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http://www.newsnow.co.uk/press/openletter.html

An Open Letter to the UK's national, regional and local newspapers

 

Including: The Times, The Sun, The Guardian, Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, Daily Express

 

Tuesday 20 October 2009

 

From Struan Bartlett, Managing Director and Chairman, NewsNow

 

As you may know, people in some of your organisations have lately tried to characterise news aggregators as undermining your businesses. Recently your organisations have also sought to introduce new controls on our linking to your websites. Now, a number of parties have threatened us (plus other aggregators) with legal action if we do not either accept these new controls or else stop linking.

 

We are aware that many newspapers are facing severe financial challenges1 and are urgently seeking a way to return to profitability. We can understand why you are looking for options.

 

But we have had enough of indiscriminate attacks. To vilify all aggregators as “cheap worthless technological news solutions” 2 and “content kleptomaniacs” 3 is just empty rhetoric. Not only is that misleading — it is misguided.

 

We can’t speak for all aggregators but for our part at NewsNow, we don’t do anything that detracts from the value of your content. We don’t redistribute your web pages to anyone. We operate within the law, and we don’t do you any harm.

 

Far from it. We deliver you traffic and drive you revenues you otherwise wouldn’t have received. The idea that we are undermining your businesses is incorrect. It is fanciful to imagine that, if it weren’t for link aggregators, you would have more traffic or revenues. We provide a service that you do not: a means for readers to find your content more readily, via continuously updating links to a diversity of websites.

 

The truth is, if anything, it is the growth of the Internet itself — not link aggregation — that has undermined your businesses by destroying the virtual monopoly that you once held over the mass distribution of written news. If you are seeking to blame something for your current predicament, we suggest you start there. It is disingenuous to blame legitimate link aggregation websites like ours for your financial woes and it is misguided to attempt to control linking. This cannot be the way forward.

 

Linking is free, and links (and the sites that provide them) are at the heart of the Web. They are the means by which the Web works. We don’t think linking is something you can, or should be allowed to, control or charge for.

 

Nor should you want to control linking. Links market your content to readers. Abolish them, and readers won’t all type in your homepage address. They will go elsewhere. We don’t believe we are alone in this view. Many website traffic managers, journalists and editors within your own organisations clearly share this view. We know, because they’ve told us directly that they strongly value our linking to your websites.

 

Meg Pickard, head of social media development for Guardian News and Media, recently said: “We have an expression: ‘embrace, don’t replace’. If people like Twitter or Facebook, and like spending time there, then it’s crazy to say, ‘stop using Twitter or Facebook and come to the Guardian!’ We need to be there as well.”

 

We couldn’t agree more.

 

We’re in a new era now and there’s no turning the clock back. Readers are establishing new ways of finding their news — via linking. A business model that fights linking would be like fighting your readers and fighting the Internet — surely destined to end in failure.

 

We urge you to start listening to your own staff and readers. Accept you no longer have a virtual monopoly over the distribution of written news. Work with the Internet, rather than against it.

 

It’s in everyone’s interests that we restore amicable relations. We want to work with you to help promote your news and to drive readers to your websites, and help sustain a thriving news publishing industry.

 

We call on you to:

 

  1. stop the legal threats;

  2. recognise the place and value of legitimate news aggregation websites in today’s news ecosystem;

  3. commit to upholding the freedom to link; and

  4. support those of your readers who wish to find links to your websites on NewsNow.

 

I look forward to your response.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Struan Bartlett

Managing Director and Chairman

NewsNow Publishing Limited

 

???

 

Why on earth would they want to block sites that give links to their stories?

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Because they're fucking desperate.

 

Their circulation has been going down for ages and they simply don't know what to do about it. My suggestion would be to stop trying to compete with rolling TV news, which is pointless for the simple reason that they can't, and go back to genuine investigative journalism. Create the news agenda rather than simply go with the flow dictated by the TV, do old-school in-depth features and investigations that take time and effort to conduct, and so-on. Quality over speed and quantity basically. They need to accept that print based news media is no longer a mass-market product, stop trying to sell news to people who don't want it and target those who have a genuine interest in news with a quality product. It's a stupid situation that people who are actually interested in news and current affairs are so poorly catered for, whilst those who don't really give a shit have an infinite range of crap to choose from. Especially when the former would almost certainly be prepared to pay for it and the latter won't even consume it when it's given away for free.

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Soon News International are going to make you pay to view their newspaper articles online. This will be a total failure, people will just go to the BBC and circulation numbers (online and print) will just be lost to the benefit of the BBC and TMZ.

