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GateHouse exec Kirk Davis: “What do you think, we’re stupid? Of course we like linking”

I just got off the phone with Kirk Davis, the newly promoted president and chief operating officer of GateHouse Media, who gave me his interpretation of their settlement with The New York Times Co., owner of The Boston Globe. “We believe the settlement provides GateHouse with all the essential relief on the issues that caused us to take the action we did, and we’re completely satisfied,” he said.

This much seems clear: The settlement prohibits the Globe from republishing the headlines and first graf of GateHouse content as they’ve been doing on three hyperlocal news sites rolled out last year. That’s how Davis put it, and when I posed that interpretation to Abbe Serphos, a spokeswoman for The Times Co., she said, “I think that’s pretty right on.”

The Globe’s Your Town sites could link to specific articles or blog posts published by GateHouse as long it doesn’t quote the headline or lede, according to Davis. “We don’t have an issue with deep linking,” he said. I asked Davis if it would be OK for a Globe blogger to quote a few grafs from an article in one of GateHouse’s community newspapers. “I would agree that’s fine,” he said, adding with a huff, “That takes a little bit of human effort.”

There’s the key distinction: automation vs. human effort. The finer points of this settlement will be ironed out in practice, but this definitely strikes a blow to automated aggregation. (It does not, however, set a legal precedent.)

Davis also spoke about repairing his company’s “progressive reputation on the web.” GateHouse was praised in 2006 when it made all of its content available under a Creative Content license, but its lawsuit against The Times Co. has been criticized by Jeff Jarvis and others.

“In the spare time I had to follow public sentiment about this case,” Davis said, “you’d see comments like, ‘GateHouse is against linking.’ You’ve got to be kidding me. What do you think, we’re stupid? Of course we like linking and of course we support linking.”

Under the settlement, GateHouse “will implement one or more commercially reasonable technological solutions” to prevent the Globe from subscribing to and copying from GateHouse’s RSS feeds, which is how the Your Town sites have been operating thus far. Davis wouldn’t speculate about what that solution may be, but it could be something like blocking the Globe’s IP address. The Globe is also prohibited from circumventing the agreement by doing the same sort of aggregation by hand.

Finally, while I was on the phone with Davis, Lisa Williams of Placeblogger asked me to see if the settlement prohibits GateHouse or Globe content from appearing in either company’s local search results. Davis said it does not. “We have no problem with being captured by search,” he said.

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  • ani

    What strikes me is that technological power is subordinated to some other principle. As with medical ethics, what we can do needs to be in service to what we should do.

  • Kim@Galavanting

    Okay…bye Gatehouse. Was a nice run while you had it.

  • Joe Mescher

    Davis said, “you’d see comments like, ‘GateHouse is against linking.’ You’ve got to be kidding me. What do you think, we’re stupid? Of course we like linking and of course we support linking.”

    …aggregarting is a powerful source of link building.

    I’m surprised someone would choose to deny links for any reason (well, ok, maybe if they were coming from a devil worshipping ministry…but from the New York Times company?).

    I wonder if Kirk Davis has read ‘The Clue Train Manifesto’. It’s a great read.

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  • Daniel Yonts

    GateHouse Media really needs to understand the basics of Internet Marketing — along with the rest of the publishing community. What they have done is effectively this:

    1. Harmed their SEO ranking — external link ins from high PR sites that conatin key phrases in the link text.
    2. Ensured fewer eyeballs are viewing their ads and zero co-operation from other content providers (, NY Times, etc).
    3. Motivated a better positioned outlet to more aggressively go after their market — which shouldn’t be hard since they don’t understand how Internet Marketing works.
    4. Put their advertisers on notice that they’d prefer to have fewer people to see their offer.

    Its just amazing! Today, they’re claiming victory for having weakened their online channel. Not to worry, though. Their newspaper circulation will pick up soon…after all, the Internet is merely a fad. Luckily, they have smart lawyers that understand this.

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  • lillybug

    Gatehouse (GH) has made a lot of poor decisions. First, they bought too many papers. The analysts found out how much debt they really had, and took a look at how they intended to pay it (ad revenue).. enough said.

    Secondly, GH goes out and gives Davis $460K to run GH. More than double his predesesor. At a time when they are having layoffs, benefit cuts thus killing their own newspapers slowly.

    Now this.

  • Nico Flores

    Gatehouse may have been trying to stop taking away front-page traffic from Wicked: make’s FP poorer by forcing it to have less links. Question is, will Wicked’s FP pick up traffic after this?

    Ad nauseam here:

  • Gordon Mattey

    I think he’s been reading the “I haven’t a clue train manifesto”

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