I’m anti-walled garden (E&P)

By Steve Outing

My monthly column, Stop the Presses!, just posted over at Editor & Publisher Online. This month’s topic: “Getting Over the Walled-Garden Approach to News Websites: Newspaper websites must make it easier for readers/users to share online content with them and each other.”

Author: Steve Outing Steve Outing is a Boulder, Colorado-based media futurist, digital-news innovator, consultant, journalist, and educator. ... Need assistance with media-company future strategy? Get in touch with Steve!

3 Responses to "I’m anti-walled garden (E&P)"

  1. Michael Andersen
    Michael Andersen 11 years ago .Reply

    To me, the biggest problem with tapping Flickr and other third-party sites isn’t the risk that they’ll pull out of the deal. It’s the fact that we open ourselves to competition.

    Quaint, right? But I’m serious. In my own small daily’s market, we have no serious local Web competitor — yet. Obviously, that will soon change. And when it does, if they’re able to pull our users’ content from Flickr or wherever, they’ll suddenly have a big leg up to our level.

    I share Adrian’s dislike of reinventing the wheel. But a photo gallery, for example, is not a hard wheel to reinvent. If a newspaper can afford to do so, it should. Information markets are naturally monopolistic, and barring major differences in service, they’ll clump around the largest existing market player. Us.

    The holy grail here is the chance to remain the single best information portal for our community, as we have been for the last 100 years. And until the day our local dominance is gone, it remains in our interest to keep content to ourselves when it’s practicable. Doesn’t it?

    If you’re interested, I also wrote about this on my own young blog last month.

  2. Steve
    Steve 11 years ago .Reply

    Michael writes: “But a photo gallery, for example, is not a hard wheel to reinvent.”

    At the basic level it may not be hard. But Flickr is spending 100% of its time making the user-contributed photo experience the best it can be. There’s no way that a small newspaper, especially, can keep up with its level of innovation.

  3. Terry Steichen
    Terry Steichen 11 years ago .Reply

    I found your article (“Getting Over the ‘Walled-Garden’ Approach to News Web Sites”, E&P 3/20/2006) very thought-provoking.

    We’ve seen a huge and growing interest in “mashups” which provide very innovative enhancements to powerful generic offerings. As you quite correctly observe, if you want to provide such features, it only makes sense to make use of what’s available, rather than rolling your own.

    On the other hand, cautions are indicated as well. You raise an important issue of whether it’s wise for a business to rely on external web services. But then you sort of dismiss it as something that can be dealt with by keeping your developers busy.

    I don’t think it’s that simple.
    A “mashup” (such as one created using content acquired from Google Maps via their API) can be developed quickly and be quite impressive.
    But building a sustainable business on that “mashup” is far more challenging. And the issues aren’t primarily technical – they’re basic business logic. And they stem from the old, true admonition that “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.”

    As impressive as a mashup may be, under careful examination you will often find that the actual value added by the mashup creator is relatively small, and it is easily replicated. This is *not* a situation ripe with successful long-term business potential.

    If a mashup turns out to be really appealing to the market, guess who is going to be interested, and guess who will be in a position to created it with even superior features? The original content source. Examine the TOS for such providers and you’ll see that option being carefully and universally preserved. The mashup creators are, in essence, doing the content sources’ product innovation and market research for free.

    Moreover, the API’s that the mashups depend on can not only be changed technically, they can be removed altogether, or the provider can decide to impose charges (which can quickly destroy any profit potential). Again, look at the providers’ TOS and you’ll generally find some caveat about reuse being restricted to non-commercial uses.

    I’m afraid that a lot of mashup-based businesses are in for a big shock if/when they end up successfully validating a new market.


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