Earlier this month, the Associated Press announced that it was altering its online strategies to compete more effectively with news aggregators like Google, the New York Times, USA Today, the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, the Daily Beast, WordPress, AOL, Yahoo!, NetVibes, Bloglines . . .
You get the point, but the AP doesn’t. News aggregators have already won this battle because they understood early on that the Web isn’t a content economy, it’s a link economy. Mainstream news organizations — like some of those mentioned above — entered the link economy a couple of years ago. All the AP is doing with its strategic shift is attempting to enter this link economy, but at a time when other major players have superior linking positions and assets.
Also, the AP is on the wrong side of this. As a post last week here explored in more detail, aggregating links is where the real power online is, not in aggregating content and getting traffic from the resulting links. The AP will generate some pages, some traffic, and some links through its efforts, but as Scott Karp put it:
The value of “traffic” is entirely relative. The more content there is on the web, the less value that content has — because of the surfeit of ad inventory and abundance of free alternatives to paid content — and thus the less value “traffic” has.
Not even a year ago, the AP was attacking linking sites and aggregators. Now they’re joining them, but after ceding important clock time and yardage. And the game they’re playing isn’t going to impress anyone.
News providers have a lot to figure out, but entering this battle with squirt guns and strategies their adversaries have already appropriated or trumped won’t deliver victory. In fact, in the linking economy, the AP’s latest move plays right into their hands.