Transcript: The Costs of Quality Journalism

Interview with Paul Boyle, News Media Alliance

For podcast release Monday, May 1, 2017

KENNEALLY: From fighting fake news to developing mobile-friendly display advertising, the many challenges for American news publishers cut to the heart of their business. On May 1, as industry executives gather in New Orleans for the annual mediaXchange conference, they have no shortage of pressing assignments to cover.
Welcome to Copyright Clearance Center’s podcast series. I’m Christopher Kenneally for Beyond the Book. Demand for quality journalism may be at historic levels in 2017, but demands on journalism’s longstanding business models weigh heavily on reporters and publishers, too. It’s hardly breaking news that the news business is hoping to innovate its way out of a digital dilemma. The News Media Alliance, a Washington-based trade organization representing nearly 2,000 North American news organizations, works with its members to develop strategies and programs that can help sustain news-gathering operations and the communities that rely on them for reliable information.
Paul Boyle, senior vice president, public policy for NMA, manages the group’s legislative and regulatory affairs, covering tax policy, copyright, and media ownership rules, among other issues. Paul Boyle, welcome to Beyond the Book.

BOYLE: Hi, Chris. It’s great to be with you.

KENNEALLY: We’re looking forward to chatting with you. It’s on the occasion of the opening of the annual mediaXchange conference. As I say, there’s quite a lot going on in the business right now. Indeed, you recognize that, because it’s not just the future of news that the exchange is concerned about this year, but the futures of news. What are you driving at at NMA when thinking about the futures of news?

BOYLE: I think to produce high-quality journalism, where there’s original reporting, editing, vetting of sources, you need to see and explore various business models to support that journalism. I think that’s what the focus is of the futures of news. It’s not just one strategy. It’s multiple strategies and trying to reach and connect and engage with our audiences and then be able to monetize our content, either through traditional print distribution or through digital distribution. Newspapers have the biggest audiences when you combine print and digital than any other media. We have certainly challenges to the business model. But the future is bright because of the various strategies and actually consumers’ desire for news and high-quality, real news by real journalists.

KENNEALLY: Indeed, that’s really become very clear recently, as people sort of struggle with sorting out the fake from the real and finding it in places that is – or are, I should say – reliable. It’s interesting to me that the news industry is really embracing innovation, embracing technology. And the kind of innovation that we’re talking about here isn’t only the innovation you can hold in your hand, but it’s also innovative ways of thinking about news-gathering.

BOYLE: No question about it. We have a number of programs through our sister organization, the American Press Institute, that help newspapers, for example, look at metrics of how consumers are using content. What kind of content are they looking for? It used to be a day in which the editor would meet with the staff and say, OK, what are we going to put out there today? Then they would make that decision. Now, through digital distribution and being able to connect with consumers and engage consumers, we know what consumers want as far as content. So we’re actually providing consumers what they want, where they want it, and how they want it.

KENNEALLY: I think that’s a fascinating point and one I’ve been reflecting on myself recently, Paul, because it really does kind of flip the paradigm here. The readers are telling you what’s interesting, and they’re telling you what – you meaning the news business – they are telling you what they want you to go find out, rather than trying to find out what it could be in the first place. That’s really an opportunity for reporters to serve the community. I note that NMA really is emphasizing community relations as much as business models and reliable reporting and so forth.

These innovative approaches obviously concern themselves with copyright, something we are concerned about here at Copyright Clearance Center, too. In November 2016, NMA launched a new effort to help strengthen copyright compliance by working especially with so-called media monitoring organizations. That may be an expression not everyone in our audience is familiar with. So before we tell people about the initiative itself, which is really based in education, educate us a bit, Paul, about media monitoring organizations. Who are we talking about?

BOYLE: Media monitoring organizations are basically aggregators of news that use analytics to package up news content and then deliver it to paying customers – business clients, government clients. So they are aggregating content, packaging content for a commercial gain. There’s hundreds of them internationally. They’ve been around for a very long time. Some names out there like LexisNexis, (inaudible), and Cision. But there’s a lot of smaller media monitoring organizations that may not be fully licensing the content that they are receiving from news organizations, and certainly licensing of that content is important to bring back value to journalism so that we can continue to do the reporting and provide content that can be put into a digest by these media monitoring organizations.

