The End of the Wild West?

Since blogging burst into the media-stream a couple of years ago, it’s been the Wild West: fun, exciting, chaotic, unruly and happy to flaunt the rules and traditional conventions.

The question is whether times are a changin’. Case is point is AP’s strange decision to come down hard on bloggers who parts of AP’s articles or video clips. AP claims this is copyright infringement while critics such as Michael Arrington suggest AP is ignoring the law and “fair use” by trying to create its own rules.

To badly paraphrase Shakespeare, are we watching the first act of the “Taming of the Blogosphere”? Is AP’s move an indication that traditional media is so frustrated with the blogosphere that it’s willing to come down on hard on bloggers bold enough to cite some of its content.

My sense is AP’s decision to issue a takedown request to the Drudge Retort was a bad strategic and PR mistake. At a time when many publications such as the New York Times are removing walled gardens to drive more traffic, AP is rowing in the wrong direction.

Instead, media entities should be encouraging bloggers and Web services such as Digg and Mixx to create links and run small excerpts if it means more traffic from consumers looking for more information. These players should be seen as distribution partners as opposed to rivals.

If AP had been smart, they would have reached out to bloggers to solicit ideas on accepted rules of behaviour. For example, AP could have asked if a four-paragraph citation limit was reasonable as long as a link to the original story was included in a post.

Instead, AP came down hard. And while it appears it is retreating from its policy in the wake of heavy criticism, Scott Rosenberg suggests AP may not be backing off by insisting it only wants bloggers to link to AP stories rather than quote from them.

Clearly, AP doesn’t get blogging and how there’s a win-win scenario that should be embraced.

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