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I would assume news sites want you to browse naturally through their sites, possible advertising revenue or something? Rather than going direct to a story? Clutching at straws really.

 

They make nothing from it, and their real profit source, sales of real paper copies is declining. It is why they have targetted the link sites because they make it easy to find exactly what the reader is looking for without having to buy a print copy, or at the very least be forced to navigate their website and therefore view as many ads as possible.

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I would assume news sites want you to browse naturally through their sites, possible advertising revenue or something? Rather than going direct to a story? Clutching at straws really.

 

They make nothing from it, and their real profit source, sales of real paper copies is declining. It is why they have targetted the link sites because they make it easy to find exactly what the reader is looking for without having to buy a print copy, or at the very least be forced to navigate their website and therefore view as many ads as possible.

 

Aye, well this was my point.

 

Everyone wants nice high viewing figures for their website. Milk more funds from your ad space.

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I would assume news sites want you to browse naturally through their sites, possible advertising revenue or something? Rather than going direct to a story? Clutching at straws really.

 

They make nothing from it, and their real profit source, sales of real paper copies is declining. It is why they have targetted the link sites because they make it easy to find exactly what the reader is looking for without having to buy a print copy, or at the very least be forced to navigate their website and therefore view as many ads as possible.

 

Aye, well this was my point.

 

Everyone wants nice high viewing figures for their website. Milk more funds from your ad space.

 

Well the newspapers would rather you went and bought their newspaper. For a big mega rich newspaper company, revenue from advertising is much less than what has been lost in revenue from hard paper sales. Internet gets the blame. In the old days, if you wanted to read a single article about NUFC, you bought the paper. Today, you click on a link, go straight to the article, view an advert that you don't click on or have no interest in. So instead of getting 30p from the paper, they instead get 0.0001p for displaying the advert. Not good business.

 

The reality is that newspapers are near the end and are either going to improve or go bust over the next 30 years as these companies can not be supported by advertising revenue alone.

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I would assume news sites want you to browse naturally through their sites, possible advertising revenue or something? Rather than going direct to a story? Clutching at straws really.

 

They make nothing from it, and their real profit source, sales of real paper copies is declining. It is why they have targetted the link sites because they make it easy to find exactly what the reader is looking for without having to buy a print copy, or at the very least be forced to navigate their website and therefore view as many ads as possible.

 

Sorry, but that's just wrong.

 

The cover price doesn't even pay for the paper used to make that particular copy. Advertising is the place newspapers make their money. Many papers have dumped their cover price completely in an effort to try and boost their circulation, but the problem is advertisers prefer to have their products in paid-for titles that readers have made a decision to purchase and read, rather than a free-sheet that's just been shoved in their hand as they get off the bus in the morning. It's a balancing act for them and at the moment they're not sure which way to go. Going free did initially boost the circulation of those that did, but that's now declining and with the corresponding decline in ad-revenue many free titles are really struggling to survive. I know for a fact that the MEN is seriously considering dumping it's free version and reintroducing a cover charge so they can up their advertising charges. The problem is that paid-fors aren't exactly raking it in either at the moment either, so they don't know what to do.

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I would assume news sites want you to browse naturally through their sites, possible advertising revenue or something? Rather than going direct to a story? Clutching at straws really.

 

They make nothing from it, and their real profit source, sales of real paper copies is declining. It is why they have targetted the link sites because they make it easy to find exactly what the reader is looking for without having to buy a print copy, or at the very least be forced to navigate their website and therefore view as many ads as possible.

 

Aye, well this was my point.

 

Everyone wants nice high viewing figures for their website. Milk more funds from your ad space.

 

Well the newspapers would rather you went and bought their newspaper. For a big mega rich newspaper company, revenue from advertising is much less than what has been lost in revenue from hard paper sales. Internet gets the blame. In the old days, if you wanted to read a single article about NUFC, you bought the paper. Today, you click on a link, go straight to the article, view an advert that you don't click on or have no interest in. So instead of getting 30p from the paper, they instead get 0.0001p for displaying the advert. Not good business.

 

The reality is that newspapers are near the end and are either going to improve or go bust over the next 30 years as these companies can not be supported by advertising revenue alone.

 

You're wrong again man.

 

Not every newspaper publisher is News International you know, a lot of them are seriously struggling. Even the big boys are massively diversified media organisations who probably made relatively little from their actual newspapers. The real profit-centres will be the other areas of their business.

