Newspapers and the World Wide Web

Gerard Coughlan
January 4th, 2013

Newspapers and the World Wide Web

Are newspapers attempting to destroy the web or vice-versa?


There’s some discussion on the web this week – but notably not in Irish Newspapers – regarding the
National Newspapers of Ireland’s (NNI) desire to charge people and organisations for linking to their content. Not copying, not reproducing, not syndicating, just linking to a page. The NNI is the representative body for most of the Irish Newspapers.

This came to light after the NNI wrote to a charity, Women’s Aid, asking them to pay for links to articles on Irish Times website.

This is part of a review of existing Copyright legislation by the Copyright Review Committee under the Dept. of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.

While this has gotten significant coverage internationally throughout the week (New York Observer , Techcrunch to name but two) , it doesn’t seem to be newsworthy for Irish Newspapers. Indeed, it finally got mainstream coverage in Ireland this morning (Friday, 4th Jan) on RTE Radio 1.


This is not new

This has a precedent – in 2007 a Belgian court ruled that Google’s news search infringed copyright law, forcing it to remove links and snippets of articles from French and German language newspaper websites.

This dispute was eventually resolved with both sides claiming victory, although the likelihood is that traffic to the websites suffered when they were being excluded from search results pages. Read more here on Google Blog and Bloomberg.


More links to your site is good, right?

Competing news sites and news aggregators aside, I would have thought that newspapers would be encouraging links to their sites. More links means more visits and more visits means more ad impressions. More impressions means more revenue.

If NNI are attempting to charge for linking to content then why do news sites like Irish Independent, Irish Times and Irish Examiner have share buttons beside every article? And not just to share on Facebook on Twitter, but also blogging platforms such as Tumblr, Blogger and WordPress.


Do I want to pay for this?

Going down the road of charging for links will force everyone to ask themselves – “is this worth paying for?”. Online subscription models have not worked for the most part for newspapers, only large papers like the NY Times or The Times have a large enough readership to possibly make this work. If it has been shown that people aren’t prepared to pay subscriptions, then it’s safe to assume that they won’t pay for mere hyperlinks.

I presume that NNI would be going after Google too as they not only have links to content, but in many cases Google stores actual content and produces this in search results. If Google won’t play ball the NNI sites could end up isolated from the rest of the web and that will not end nicely.


Getting some attention

Hugh Linehan, editor of Irish Times has been in conversation on his personal Twitter today regarding the issue. He has made the following encouraging comments -


Gerard Coughlan
January 4th, 2013

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