New Web Measurement Company Aims to Track Content on Aggregator Sites
NEW YORK – The hot-button issue of aggregation, often without proper credit or linking back to the original content source, has upended traditional journalism spurring a flurry of pink slips for reporters and the shuttering of dozens of newspapers and magazines.
But a new company headed by former ABC News president David Westin aims to apply a business model to rampant aggregation and automated web scraping.
NewsRight enables content creators to measure how their stories are consumed off of their own sites by essentially embedding a tracking code – the equivalent of digital LoJack – on stories posted online.
“Obviously a newspaper can measure its own traffic,” says Westin. “Until now they really haven’t been able to measure accurately and quickly when their news content is being taken and put somewhere else.”
NewsRight has signed up 29 news and information companies as initial investors including The Associated Press, The New York Times Company, The Washington Post Company, McClatchy, Media General, European multimedia conglomerate Axel Springer Group and Hearst Communications (the publishing giant behind Cosmopolitan, Elle, and Esquire) among others.
The company measures more than 800 sites and will offer a joint licensing approach that gives aggregators access to members’ content. For now, NewsRight will only track online text content. But Westin said they hope to expand the service to video and still photos.
Formerly the News Licensing Group, NewsRight started out as part of the Associated Press. But it formally separated from the AP in July 2011 and has now re-branded itself as NewsRight.
The service goes to the heart of the battle between content originators and content aggregators; a relationship that can range from symbiotic to adversarial. And Westin is quick to point out that aggregators are not the enemy.
“I use aggregation,” admits Westin. “The problem is really with the business model. In order to have news content to aggregate there has to be investment; you have to pay reporters.”
Traditional news outlets have become a casualty of the digital revolution. Their share of advertising revenue has plummet as fewer consumers read newspapers and are instead utilizing a flurry of free online sites that mine the media content many of those newspapers originate.
“Overall news consumption and overall appetite for news in this country is going up not down,” adds Westin. “And yet you see the revenues for news providers flat or down; you see layoffs in newsrooms. And those two things really should not be happening at the same time. I think there’s a very strong understanding on the part of newspapers that this is headed in a very bad direction. And we just need to correct that so that at least part of the value is returned back to the people who are investing in the reporting.”
A lawyer, Westin joined the AP last April as president and CEO of the News Licensing Group. At the same time Sri Kasi, former general counsel and vp at AP, was named executive vp and COO of NLG. Westin’s tenure at ABC News spanned 14 years. And he says the painful layoffs he presided over in early 2010 that downsized the news division by nearly 25 percent have informed the mission at NewsRight.
“That’s part of what’s driven me to this,” he says, adding that the rampant layoffs at news organizations “are not good for the country.”
“If all the new Internet companies in the news area were hiring lots of reporters and developing beats it would be sad for traditional news organizations but it wouldn’t be bad for the country. But that’s not what’s happening. The number of paid staff reporters is going down substantially. We have to fix that problem. I don’t think this is a strong country if we rely solely on bloggers and press releases.”