KENNEALLY: OK. So the news media licensing initiative that was launched last fall is about what, then? It’s really not so much about licensing at the moment, but about starting with the important education piece of this. Is that correct?

BOYLE: That’s right. I think there are a number of MMOs out there that are getting content in many different ways. Some have partnerships with maybe bigger organizations, and they’re getting access to content that is available on the public web, but is packaged in a way that is delivered to business clients and government clients. What we want to educate MMOs is that in most cases, they’re not compliant with the Copyright Act, and they’re putting their clients at risk who want to be compliant. I know all the business clients that work with the CCC adamantly want to make sure that they’re compliant with the Copyright Act and don’t run afoul of the law. So we’re trying to educate those MMOs that if they haven’t licensed content, they should. Then we also point them to different licensing opportunities where they can be compliant.

KENNEALLY: Right. The issue here is the commercial nature of these endeavors. As we know at Copyright Clearance Center, absorbing information is one thing, but when you absorb it within a commercial context, within an organization where hundreds, thousands, even possibly tens of thousands of others are seeing the same content, that’s where the risk of exposure for copyright infringement lies.

BOYLE: No question about it. As you well know, there’s a fair use exception that looks at a number of different factors – how the content is being used, the nature of the copyrighted work, how much is taken, that kind of thing. But the one factor that’s key is the effect of the use on the potential market.

So what we’re seeing, I think, with consumer habits and consuming news that many consumers are just looking at the headline, the lede of the story, and the little snippet and then moving on. Many of these MMOs are providing that in a digital digest for their business and government clients. Still, that kind of reporting – even though someone’s not clicking through, where it’s going to a news organization where they can monetize that user, they’re providing a service. They’re repackaging content and delivering it.

And our main message to these media monitoring organizations is this – one, you have to be compliant so that your business and government clients are not at risk. Number two, if you don’t have journalists who are covering Procter & Gamble, United, Lockheed Martin, or even a new drug that’s going through the approval process at the FDA, then you’re not going to have any information to digest and then distribute to your clients. So it’s in both our interests to bring back value to journalism, properly license content, so that we can continue to provide that high-quality original reporting, and they can continue to provide a digest and distribute media intelligence reports to their clients.

KENNEALLY: So it’s about a dialogue here, a conversation, an education. If there’s an MMO on the receiving end of this podcast and they want to learn more or possibly participate, understand why they need to become involved, what should they do?

BOYLE: They should call the News Media Alliance and be happy to call my number – 571-366-1150. But also follow us on Twitter @NewsLicensing, where we’ll have more information about the initiative.

KENNEALLY: What’s the response been so far? People are taking you up on the offer?

BOYLE: Early on, we basically have been meeting with MMOs at various international conferences to describe to them what our initiative is all about. I think we’ve heard from some MMOs who are looking for a new licensing tool to make it easy for them, and so part of it is explaining to them what’s available. There’s an organization called License League that represents 2,300 titles so that an MMO can go to one place and license content and get one bill. For many MMOs, the concern has been, well, is it too hard to license content from all these different players? No, there are parties involved. We also reference the CCC and what it does with regard to internal copying. But then we also point them to individual companies. If you hit the top 15 newspaper companies and strike licensing deals, you pretty much cover most of the titles that are out there.

So I think they’re encouraged. They want to be in compliance with the Copyright Act. They appreciate, I think, the value of original reporting to what they offer their clients. And I think they’re just looking for an easy way for them to license and become compliant. We hope we can point them in the right direction.

KENNEALLY: All right. Paul Boyle, senior vice president, public policy, for the News Media Alliance. Thanks so much for joining us on Beyond the Book.

BOYLE: Chris, thank you. I enjoyed it.

KENNEALLY: Beyond the Book is produced by Copyright Clearance Center, a global leader in content management, discovery, and document delivery solutions. Through its relationships with those who use and create content, CCC and its subsidiaries RightsDirect and Ixxus drive market-based solutions that accelerate knowledge, power publishing, and advance copyright.

Beyond the Book co-producer and recording engineer is Jeremy Brieske of Burst Marketing. I’m Christopher Kenneally. Join us again soon on Beyond the Book.

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