Should News Organizations Pay People For Their Tweets?

    February 14, 2012
    Chris Crum
    Comments are off for this post.

Let me start off by saying: No. I don’t think news organizations should have to pay people for referencing their tweets. But this is a similar logic to how some traditional news organizations operate.

The Associated Press is about to enter a new era, as its President and CEO Tom Curley steps down. This was announced late last month, along with the fact that the AP began a search for his replacement. He’ll stick around until that replacement is found.

The AP and the web have had something of a rocky relationship, as the news industry as a whole has felt the effects of the increasing rapidity of news. The relationship even saw the AP’s content absent from Google News at one point, before it ultimately reached a new licensing deal with the search giant. Under Curley’s reign, the AP has been very stingy at times about how others engage with their content, in terms of referencing, quoting, linking, etc. It’s going to be very interesting to see how the organization evolves under new management.

Should sites referencing or linking to AP content have to pay for the privilege to do so? Let us now what you think.

The Guardian ran an interview with Curley this week, in which he talks about some of these issues, and the challenges that his replacement will face.

Curley talked about how much shorter the news cycle (which he defines as the “period of time when all the people interested in a story had access to it”) is these days, compared to the 60s. From 12 hours, to just a few minutes. “I would say until about 11 September 2001 it was three hours,” he’s quoted as saying. “Now it’s 30 minutes. You might say if you are a certain age – with Twitter and Facebook and all that type of stuff – it’s three minutes.”

I’m not sure I agree with that. I’m pretty sure you have access to news on the web as long as it’s on the web. Whether you’re perusing sites’ archives, searching on Google, digging back through past Facebook posts, or through the Twitter timeline, access is generally there. There are certainly some exceptions to the rule, but just because the news comes in quick and plentiful, does not mean it disappears just as quickly.

“If we can win by two minutes, on just about every story we can charge a premium,” he’s quoted as saying. “Driving faster and faster is what we are still focused on. That hasn’t changed.”

And the AP is still getting trumped by social media. As you have probably heard, Singer Whitney Houston passed away last weekend. The AP didn’t break this. Twitter broke this. Here is the breaking tweet:

The AP recognizes the importance of social media though. The AP has broken stories on Twitter before running reports. It’s interesting that the BBC seems to frown upon this.

With social media services like Twitter (or Facebook, Google+ and others…even blogs), the actual eye witness gets to break the story in many cases. Users can get it straight from the source.

However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a need for the news agency like the AP. You’re probably aware of the phenomenon where false death rumors keep popping up on Twitter. Someone has to separate the fact from the fiction. This could be the AP, or any other news agency. However, it could also, again be Twitter. It just depends on who’s tweeting. If Whitney Houston’s publicist tweeted that Houston was really alive, that probably would’ve been authoritative enough for most people, as long as they saw it. Not everyone follows Houston’s publicist, or knows who he/she is, however. If I referenced the tweet, my readers that trust me may have taken my word. Likewise for the AP. I’m not comparing myself to the AP. It’s just a matter of readers trusting where they’re getting their info, whether that be from someone they follow on Twitter, a blog they read or an old school media organization. The channel itself (Twitter/blog/web publication/newspaper) doesn’t really matter. It’s the “who”.

This is why Google is placing so much emphasis on authors in search results (well, one reason at lesast).

According to the Guardian interview, Curley thinks the issue of sites “using stories without permission” is “worse now than it’s ever been” because said sites are getting a “free-ride on other people’s content”. If he’s talking about aggregators that provide a snippet and a link to the original or another news site referencing something reported in a separate article on the subject, then he’s just not acknowledging how the world wide web works – pages that link to other pages where appropriate. Links and quotes provide context to stories.

Maybe he’s talking about scraper sites or sites that are straight up stealing content and passing it off as their own without credit. Sure, that stuff is not good, but I don’t get the impression this is the “issue” he’s talking about. That certainly wasn’t the “issue” when there was an “issue” with Google in the past, which according to the interview, led to Google paying 8 figures for AP content licensing.

Curley is quoted as saying, “We are not trying to shut down the web.” But what is the web without pages linking to other pages? It’s not much of a “web”.

The main argument appears to be that the AP needs to get paid by anyone who wants to point to their content. “It costs a lot of money to have a journalist in Afghanistan and make sure they can stay alive and get their video, their stills and their text back to us,” he is quoted as saying.

How much money do you think it costs to keep Google’s servers up and running? Or Twitter’s? Or Facebook’s? Is the AP using these service in their reporting efforts? It costs the average citizen who may be living paycheck to paycheck to pay their Internet or phone bill, which was required for them to tweet that breaking news the AP and other news agencies jumped on. Are they getting paid for their efforts?

The AP, along with nearly 30 other news organizations have banded together to create NewsRight, a new system that seeks payment from those using their work. The usual gray areas come into question. The issue of fair use, which seems to win in court time and time again, at least when you look at the recent Righthaven saga, will continue to be debated.

Thanks to the web, the free flow of information has never been greater. Traditional media entities need to recognize that it goes both ways.

Should the AP pay Twitter for every tweet it references? Should it pay the citizen who created the tweet? Tell us what you think in the comments.

  • http://www.ap.org Paul Colford

    Mr. Crum:

    RE this line of yours: “The relationship even had the AP blocking its content from Google News at one point …”

    This is an error. The AP never blocked its content.

    Paul Colford
    Director of AP Media Relations

    • http://www.webpronews.com/author/chris-crum Chris Crum

      Thank you Paul. Error corrected. It was Google that temporarily stopped serving new AP Content, before being able to reach a new agreement with the AP.