 

You are right about one thing though, the end is well and truly nigh for a lot of newspapers. I used to work for a paper and we tried all kinds of shit to boost (or rather slow the decline in) our circulation figures; free home delivery for anyone who wanted it with a half price offer for 3 months, ridiculously good promotions giving away electrical goods, holidays, a car every day for a month, we even gave away a couple of houses for fuck's sake!! And this was a regional newspaper, not a national. Did it work? Nah, not really. Most people just don't want to read a paper any more.

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Next question: it's happened to CDs, it's happened to newspapers - could books be next?

 

Not necessarily to the same degree, but I don't think it can be dismissed out of hand that the internet may end up significantly denting book sales.

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Next question: it's happened to CDs, it's happened to newspapers - could books be next?

 

Not necessarily to the same degree, but I don't think it can be dismissed out of hand that the internet may end up significantly denting book sales.

 

I don't think so. We might buy our literature in a different way, electronic books or whatever, but there's going to be a market for paper books for a long time to come; they're cheap and easy to replace if they get damaged unlike the alternatives.

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Next question: it's happened to CDs, it's happened to newspapers - could books be next?

 

Not necessarily to the same degree, but I don't think it can be dismissed out of hand that the internet may end up significantly denting book sales.

 

I don't think so. We might buy our literature in a different way, electronic books or whatever, but there's going to be a market for paper books for a long time to come; they're cheap and easy to replace if they get damaged unlike the alternatives.

 

Not as cheap and easy to replace as books downloaded on BitTorrent or whatever on to an eBook device.  The main appeal of books as oppose to eBooks is that you get a tangible product, which is collectable.  Also they're always a solid gift idea.  This sounds familiar when you consider what's happened to the music industry and CDs.  Even the news industry - there are tangible benefits associated with buying newspapers as well.  But it seems to always come down to getting something for free these days.

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Guest Brummiemag

Surely no one on here with even a bit of a brain takes the Tory press seriously, or even the so called labour party press seriously? Its in their interests to slag the internet off. 

Unless your interested in celebrity shagging and bullshit there is no point in buying most of the papers

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Next question: it's happened to CDs, it's happened to newspapers - could books be next?

 

Not necessarily to the same degree, but I don't think it can be dismissed out of hand that the internet may end up significantly denting book sales.

 

I don't think so. We might buy our literature in a different way, electronic books or whatever, but there's going to be a market for paper books for a long time to come; they're cheap and easy to replace if they get damaged unlike the alternatives.

 

Not as cheap and easy to replace as books downloaded on BitTorrent or whatever on to an eBook device.  The main appeal of books as oppose to eBooks is that you get a tangible product, which is collectable.  Also they're always a solid gift idea.  This sounds familiar when you consider what's happened to the music industry and CDs.  Even the news industry - there are tangible benefits associated with buying newspapers as well.  But it seems to always come down to getting something for free these days.

 

This, basically. Books'll be dead in 15 years. The sheer work involved in printing and flogging a paper book is absolutely ridiculous when compared to the 'e' version.

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Guest Brummiemag

Fuck it, Ive just remembered there's some people on here, even in Newcastle, who are too young to remember Thatcher and the Tories and how they destroyed  a lot of peoples lives.

 

Prepare for massive devastation because those Tory fuckers dont give a damn about jobs, particularly up here, and care even less about public services because they dont fucking use them   

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Next question: it's happened to CDs, it's happened to newspapers - could books be next?

 

Not necessarily to the same degree, but I don't think it can be dismissed out of hand that the internet may end up significantly denting book sales.

 

I don't think so. We might buy our literature in a different way, electronic books or whatever, but there's going to be a market for paper books for a long time to come; they're cheap and easy to replace if they get damaged unlike the alternatives.

 

Not as cheap and easy to replace as books downloaded on BitTorrent or whatever on to an eBook device.  The main appeal of books as oppose to eBooks is that you get a tangible product, which is collectable.  Also they're always a solid gift idea.  This sounds familiar when you consider what's happened to the music industry and CDs.  Even the news industry - there are tangible benefits associated with buying newspapers as well.  But it seems to always come down to getting something for free these days.

 

This, basically. Books'll be dead in 15 years. The sheer work involved in printing and flogging a paper book is absolutely ridiculous when compared to the 'e' version.

 

I disagree, too many people, including myself who works in IT - cannot sit and stare at a computer screen reading a whole book.  It destroys my eyes enough even with brightness tuned and glasses on.  Would much rather pay a fiver for a book than strain my eyes trying to read a book for free, sat in probably a not so comfy position.

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Fuck it, Ive just remembered there's some people on here, even in Newcastle, who are too young to remember Thatcher and the Tories and how they destroyed  a lot of peoples lives.

