I’ve been reading David Perlmutter‘s great new book, “Blogwars.” It’s a very good read, a clear lens on recent political and social events and how blogs have contributed, even instigated, major watershed moments. But one of the amazing insights I’ve gotten from this (I may be a little dense, so you probably already know this), is that blogs have redistributed power in the reporting of politics (at least), and allow individuals to have the same reach as major media. In fact, it has reinvigorated the body politic and created a new and perhaps healthier type of journalism.
Bloggers have been excellent at monitoring the major media outlets, correcting them, finding things they miss, providing detail and documents when they cannot or will not, and identifying stories traditional reporters miss or can’t access because they aren’t around or don’t possess special knowledge.
The blogs are watching the watchdogs.
Yet, the Associated Press recently proposed that bloggers should pay when they cite AP materials in their blogs, starting at $2.50/word for blog postings based on AP stories, more for excerpts.
To prove the point that bloggers are in the driver’s seat, the AP has already backed down to “rethink” its policies toward bloggers. The backlash from bloggers was swift, harsh, and very public. Bloggers have the reach of major media, and it showed yet again.
Aside from the issues around fair-use, any policy like this shows that someone at the AP just doesn’t get it. And all of a sudden. Judging by a speech given in 2004, Tom Curley, President and CEO of AP, definitely understood what was happening. It’s puzzling to see this policy attempt coming out now, when the world has unfolded largely as expected. Maybe that’s the problem?
The AP was configured for an age of scarce communication and reporting resources. But it no longer has the largest distributed network for gathering, contextualizing, and synthesizing news. In fact, as one blogger has pointed out, the AP forages for news from blogs, and at these rates owes her more than $132,000.
This is part of this week’s theme — organizations that just don’t get it. I’m afraid the AP has joined the list of traditional media that think the rules of yesteryear hold sway when their entire competitive advantage is being erased and eroded. Like the RIAA, they are battling with their future instead of embracing it. Spoiler alert — in this battle, bloggers win.
It won’t be pretty, but I think we’ll get the most vigorous reporting and commenting on the effects of this from the blogs, not from the AP. And that’s a big difference.