Friday, July 10, 2009

BPN 1358 Dead media publishers want assistance

A number of European publishers of newspapers and magazines have requested the European Commission for stricter copyright laws in order to develop an online earning model. The publishers say that re-use of material by websites and news aggregators undermines a business model for internet. And as advertisements are decreasing, publishers look for methods to earn on content. the 'Hamburg Declaration' was introduced on 8 June and has so far been adopted by 149 German publishers.

In Germany it has been suggested to have neighbouring rights for textual content, like for the re-use of songs. The publishers want to have a stricter regime on copyright legislation. They work on the technical system ACAP (Automated Content Access Protocol) with which they want to force news aggregators to use this protocol.

This is just one of the signals that European publishers are having problems to survive. With an annually decreasing number of subscribers and the revenue decrease of ads in this economic recession, the revenues of the publishers are getting lower year by year. In the meantime they do not compensate the decrease with income from internet.

The problem is of course not limited to Europe only. Also in the States newspapers and magazines publishers feel the decrease and have no compensation from internet. As I recently wrote, only newspapers in India seem to be able to expand as more people start reading and are offered newspapers in more local languages.

In the meantime publishers complain and look for subsidies, grants and extra charges, saying that the newspaper scene should remain pluriform. This is strange by asking subsidies and grants, they become dependent of the government and not free to comment.

Recently a former Dutch minister, mr Brinkman, presented a report on the Dutch newspaper market. The report contains a series of obligatory phrases about the freedom of journalism and then constitutes that the revenues of the newspaper publishers are going down in such a fast way that they need to be assisted financially. Like in a magic show the commission chairman conjures up a white bunny: every internet user should pay a surcharge for the newspaper industry.

You can imagine the reactions to this proposal: an internet levy for dead media. At once the whole report, which was well documented and provided with sharp analyses, was forgotten. Intellectuals turned up their nose, while others started to express curses and abuse. And of course, the Dutch publishers have the same global problems and their own problems. They have never invested in innovation, except for the metal of their presses. When internet came around the publishers did not really experiment with for example an own national aggregator service; they left it to others. They increasingly started to depend on news wire services, having for 60 percent the same news items as other print papers and internet services. Regional newspapers have become less local and have not concentrated on social networks. Glossy weekly magazines were set up for 10 million euro in a time that the money should have used as internet green shoot. Internet services for ad acquisition were set up by new players like Google. And when the editorial and advertisement staffs set up experiments and networks, they were called back by board members, saying that internet was like teletext and not a serious medium. They spilled a lot of money by partnering hedge funds and buying rights to movie libraries. And now people that use internet should be paying a surcharge for lack of initiative on the part of publishers.

Should a surcharge be set on the use of internet. Of course not; that is really ridiculous. Should publishers get assistance in order to turn around their business. Not really. They should only get funds matching their own project money and only after that projects have been evaluated for innovation by internet and content experts. There are enough ideas to be incorporated by newspapers companies: cross media, social networks, not customised , but personal mobile services and crime maps, for example. Oh, and recommending eReaders as an innovation will not save the forests and newspaper world. Publishers should start seriously confront themselves with the digital future and phase out their print products over the next five years: the year 2015 should be the year print went out of fashion for newspapers.

Blog Posting Number: 1358


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