Yes, news sites have a crisis, but the problem is not with aggregators

Original author: Bill Grueskin
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From a translator: While publishers formulated claims against aggregators, and Google answered them, the Associated Press won a lawsuit against one of them. Meanwhile, it turned out that the problem was not in the aggregators at all. Read below.

Bill Grueskin is Dean for Academic Affairs at the Department of Journalism at Columbia University (USA). He was deputy chief editor for news at the Wall Street Journal, and before that was chief editor of

Recently, we have seen how news sites ganged up on aggregators for quoting or linking to their traditional (and expensive to manufacture) product. Content producers believe that this practice destroys their income, and they want to control the use of their content, make money on it, or stop all this mess at all.

Judge Richard Posner, one of the wisest bloggers in the world, who notedthe depressing state of newspapers and suggested that it might be necessary to “expand the copyright law to restrict online access to protected materials without the knowledge of the owner, or limit retelling and links to protected materials without the knowledge of the owner”. In other words, if you quote, pay. If you make links, pay.

Connie Schultz, columnist from the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper, went even further into the argument . She proposed a 24-hour ban on profit aggregators and demanded to share revenue from those sites that use the content of the original news producers.
That was enough for industry hagiographer Jeff Jarvis to culminate on his blog.that Schultz (the wife of an American senator) “must be officially registered as a lobbyist,” and then sent a question to Senator Sherrod Brown whether he would withdraw from the vote on this issue.

All this serves a considerable amusement, not answering the most important question. Namely: What is the point of traffic when the business model itself does not work?

We constantly hear about the death of journalism. Actually, not journalism is dying, but advertising. Or at least advertising in the form in which we still knew it. A business model based on advertising as the main source of income in the media is dying. But in the face of such a big threat to journalism and the media in general, it’s very easy to miss the root and get into disputes about links and copyright.

The trouble is that despite the growing traffic of news sites, their pages are full of ads at a price of no more than $ 1 per thousand impressions. At this price, even a link to Drudge, which will give you 500,000 page impressions, will bring you only $ 500. This money is enough by and large only on the server. And certainly not enough for the salaries of journalists and editors. But this is not some minor part of the production chain.
This happens even on large sites like Zachary Seward, a sneaky blogger at Nieman Journalism Lab, recently trackedas a direct link on the Yahoo homepage, the New York Times website gave 9 million unique visitors in 2 hours. At the same time, the link did not bring much profit. A similar thing happened with the Wichita Eagle Beacon newspaper in February this year. Three million unique visitors received generated just a few thousand dollars from advertising on the pages. recently reported resultsA Harris Interactive Inc. survey of 2,500+ Americans found that banner advertising, which makes up most of the advertising on news sites, was considered largely useless. Researchers have found that TV ads play the most value for consumers when deciding on purchases, then newspapers, then ads on search sites on the Internet. Banners seemed to be the “most useful” to an infinitely small 1% of the number of respondents, while 46% said that the banners were exactly the advertisement that they neglected the most.

In other words, even if we believe that aggregators take visitors away from news sites (it is clear that they actually not only take them away, but also bring them), does this play a role at an advertising price of $ 1 per thousand impressions? Of course, it’s hard to hold back on seeing someone else’s site skimming your work, but is that the point?

In a recent CJR article, Peter Osnos explores how the Huffington Post collected tons of traffic on Sports Illustrated coverage of steroid scandal by Alex Rodriguez. Although it was Sports Illustrated, not the Huffington Post, that were at the epicenter of the events. Osnos writes: “As long as the value of online advertising is estimated by the number of visitors, the race behind the counter is the most important task.”
In fact, this may not be so true. The value of online advertising should be measured by the degree of involvement, rather than by simple counters of visitors, that is, indicators such as the time spent on the site and the number of pages viewed.

Indeed, when we are told about “freemium” models (a mixture of paid and free), publishers and editors should think about who they have the most involved readers with and what they have in common. When I was working on, I was waiting for the only day of the year when users spent the most time on the site and browsed the pages the most. (Guess what day it is? The answer is at the end of the article). These people were the basis, those who were ready to read us everywhere and always, that is, update our pages more and more often.

News sites have hard times right now, I want to see villains in aggregators, bloggers and other websites. But you can also see saviors sending readers to them.
In fact, while publishers and editors learn to work with the audience and make money on it, aggregators are their saviors. They rather keep them from collapse than are its cause.

PS That same day of maximum user engagement was Christmas. And those same devoted readers were those who rushed to the site while their children were unpacking gifts in the living room. God bless them.

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