Why Al Diamon is wrong about news aggregators

by Carl Natale on May 18, 2010

I’m working for the site MaineNewsSimply.com as a content consultant. It’s a fun gig. Creating strategies and working with news.

So it’s no surprise that I disagree with Al Diamon’s analysis in his Media Mutt blog. I know this is a bit late to be a response but I’m going to point out a few flaws anyway.

Here’s where Diamon is really wrong:

There are those who think aggregators, such as MNS, aid more traditional news operations by directing additional traffic to their Web sites. While this is undoubtedly true in some instances, there’s also a downside to the practice. That’s because there are only so many advertising dollars to go around, and aggregators siphon off some of those bucks that might otherwise go to pay for actual newsgathering. People who visit aggregating sites in search of news may actually be contributing to the decline of that product.

If you use that logic, then every blog, magazine and publication that solicits advertising is harming traditional news operations. This means every political blog that Diamon reads is hurting traditional Journalism. They take money that could be going to a newspaper or broadcast ad.

Even if that Journalistic enterprise drops the ball, we’re bad people to try to compete with it. That’s why newspapers are in trouble. It’s that sense of entitlement and a belief that their brand of Journalism is the one, true way.

And they’re leaving money on the table. Richard Connor, head of MaineToday Media, says it himself. Here’s a few paragraphs from a MaineBiz interview with Connor:

Whatever revival in revenue occurs this year, Connor says the print side will lead it. The website redesign, he says, is selling more ads, but its major purpose was to allow continuous content revisions and more accurate tracking of readers’ use of the site. “We didn’t have the information we needed to be competitive,” he says.

Yet Connor says the website is not a big revenue source. “Our future still lies in print, because that’s where our major market still is.”

When it comes to newspapers, the demise of print has been greatly exaggerated, Connor believes. He can remember Ted Turner predicting in the 1980s that cable news would eventually put newspapers out of business, “and now CNN has more competition than we do.”

Anyone who claims to know what the news business will look like in 10 years “is fooling themselves,” he says. “We’ve made our bet [on print], and we plan to stick to it.”

Basically, Connor says most of the money is in print, and that’s where they are concentrating. He repeated that reliance on “older populations” for revenue during a MaineBiz Sunday television appearance.

So I have to wonder, if MaineNewsSimply.com or another aggregator isn’t “siphoning” that ad revenue, what are the news gatherers doing to gather online revenue?

Also, Diamon says what we’re doing is pretty simple. Agreed. Why aren’t the news gatherers doing it? This is something they could be doing. If this is such a potential newspaper killer, why won’t the Portland Press Herald, Lewiston Sun Journal or Bangor Daily News create their own version?

I predict two possible answers:

  1. That would mean admitting there are better sources of news out there.
  2. They don’t see the value in it.

If either of them is true, how can MaineNewsSimply.com hurt those business models?

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