August 18, 2009

A battle of Links is on!

Arnon Mishkin wrote "The Falacy of the Link Economy" on, adding fuel to the fire that News Sites are already in. With Murdoch announcing his plans to turn all his News Sites into paid ones, the News Sites were severely criticized for not being capable of adapting to the changing needs of the Internet Era. And Arnon's post as a reaction to the demand by Associate Press and the likes for News Aggregation Sites to pay to link worsened the criticism further.

From Google News to Huffington Post, News Aggregation and Syndication Sites are aplenty. And Arnon claims to have done a study of these Aggregators. He claims he found out the following:
The vast majority of the value gets captured by aggregators linking and scraping rather than by the news organizations that get linked and scraped. We did a study of traffic on several sites that aggregate purely a menu of news stories. In all cases, there was at least twice as much traffic on the home page as there were clicks going to the stories that were on it. In other words, a very large share of the people who were visiting the site were merely browsing to read headlines rather than using the aggregation page to decide what they wanted to read in detail. Obviously, this has major ramifications for content creators’ ability to grow ad revenue, as the main benefit of added traffic is the potential for higher CPMs. (Disclosure: I have consulted for the AP and other content creators, though not on this particular issue.)
 If Arnon learned from his study that aggregators hinder the growth of News Sites, there is something seriously wrong with his method of study. I use Aggregators to keep in touch with the world as I do not have time to go and look at every News Site around. Aggregators bring the news to me and if I find something I'm interested in, I click on the link given and go read the full story. I repeat, 'if I'm interested in". Or if it is something that really matters to me. News Sites can't force me into reading any crap they write as they used to do when News Paper was the source of information. Remember those days when you had to buy the whole newspaper just to read on or two stories you were interested in. I don't buy newspapers any more. With  Aggregators around, I get to choose what I read. Contrary to what Arnon suggests, I click on the link and go to the site to read the whole story as I don't get the full picture from the Aggregator. Aggregators give me the headline and the first one or two lines of the story.

I think Agrregators add value to a link. But what that link leads to is for the News Sites to decide. If they don't have anything that will take me to their site, I won't go there for sure. I don't see the point in blaming the Aggregators for the incapability of News Sites to provide quality [interesting and worth reading!] content.

Whatever, the battle of linking is on! If News Sites are going to seriously consider the three suggestions Arnon makes in his post, then the present Aggregators are doomed. They either have to pay for the content and links they use or they may have to run advertisements from the original content developers on the Aggregator Sites.

All said and done, I still can't see Arnon's point. If his theory of Aggregators stealing traffic from News Sites holds water, then even if all the News Sites come together and create an Aggregator of their own, as he suggests, things will be pretty same. The new Aggregator will have all the traffic and News Sites will have none, unless they improve content.

I think the issue with the News Sites is about how the package information. On-line Versions of News Papers look pretty like the News Paper it self. Many News paper Sites have E-versions of their Printed Versions. I think that was such a bad idea to digitize the printed versions of news paper. If only they could spend that money to make locally relevant content available. If only they could use that money to allow users to set their preferences so that they get what they usually read. If only they could spent some money to make their headlines more catchy. If only they could use that money to promote citizen journalism. If only they could use that money to convert their News Sites into News Services. I wish!

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