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Competitive Web Publishing

I’m always thinking about web and Internet from a competitive perspective, because that’s really what we are doing when we optimize, seek search traffic, buy links, and forge alliances with like-minded website network operators: competitive webmastering. But that concept is not always palatable to people. There are plenty of pie-in-the-sky web publishers (and SEOs and marketers…) out there dreaming of an open, free world where “information wants to be free” and “the Internet belongs to everyone“.

Truth is, even if most of us try and make that true, a few will take advantage of the resulting “opportunity” to cash in while we don’t. That starts the cycle… and soon it’s all me-too bandwagoning. If that sounds too cynical, well, that’s because it is cynical. So what.

If you want to know who the future abusers will be, look at who the abusers are now, and who have played the role of abusers in the past. A big secret of human behavior is
“past performance is indicative of future behavior”. That part is not cynical — it’s factual.

I don’t give way specifics in an obvious fashion on my blog, because, well, I compete with almost everyone reading this blog. We are all competing for attention. No sense handing your competition the ammunition it needs to take away your opportunity. However, I am happy to allude and hint. And here’s one for those working the web the way I am working the web. The newspapers (past and current abusers) are priming their pumps even as everyone says they are a dying concern. No, not the obvious. Newspapers are never about the obvious.

Take a look at this quote form a newspaper site producer, who pulls photos from the news wires and republishes them as the primary content, attractive to readers:

Q: Were there any issues in getting permission to publish images that large from the wire photo services? The photos on the Big Picture must be twice the size of any other news site.

A: We looked at the contracts pretty well and couldn’t identify anything that prevented this sort of thing. The general rule appears to be (my understanding of it) that the images should not be easily reproduced in print. Big Picture images max out at 990 pixels wide at 72dpi. If you scale that up to print resolution of 300dpi, you get an image that’s only about 2 inches wide, so we’d appear to be within that limit.

Those who know me personally, or who have had time one on one to discuss things in depth, know my passion for certain visual arts, and my belief in a certain specific future related to some of those arts. It’s coming sooner than expected. Things will be a changing, and acts like these will force that change. The only safe harbor for the competitive publisher is competing, which means acting now. The abusers will continue to react to change by attempting new abuses, and continue to reveal their intentions due to their need to manage risk. Sadly, they will also continue to lobby politicos and misrepresent the truth, which means we still have to a lot more than simply good or hard work, but we have to start with the honest smart/hard work part. And remain vocal, where it has influence.


  1. Alan H wrote:

    I’m not sure I want the news people pushing the limits of copyright law and redefining it. Obviously they gain an advantage if they can do that. I doubt they have what it takes even if one smart guy is trying. Even is own article mentions how his management doesn’t have a clue.

    Sunday, June 22, 2008 at 11:47 am | Permalink
  2. name withheld wrote:

    comment via email: You lost me on this one. Are you saying we need stricter copyright enforcement? that seems counter to the Internet’s development.Are you saying newspapers violate copyright now? That makes sense. They used to claim Google violated their copyrights. Please explain, or maybe I have to go to Think Tank??

    Monday, June 23, 2008 at 2:18 pm | Permalink
  3. john andrews wrote:

    I’ll add that in this case, a newspaper with many other websites (including blogs) has found “great success” in a simple, straight forward publication of content (photographs). One guy built a blog, designed it himself, and published it to highlight the content – images – and it is considered a great success. They found it remarkable, actually, since they are writing about it and interviewing him about it. I would not be surpised if they gave it an award at some point in the future.

    See the irony?

    That developer worked for that newspaper (and presumably had a hand in all of their other, less-successful web sites). Given an opportunity to kill his success, they do.

    The newspaper also didn’t own the images. All the work that newspaper is doing, with its large staff and operating budget, deep community connections, and even staff photographers and photojournalists, and yet it found relative success re-publishing someone else’s content in a simple, straight forward fashion.

    And it probably violated copyright in order to get that done. And it justified that copyright violation as best as it could.. gently, you could say.

    Are these industry people listening to each other? Are YOU listening to them?

    Staff photographers are people trying to make a career out of photography. The industry has crafted a system where photographers, as we define them outside of that industry, cannot find success in that system. It seems the newspapers themselves cannot succeed in that system. The photographers whose images make that blog did not get paid for the use of their images. The newsrooms who put their photographers into the scenes to capture those images, including their equipment and travel budgets, did not get paid for the use of those images.

    Now extrapolate these observations and the underlying concepts into a futurist-style evaluation (scenarios, sustainability and such) and you’ve got some fodder for pub discussions amongst like-minded peers. If said peers are controlling a portion of the web publishing world, from domaining through digital imagery, design, presentation, SEO, and monetization… well let’s just say if I owned a newspaper I’d want to listen in on those conversations myself.. probably out of fear if nothing else. That’s why I cited September’s ThinkTank meeting.

    Monday, June 23, 2008 at 2:36 pm | Permalink
  4. Tsatkin wrote:

    The same way the few who controlled resources controlled the industrial revolution, so will those who control the internet in the information revolution we are in now.

    Monday, June 23, 2008 at 4:17 pm | Permalink