Poll raises the debate over blog reuse fees

Although a March 18 JD Power and Associates survey revealed that nearly four in 10 bloggers say they would pay to reuse news content, media outlets are unlikely to see substantial financial gains from blogger fees.

Although a March 18 JD Power and Associates survey revealed that nearly four in 10 bloggers say they would pay to reuse news content – thereby financially benefitting news organizations – media outlets are unlikely to see substantial financial gains from blogger fees.

The marketing intelligence firm's report showed that 38% of bloggers would pay for news content. Those respondents cited the value of professional journalism and that they didn't want the quality of news to decline. Meanwhile, about 17% believe that news should always be free, adding that they would find a way to get news without paying for it. Also, 45% of bloggers are unsure about whether or not to pay for news.

The study, which analyzed blog and message board posts from last December to this February, comes as mainstream outlets are struggling to find new revenue sources. Last year, the Associated Press issued takedown notices to the Drudge Retort after the site appropriated what the AP deemed too much content.

Robert Cox, president of the Media Bloggers Association, says that better-resourced news Web sites could eventually broker deals with the AP, Reuters, and various photo news services. However, blogs that are one-person entities are a different matter altogether, he notes.

“Bloggers don't want to pay... so I can't imagine them leaping to pay for content,” Cox says.

He adds that one-person-show bloggers will likely use the content they want and hope not to get caught using it improperly – or, they will only use free, and unrestricted, content.

“The model [forcing bloggers to pay for news] doesn't work in a digital society where everyone has access to broadband Internet,” Cox continues. “It's just too easy to copy and replicate content.”

But, he explains that if news sites offer content at a fair price through a system that is convenient for bloggers, like the iTunes model for music downloads, some might choose to spend 99 cents for a feed to a column.

“Everyone in the news media, regardless of outlet, is grappling with this issue of what the new business model is going to be,” says Janet Eden-Harris, VP of JD Power and Associates' Web intelligence research division.

For its part, the management of the AP realizes that it must cover the operating costs of a global newswire service, says Jim Kennedy, VP and director of strategic planning at the AP.

“The bottom line is that it costs a lot of money to cover the news around the world,” he says. “We're always there, in every media format. That's a continuing responsibility that we have and a continuing obligation that we need to finance in some way.”

However, the AP's current priority is less about charging the bloggers who use its content for their sites, but instead ensuring that they use the stories under the proper terms and conditions, he adds.

“We want to make it easier to use under the proper terms and conditions, and harder to steal,” Kennedy says. To do so, the AP now uses the iCopyright licensing agent for official reuse of stories and content, he explains.

Eden-Harris notes, however, that the conversation is still early. Although there is a gray area of what is considered fair use of news coverage by bloggers, what is understood is that consumers can't get the same level of news coverage from bloggers alone.

“Bloggers, in many ways, actually repeat news that's printed in an established medium,” she says. “Bloggers aren't going to pay to send someone to Baghdad.”

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