John Andrews is a Competitive Webmaster and Search Engine Optimization Consultant in Seattle, Washington. This is John Andrews blog on issues of interest to the SEO community and competitive webmasters. Want to know more?  Competitive Web & SEO
April 8th, 2009 by john andrews

Someone Can Charge for News Content, but Who?

The New York Times continues to publish articles on what it calls the “free vs paid debate” (Google it). They are trying to figure out, in public, how to charge for news delivered over the web.  The article notes that people can’t expect news for free, and advertising is not supporting web publishing efforts.They seem to try to justify some sort of subscription model, and I am betting it will be a back door tax (levied through ISPs or such) if they have their way. And why is that? Because that’s the only way to hide the value proposition from us consumers.

Good information is valuable. Many of us pay for quality information every day. We subscribe to expensive journals, and belong to membership sites from which we gain seemingly valuable insights.  We spend money attending meetings because of the information (all forms) we gather through participation. We pay for quality information. Pay is the action verb in that sentence, which reflects intent which drives the commerce.

We (apparently) don’t get quality information from the news media. How else can you explain that we, in general, don’t want to pay for it?

Someone can charge for online content, but I doubt it will be the New York Times or any other old-school media outlet for that matter. They simply don’t have the culture of value we need. They have trained us over the years, so we know where the value is in the published news media.

Here’s a clue for the New York Times: many of us are ignorant and lazy, and we used to pay $10 per week to have your “news” delivered to our doorsteps. We knew it was full of bias (editorial bias, selection bias, presentation bias, etc) but since we are lazy, we didn’t care. It was OUR news which we paid for. Did the story about Gaza have a slant? Who cares! It was OUR story about Gaza, which WE chose to pay for. We knew it wasn’t 100% truthful news… we learned that about you guys long ago.. that you have agendas driven by politics and advertising, and other things money. But we were ok with that.. we chose to pay for it.

Another clue: many of us are smart and righteous about value. We paid for the Sunday Times because for $5 it was a whole day’s entertainment, plus some. We enjoyed it. We tolerated the daily because, well, it was one of many slanted stories we read in hopes of forming a valid opinion of fact. If it takes work to be properly informed, well, we will do the work of reading through the New York Times bias and figuring out the truth (as near as we can).

So now does the New York Times think it can claim to be accurate, factual news, on the web, with a value proposition to match?

We have so much free entertainment on the web, we don’t need the Sunday Times anymore (although some people will still see value). We have so many different perspectives available to us on the news, that YOUR different perspective doesn’t have so much value any more. We’re not choosing it anymore. We’re not paying for it. And every time you let one of your really good thinkers leave to start their own blog, we follow to that (free) blog because it has value (to us).

If you repackage your content as factual news… well I’m afraid you have to suffer the performance metrics the rest of us on the web suffer every day. It’s true or it’s not. Your facts will be checked, your slants will be exposed, and your hidden agendas will be highlighted and amplified. You may even become fodder for those free entertainment sites I mentioned, as well as those free alternative perspective sites I mentioned. Your walled garden of “news reporting” is walled no more.Was it ever news, anyway? I bet it was.. many years ago.

TV got this years ago. Today Bill O’Reilly reports the news, and Jon Stewart reports the news. Very popular news shows, right? Think about it.

I don’t think this bodes well for us citizens, as our “news” becomes nothing but slant, editorial, and infotainment. Scary to think what hapens when no one will pay for “news” anymore, and we are left with only the stuff that is supported by marketing messages or political agendas or fear mongering. But HEY! That ship left port YEARS ago! You all destroyed our news media a long time ago, even if you don’t think that anyone actually knew that you were  doing it. We did. And you did. So stop pretending that the loss of “real” news will be harmful to society. Get over it. We are SO over you already.

I’m getting bored hearing how the New York Times will figure out a micropayments subsciption model, or AP will find a way to charge for every 5 words it spits out into a news feed. Yawn.

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December 17th, 2008 by john andrews

“no known copyright restrictions” is not FREE

The New York Public Library just contributed 1300 images to the Flickr Commons database. These are scans of photographs from the library’s collection. Flickr has them marked as “no known copyright restrictions“. They are from late 1800’s and early-mid 1900’s from what I have seen. They are attributed to photographers in most cases I reviewed.

Can you use them on your web sites?

Of course not. The rights to photographs usually belong to the photographers, and are licensed to others for specific uses. In cases where the photographer has placed the photographs into the public domain, or otherwise given them away, the people in the photos still retain rights to the use of their image. Even though a photographer owns the copyright of the image, he does not have permission to allow the use the image by others if the image includes something protected (such as a face or building or work of art). A photographer must obtain expressed written permission to use someone’s likeness, often done with a model release agreement. For certain structures and works of art, permission must be obtained from the holder of the rights to publish reproductions of that object. If you publish the image, you need to have proof in hand that  you have permission to use that image commercially.
Flickr has no such permissions to pass along to you. The New York Public Library admits it doesn’t even know if those documents are required for any given image, or if they ever existed. This is explained behind a link on the Flickr site:

Even though the images we have uploaded to The Commons on Flickr are in the ” public domain” and thus not subject to copyright restrictions, these photos may be subject to other third party rights, such as rights of privacy and rights of publicity. In all instances, you are required to obtain all necessary permissions before using our photos. For example, if you find a photo from NYPL’s collections that includes a person, you would be responsible for obtaining the permission of the person in the photo before you use the photo. Please read the Terms and Conditions of our website for more

In short, the risk is yours to assume. If you have a commercial website, you can be sued for the value of the commercial use of an image after the fact. In other words, the person in the photo is entitled at least to the value a model would have received for that use, and possibly more if the use is in conflict with that person’s desired public image.

Be careful about using images commercially (including on sites that draw traffic to AdSense ads). “no known copyright restrictions” does not mean it is free to use.

The most important thing to consider is that your use of images in violation of  copyright laws has been used by corporations to argue that they should be allowed to use someone’s image or likeness in their own advertisements, for free. That’s right – they would love to grab images from the web and use them on their ads without paying any models or photographers. So if you think you are helping to improve the world by ignoring arcane copyright laws, you may discover yourself enabling a whole new world where you find your smiling facebook profile on an ad for the latest herpes creme, or your wedding portrait in an ad for a divorce attorney.

We need to fix and improve our copyright laws, not eliminate them.

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November 25th, 2008 by john andrews

Canon 5D Mark II DigitalSLR w/HD Video

The Canon 5D Mk II is shipping this week. This camera is a game-changer. A full-frame digital SLR (21.1 megapixel) that records 1080p HD video direct to flash card (as .mov files – no rendering required) at up to 6400 ISO. What does that mean:

  • an on-location photographer can also get HD video while on the scene
  • a $2600 digital SLR body includes an HD video camera for short sequences (10-20 seconds)
  • serious photographers with an existing collection of large, fast quality glass lenses can now use them for 1080p HD video

I am not expecting perfection from this first release Canon 5D MkII (remember the Canon 1d mk III focus problems), but I do fully expect this to change the game completely.  If you are a photographer and a web enrepreneur, how can you not see the opportunities this technology (and the improved technology that will likely follow it promptly) provides?

Ref: Review

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