The Associated Press is suggesting technical publishing guidelines for all new stories, asking that descriptive tags be attached to all news stories in order to generate more revenue for large media operations.
AP wants tags identifying the author, publisher and other information (including any usage restrictions publishers hope to place on copyright-protected materials) to accompany every news story. This would allow search engines to more easily identify, and perhaps protect, the publisher and their content. The AP hopes that the tags will make it easier for users to locate articles from the major suppliers of the news and to read them there. Of course, the end result of these tags would be more restrictive use of the content and more revenue for the larger news content providers.
These new “rules” were developed by AP in conjunction with the Media Standards Trust, according to an AP story aggregated by Yahoo. Martin Moore, director of that organization, says “As things stand, an awful lot of information on a news article is completely invisible. A search engine is not able to tell a byline from someone who is referred to in an article.”
This tag proposal is certain to once again pit news sources, like the AP and the New York Times, against blogs and other internet news sources. The organizations that actually collect and publish the news, such as the Associated Press, feel that their control of that news is slipping away as internet-based operations such as blogs and news aggregators, republish the news with different slants and after adding their own opinions, and after integrating it with other events of the day.
The established news sources feel that the re-use of their basic news information is largely responsible for their downturn in revenue over the last several years. It is probably one factor in a large mix that is having that effect. The paradigm of news collecting and reporting has been changing rapidly since the establishment of the World Wide Web, and that process is nowhere near complete.
It is hard to see, from where we stand today, where the news collector / aggregator / blogger mixture will next come to rest. It is likely that the answer has not yet been envisioned by anyone. However, it is certain that at the end of the day, the collectors of the news will not have as strong a hold on that news as they did 20 years ago. The “tags” proposal that AP has floated is an attempt by them to retain that control after it has already been lost. The news is already out of the open door of the barn, and it is anyone’s guess what the future holds for it.