different websites, news media have to provide strong original reporting to send eyes their way.

It’s vain, self-serving, greedy and transparent, but it’s good for journalism.

UPDATE (Sept. 11): CNN dumping Reuters comes back to bite them in the ass when they couldn’t run the Bin Laden video that Reuters had gained access to and started distributing. I wonder if Reuters paid Bin Laden royalties?

MédiaMatinQuébec hits two million

MédiaMatinQuébec, which has been produced by the workers of the Journal de Québec daily since the lock-out/strike started in April, has handed out its two-millionth copy.

The post contains an article which, though clearly one-sided (Quebecor wants to make as much money as possible — duh), has some insightful criticism of the way they’re gutting regional journalism when, if they really want to compete, they should be doing the opposite.

I’m tempted to compare this labour disruption, now in its third month, to the labour disruption that eventually led to the powerhouse Montreal Star in the 1970s. But the ubiquity of wire services makes me reconsider that conclusion. There are free newspapers out there like 24 Heures and Metro with no or little original reporting. But people still gobble them up.

Maybe that’s the future of media here. Big newspapers that photocopy New York Times features and briefs from Associated Press, and small community weeklies that produce fluff pieces by underpaid young journalists about that 100-year-old grandma and her war stories.

The way things are going, it’s hard not to be cynical.

UPDATE: For those of you curious, here’s a PDF version of a recent issue of the paper. Apparently they’re soon going to be going online. Which sounds great except that this is an unsustainable strike paper with no advertising or subscription revenue and far more staff than it needs.