  • Jeff

    I feel that it is a double edged sword. On one hand, commercial media wants to impose heavy regulation on websites that violate copyright, going so far as to even shut down sites entirely and sue for damages, yet they also want the right to use and republish whatever they come across on social media, free of charge.

    As a former photographer it became harder and harder to make a living since many publications and other media, now rely on user submitted works they do not have to pay for.

    This sets a dangerous standard of, “What you do is worthless. What we do is priceless.”

    I feel the financial “food-chain” should be complete. Since the news media charges their advertisers, and AP charges the media for their news, shouldn’t AP also pay those who provide them information?

    • Jesse

      I agree. If the AP wants people to pay, even if they are just citing AP articles, then they should have to pay similarly for using posts they come across. Unfortunately this double standard will probably never be corrected & IF enough ever got around to suing the AP, their primary argument will be “fair use”, I’m sure.

  • http://www.NewsTippers.com Phillip

    It is a double edge sword indeed. I recently created a citizen journalist website http://www.NewsTippers.com for citizens to write a snippet description and link the original site. At the same time I agree that “Traditional media entities need to recognize that it goes both ways”.

  • http:/www.Identifind.com Lauri

    No I don’t think they should pay for people tweeting excerpts because basically those people are giving them free advertising and word of mouth is basically what most folks go by!
    In Friendship ~

    Lauri A. Johnson

  • http://www.theakurians.com General Bobby Farrell

    Another layer of KAK, financial or otherwise, will neither change nor damage the socialist agenda of ALL major news media. What they ‘lose’ from one pocket will be replaced from another by their handlers.

    Were actual TRUTH a requirement of any/all their ‘reports’ the lot of them wouldn’t see sundown and it’s already very late afternoon …

    General Bobby Farrell,
    That Damned Akurian

  • Greg

    Since most news is not news any more but biased entertainment looking to generate funds for a network or company maybe it is time to break away all together. Professional writers are probably frustrated with the garbage they have to put up with and certainly the poor quality coming from all US news could be dropped. Even the BBC is dropping it’s standards rapidly.

    What is the difference between a tweet that could be fake and a slanted news article from the networks – none really… Does anyone trust the news since the likes of Walker are long gone.

    They should create a new group and drop the use of any existing agency.. they certainly are not needed anymore and can easily be replaced.

  • Ryan Kempf

    I don’t think organizations should be obligated to do so it should only be optional for them

  • http://cass-hacks.com Craig

    Trying to change and/or adapt a business model that has been in existence since forever is not an easy process, especially when a physical product has been the basis for exchange.

    Unfortunately two out of the three main media industries, Recording and Movie/TV have shot themselves in the foot so many times specifically trying to NOT adapt/adopt that sets a bad precedent/example for the remaining industry, print, for how things are done.

    I don’t have the answers but one way or another AP and the other commercial news services are going to have to figure out how to monetize the Internet while at the same time embracing what the Internet offers without enraging the netizens who populate the virtual world.

    Some may argue but other than retailing/e-tailing, there really isn’t any industry that has been able to adapt to changes created by what the Internet enables its users to do. In most other cases, the Internet is used only as an adjunct to the main/primary business as advertizing but that doesn’t really work for the print industry.

    One thing is for sure in my mind, one either embraces the Internet and takes advantage of what it makes possible or, try to be like the Movie and Recording industries and fight it tooth and nail with more lawyers than one can count and eventually become irrelevant and in the end, become only a forgotten island that no one visits.

  • http://www.captaincyberzone.com Captain Cyberzone

    (In my opinion) The Associated Press was once a reliable “news source” (years and years and years ago), not anymore. It now reads like a complete Left-leaning “talking point”. When I see that a story is sourced by AP I skip it.
    So, let them pay or not pay, their existence is meaningless to me other then being something to be avoided like a pile of dog excrement … Comrade.

  • http://www.ilanajandasi.com ilanajandasi

    Considered with a different approach to the subject I think, need to bring rapid changes in internet search engines, sub-structures. Users will need to reach targets faster searches. For this reason, search engines, for example by giving Internet users the right to begin some customization by eliminating some portals directly to avoid any more such as the user’s screen or as a portal to get to the park. Screens when searching for one of the innovations coming from other users, such as portals, carry out evaluations on their own. There are currently not able to change channels or exchanged even if the search engines what the film, the subject, there is uncertainty about the future of the program looks like a TV. On the other hand thousands of thousands of users channel, control channel, such as a television transmitter to take forward with the favorites for good or does not want to completely delete channels may ask one more screen, to category, or ask to get to the park. Are there any studies that point the search engines? I do not think.

  • http://matweller.com Mat Weller

    Linked references should follow the same standards and guidelines they do in publication. It should never EVER cost money unless the entity that is being linked to is paying for the exposure.

  • Jason

    I don’t think you should haveto pay in order to link to an AP article. Linking isn’t using the article for your own gain, it’s actually in the favor of the AP. Sharing allows more people to view the article and makes it more accessible to the public. By linking to the article, you are not taking any credit for the link. If the AP cares more about getting information out than making a buck, they will let people link to their articles.

    Besides, most news websites have ads on them (which is the way most websites make money). So as long as people are seeing the ads, then the businesses paying for those ads will be happy. I am sure the businesses paying for ads would rather see more people on a webpage, then having websites paying AP to link to their articles. Just a thought.

    However, I do think referencing an article could be worth paying for. It just depends on how much the article is referenced. If the article is referenced one time, I would say no, but if it was referenced multiple times, I would say yes.

  • http://ezgrinders.com Mendo

    Sounds black hat to me

  • http://ezgrinders.com Mendo

    Pay to link to a news article? Are they *trying* to kill off their readership entirely?