How can newspapers get this completely friggin’ backward?!!

By Steve Outing

(I know I’m piling on here, but I can’t help it. This requires lots of rebuttals.)

The video below is of Cleveland Plain Dealer “reader representative” Ted Diadiun commenting on the controversy created by one of the paper’s columnists advocating rewriting copyright law to protect newspapers from those who might “steal” (a.k.a., link and publish “fair use” snippets to direct online users to newspaper website articles) newspapers’ expensively produced content that sits online unprotected.

Diadiun is definitely a contender for Newspaper Industry Curmudgeon of the Year, with comments like calling bloggers “a bunch of pipsqueaks” during his video interview. Watch and decide for yourself, but his comments sickened me, as someone who would like to see the newspaper industry survive and reinvent itself. (It won’t with people who think like him aboard.)

Weekly chat with Reader Rep Ted Diadiun

What is so profoundly disturbing about Diadiun’s rant is that he, like too many other older newspaper veterans, get the Internet completely backward! They continue to think that their brand — well-respected as it may have been over the years — can maintain its full power in the digital and mobile era. Not a chance. That’s history.

Erecting walls around your news content and expecting people to come to you is exactly the worst possible strategy a newspaper management team could come up with. The only way I can see that newspaper companies can survive is to do the opposite: Get their content everywhere, on every device, on every competitor’s and aggregator’s websites, on every blog and Twitter and Facebook post possible.

The challenge — and this is where creativity and technical ability come into play — is to make money from your content no matter where it lands. Of course, having your content land in various places in the form of headline links and fair-use sized excerpts that direct people back to your website is the obvious way, but as has been pointed out ad nauseam, the revenues just aren’t enough to support a sizable newsroom.

I’ve written a bit lately about Payyattention, an upcoming voluntary-payment system for free online content that adds a one-click donation box to every article or other content on your website. Readers who like a story are invited to click once to donate a default 10 cents to the author (or the money could go to the publisher, or be split by both), or they can donate more with a couple clicks.

I had a fascinating conversation recently with the developer of Payyattention, and we talked about the possibility of a Payyattention contribution box following a story around, so that the author could be (voluntarily) paid by a reader even when the story was not residing on the original publisher’s website. That feature won’t be available when Payyattention launches officially later this year, but founder Steve Farrell thinks it may be possible. I hope he can pull it off.

Imagine if you’re a cartoonist, say. You could syndicate your comics and distribute them freely to any and every website and blog, and post it to every social-network site, and your Payyattention contribution box would always be there to send you money from appreciative readers.

Where the work really needs to be done is in figuring out other, similar ways that a news publisher’s content can be published far and wide, and revenue generators travel embedded with the content. That’s the future. Changing copyright law or otherwise putting up walled gardens is the past.

(Oh, and Mr. Diadiun: I am a newspaper veteran, having spent the first half of my career on the print side — and that’s the case for many other bloggers who opine on media matters, who you disparaged in your video interview.)

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!