It must be media-in-turmoil day.
A batch of stories in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal add some context to the picture I drew today (“AP vs. blogs“) of old media companies finally sharpening their focus on content protection, after learning in recent years that giving it all away in search of traffic isn’t paying off.
First there’s a piece about how details of Tim Russert’s death leaked onto the Internet early, before NBC made the “official” announcement. The gist of the story is that you can’t slow the flow of news in today’s wired world.
That’s true, but what’s remarkable is how quickly and easily it was for NBC to pinpoint who posted the information online and when. It wasn’t reported by bloggers, it was leaked to Wikipedia by an employee of a media services company that had access to protected content. The motivation may have been to share, but wasn’t that person really just shoplifting — the equivalent of a Safeway employee taking a fresh steak off the shelf and giving it to a food bank?
What stood out, though, is how media companies are becoming more sophisticated about at tracking down the unauthorized release of their content.
The paper also had a piece about the rivalry between Thomson Reuters and Bloomberg — news companies making billions through tightly controlled subscriptions, but facing pressure from free online news — and a gloomy roundup of troubles in the newspaper industry.
In the newspaper story, the only optimist is Marshall Morton, chief executive of the Media General newspaper chain. Morton’s take is that the industry still has a valuable asset. From the story:
“As long as we’ve got content, we’ve got something nobody else has,” said Mr. Morton, of Media General. The industry’s challenge, he said, is to keep expanding that audience, “proving to the advertiser that we, in fact, are the right link so that he can have his conversation with the customer through us.”
Then there’s a story in the Wall Stree Journal about The Orlando Sentinal becoming a “petri dish” for the struggling Tribune Co., which is trying to keep readers from abandoning newspapers for the Web.
These don’t sound like companies that will keep giving away milk, hoping that people still buy their cows.