 

Prepare for massive devastation because those Tory fuckers dont give a damn about jobs, particularly up here, and care even less about public services because they dont fucking use them    

 

Wrong thread much? :lol:

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Next question: it's happened to CDs, it's happened to newspapers - could books be next?

 

Not necessarily to the same degree, but I don't think it can be dismissed out of hand that the internet may end up significantly denting book sales.

 

I don't think so. We might buy our literature in a different way, electronic books or whatever, but there's going to be a market for paper books for a long time to come; they're cheap and easy to replace if they get damaged unlike the alternatives.

 

Not as cheap and easy to replace as books downloaded on BitTorrent or whatever on to an eBook device. The main appeal of books as oppose to eBooks is that you get a tangible product, which is collectable. Also they're always a solid gift idea. This sounds familiar when you consider what's happened to the music industry and CDs. Even the news industry - there are tangible benefits associated with buying newspapers as well. But it seems to always come down to getting something for free these days.

 

True, but that's the words you're talking about, what are you going to read those words from? How much is that going to cost and how cheap and easy is it going to be to replace? The technology has a huge way to go before it can compete with a real book in so many areas, I'm not sure that it'll ever be able to, certainly not for a very long time. It's not a direct comparison between music and literature, even if that's how it first appears. Listening to music on an MP3 player is an experience of comparable quality to listening to music on a portable CD player, whereas the same comparison cannot be made between a paper book and an electronic one. MP3 players are smaller, more portable and less likely to get damaged than portable CD players, the opposite is true of the relationship between traditional books and electronic ones. The only thing that is generally comparable is that you can store a shit load more content on both an MP3 player and an electronic book, but when was the last time you read more than one book at a time? So what's the benefit?

 

MP3s have wiped out CD sales because overall they offer the consumer a better product, electronic books are nowhere near being as good a product as real books at the moment and some of the challenges they'll need to overcome are pretty hard, maybe impossible; for quite a while anyway.

 

Apart from anything, publishers seem to have tried to embrace the new technology rather than trying to destroy it, so they've learnt from the music industry's mistakes, shame the music industry hasn't. Still.

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Next question: it's happened to CDs, it's happened to newspapers - could books be next?

 

Not necessarily to the same degree, but I don't think it can be dismissed out of hand that the internet may end up significantly denting book sales.

 

I don't think so. We might buy our literature in a different way, electronic books or whatever, but there's going to be a market for paper books for a long time to come; they're cheap and easy to replace if they get damaged unlike the alternatives.

 

Not as cheap and easy to replace as books downloaded on BitTorrent or whatever on to an eBook device.  The main appeal of books as oppose to eBooks is that you get a tangible product, which is collectable.  Also they're always a solid gift idea.  This sounds familiar when you consider what's happened to the music industry and CDs.  Even the news industry - there are tangible benefits associated with buying newspapers as well.  But it seems to always come down to getting something for free these days.

 

This, basically. Books'll be dead in 15 years. The sheer work involved in printing and flogging a paper book is absolutely ridiculous when compared to the 'e' version.

 

I disagree, too many people, including myself who works in IT - cannot sit and stare at a computer screen reading a whole book.  It destroys my eyes enough even with brightness tuned and glasses on.  Would much rather pay a fiver for a book than strain my eyes trying to read a book for free, sat in probably a not so comfy position.

 

Reading a proper e-reader is not the same as starting at a regular backlit PC monitor though.

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Next question: it's happened to CDs, it's happened to newspapers - could books be next?

 

Not necessarily to the same degree, but I don't think it can be dismissed out of hand that the internet may end up significantly denting book sales.

 

I don't think so. We might buy our literature in a different way, electronic books or whatever, but there's going to be a market for paper books for a long time to come; they're cheap and easy to replace if they get damaged unlike the alternatives.

 

Not as cheap and easy to replace as books downloaded on BitTorrent or whatever on to an eBook device.  The main appeal of books as oppose to eBooks is that you get a tangible product, which is collectable.  Also they're always a solid gift idea.  This sounds familiar when you consider what's happened to the music industry and CDs.  Even the news industry - there are tangible benefits associated with buying newspapers as well.  But it seems to always come down to getting something for free these days.

 

This, basically. Books'll be dead in 15 years. The sheer work involved in printing and flogging a paper book is absolutely ridiculous when compared to the 'e' version.

 

I disagree, too many people, including myself who works in IT - cannot sit and stare at a computer screen reading a whole book.  It destroys my eyes enough even with brightness tuned and glasses on.  Would much rather pay a fiver for a book than strain my eyes trying to read a book for free, sat in probably a not so comfy position.

