Bloggers to AP: I got your feed right here

AP has a barney with The Drudge Retort.

Those darned bloggers. They just keep messing everything up. Now it's the news industry that's unhappy with them.

To quote MSNBC's Helen A. S. Popkin,

"The Associated Press took a grandiose Facebook-style faceplant last week when it attempted to impose strict guidelines on the blogosphere."

(Facebook style faceplant - FBSFP. I think Helen just coined a new Net anagram. Nice work, HASP.)

Now if that were an Associated Press story, I might be getting sued right now. Because last week the AP declared all of its content, even one-sentence snippets, off limits to bloggers. Every comma, every semi colon, every quote mark inside an AP story is covered by their copyright. This policy came to light after the venerable news organization sent a nastygram to The Drudge Retort (not to be confused with The Drudge Report) for excerpting several AP articles.

Needless to say, that didn't sit too well with the bloggerati. The ever excitable Michael Arrington virtually burst a blood vessel in response:

"The A.P. doesn't get to make it's [sic] own rules around how its content is used, if those rules are stricter than the law allows.... So here's our new policy on A.P. stories: they don't exist. We don't see them, we don't quote them, we don't link to them. They're banned until they abandon this new strategy, and I encourage others to do the same until they back down from these ridiculous attempts to stop the spread of information around the Internet."

After getting roundly spanked, the AP backpedaled slightly. They've agreed to meet with Robert Cox, president of the Media Bloggers Association, to hash out details of a truce. (And forgive my ignorance, but has anyone out there ever heard of the Media Bloggers Association? Can anyone join? Do they have jackets? Inquiring minds want to know.)

There's precious little original journalism in blogs; 99% of bloggers are repeaters, not reporters.

The problem is we're looking at yet another business model that gets imploded by the Net. The AP charges news outlets for access to its wire service, which allows even tiny regional newspapers to cover global stories without having to pay salaries to reporters in distant cities (not to mention their bar bills). But in the blogosphere, all you need is one outlet reporting one AP story and it spreads like kudzu -- no need to pay for that pricey wire service.

Worse for AP, bloggers who link to the original story are usually linking to one of AP's customers or a news aggregator like Yahoo. Those sites get the Net traffic, not AP.

To be fair to my brethren in the mainstream media, much of the blogosphere could not exist without sources like the AP. There's precious little original journalism in blogs; 99% of bloggers are repeaters, not reporters.

Though there are a handful of stories that started in the blogosphere and became national news (remember White House boy toy turned pool reporter Jeff Gannon, or the font faux pas that led to Dan Rather's fall?) But they're dwarfed by the number of stories that merely pick up someone else's reporting, and more often than not get it wrong.

I can't count the number of times I've chased down a story on the Net and discovered that what got reported in the blogosphere bore only a vague resemblance to the actual facts.

So the press and the blogs need each other. Blogs need people who know how to do reporting; the AP needs the kind of viral distribution only the blogosphere can bring. We need to figure out a way we can all get along here, lest we all perish in the copyright wars.

Postscript. Since this article was penned, AP has resolved its issue with The Drudge Retort)

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