Friday, November 16, 2007

More major news sites offer a lot of free content

I’ve written about the previous “controversy” over deep linking, such as on Feb. 7, 2006 on this blog.

Today, Nov. 16, 2007, Frank Ahrens has a story on page D01, Business, The Washington Post, “Web Sites Tear Down That Wall,” here.

Ahrens discusses the trend for more newspapers and other online publications to offer more of their online content for free and depend on ad revenue. Some papers offer recent content free (even though you pay to purchase a hardcopy of essentially the same content). Most papers charge for full stories from “archives” that have aged a certain amount, but recently some papers have lengthened the free time. Some papers allow a certain monthly volume of stories (by email address or ip address) free, and then require registration, and then for a higher volume require payment. A few may charge for internet-only content that is not available in print.

An issue arises for papers now because much of their content is found by search engines, in what we call “sideways” access. That means that the visitor misses many of the intended ads. Bloggers (like me) often give direct deep links, as a practical matter, to give the visitor immediate verification of the truth of the comment, and immediate access to more details behind the story. (It’s still like footnoting.) I usually try to give the page and section and exact date of the print version, if known. It would be possible to give only the root link and then the exact URL with a link (to encourage a visit to the original link) but this seems silly and unproductive. Newspapers can, of course, try to target their ads to the content of each specific page, as there are plenty of software products in the advertising market that do this.

Since I live in the DC area, my radar screen often starts with The Washington Post and Washington Times, but I try to look at as many sources as practical. I have lived in Minneapolis and Dallas and am familiar with the publications there, as well as The New York Times and WSJ (discussed in Ahrens's story). AP, Reuters and other consolidated service stories often provide stories to all papers, which often can only be carried for a couple weeks. I try to link to the originals if I can find them, but sometimes I cannot.

Some papers will defeat deep links by replacing them with the home page, in order to force the visitor to see all the ads and go through their search engines. The Washington Times has done this recently, and I find that even with their own search many of their older stories have disappeared (don't even show up to be purchased with credit card).

Of course, other Internet businesses have gone to the ad model, including major ISPs like AOL, and this has been traumatic for employees.

Picture: From Sharpton's demonstration in Washington DC today, which I went to and covered myself (see Issues blog).

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