Saturday, December 12, 2009

Reuters' "new network of syndication": A great idea for news, or another information quasimonopoly?

A senior Reuters executive made some comments about the future of news to an FTC workshop recently, which were published on yesterday. It was interesting to see the company downplay the role of aggregators -- one of Rupert Murdoch's favorite bugaboos -- but I was far more intrigued by the outline of a "new network of syndication" that Reuters is proposing to create new revenue streams for content creators and eliminate redundancy.

Sounds like a super solution to save journalism and find workable business models for news, right? Well, I thought it through and came back with the following comment:
To “stop wasting resources on writing the umpteenth undifferentiated story that is available elsewhere” sounds great in theory, but there are a few formidable issues to realizing that vision:

1) Audiences overlap, and the same story may have to be tailored in minor ways to appeal to different audiences, based on local issues, the “tone” or expertise of the publication, and other factors. Two stories that may appear “undifferentiated” to you actually have different angles, emphasis, or additional facts that actually make them more suitable or the audiences they are aimed at. Publications want to be differentiated in some way, and using the same outsourced copy does not help them achieve that goal.

2) There needs to be a system of trust and baseline quality in place, but also great flexibility considering the types of content providers and multitude of publications using it.

3) Making Reuters and a few other specialist players the powerbrokers will lead to news oligopolies — kind of like we had before the advent of the Internet, execept on global scale. That doesn’t sound like progress to me.

Ian Lamont

Managing Editor

The Industry Standard
More posts by Ian Lamont on the future of media:

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