 

Reading a proper e-reader is not the same as starting at a regular backlit PC monitor though.

 

I know, but the likeliness of people purchasing an ereader is not high, it is likely people will download them from torrents and read them on the normal PC (since the original arguement is because it will save them money and ultimately not cost).

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Next question: it's happened to CDs, it's happened to newspapers - could books be next?

 

Not necessarily to the same degree, but I don't think it can be dismissed out of hand that the internet may end up significantly denting book sales.

 

I don't think so. We might buy our literature in a different way, electronic books or whatever, but there's going to be a market for paper books for a long time to come; they're cheap and easy to replace if they get damaged unlike the alternatives.

 

Not as cheap and easy to replace as books downloaded on BitTorrent or whatever on to an eBook device.  The main appeal of books as oppose to eBooks is that you get a tangible product, which is collectable.  Also they're always a solid gift idea.  This sounds familiar when you consider what's happened to the music industry and CDs.  Even the news industry - there are tangible benefits associated with buying newspapers as well.  But it seems to always come down to getting something for free these days.

 

True, but that's the words you're talking about, what are you going to read those words from? How much is that going to cost and how cheap and easy is it going to be to replace? The technology has a huge way to go before it can compete with a real book in so many areas, I'm not sure that it'll ever be able to, certainly not for a very long time. It's not a direct comparison between music and literature, even if that's how it first appears. Listening to music on an MP3 player is an experience of comparable quality to listening to music on a portable CD player, whereas the same comparison cannot be made between a paper book and an electronic one. MP3 players are smaller, more portable and less likely to get damaged than portable CD players, the opposite is true of the relationship between traditional books and electronic ones. The only thing that is generally comparable is that you can store a shit load more content on both an MP3 player and an electronic book, but when was the last time you read more than one book at a time? So what's the benefit?

 

MP3s have wiped out CD sales because overall they offer the consumer a better product, electronic books are nowhere near being as good a product as real books at the moment and some of the challenges they'll need to overcome are pretty hard, maybe impossible; for quite a while anyway.

 

Apart from anything, publishers seem to have tried to embrace the new technology rather than trying to destroy it, so they've learnt from the music industry's mistakes, shame the music industry hasn't. Still.

 

Some good points raised.  A few of my opinions on it:

 

I don't think the cost of the device will be an issue - it never is.  We're slowly moving towards multi-functional toys that incorporate everything.  An iPhone already provides a means of making calls, sending texts and emails, browsing the internet, listening to music and various other functions.  eBooks will soon become another selling point for the iPhone and other smartphones.

 

What mattynufc said and you touched upon indi, was that the experience of reading a book is deemed far more pleasurable than reading from a bright screen like we seem to spend our whole lives doing in the modern age.  This is the biggest issue I guess.  But I don't think it's actually that far off the newspaper situation to be honest.  If you'd have asked your average Joe 10 years ago whether they could ever see themselves exclusively sourcing their news from the internet then they'd have probably said "no way, I buy ____ newspaper and enjoy the experience of reading the paper.  No way will I ever want to muck about on a computer looking for news".

 

As far as I'm concerned - the technology's there and the consumer craving (and indeed growing expectation amongst a lot of youngsters) for free stuff that used to have a value attached to it is there.  It's just incredibly difficult to predict consumer behaviour.  Dead interesting though.  As you'll have probably guessed, I do see a massive rise in eBooks to the detriment of book sales.

 

You're right in saying that publishers are embracing it though, but then again they would be idiots not to given what's happening in the music industry, the newspaper industry and let's not forget the TV industry either.

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Also. what I'm stressing is that the key word is 'free'.

 

For me, CDs > MP3s easily because you can build a collection and you get a tangible product.  But you can get music for free (ignoring the legality issues here obviously) therefore MP3s win.

 

Buying a Sunday newspaper > sitting on the internet reading news on a Sunday because it's just a more pleasurable experience.  But news on the internet is free, therefore this wins.

 

Buying a DVD > mucking about on Surfthechannel or whatever because I don't have an LCD telly (which applies to a fair few) so it's a choice of watching it on a TV or on a bloody laptop then I'd rather watch it on telly.  Also the building a collection thing again.  But DVDs are the dearer option, therefore streaming sites or Torrents win.

 

I think I might have been taking it a bit far saying we'll all be reading books on our iPhones given the small size of the screens but who knows?  Maybe e-Book readers will end up costing nowt and there will be some form of sponsorship or promotion or advertising that makes this a profitable concept for suppliers and advertisers.  We just don't know yet.

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