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Jan. 5, 2012, 10:30 a.m.

Remember the beacon? Newly formed NewsRight is the evolution of AP’s News Registry

NewsRight aims to help news organizations license and track their content on the web, but its president says it’s not a litigation shop.

Twenty-nine major news organizations have signed on as investors in NewsRight, a newly launched company that aims to make it easier for publishers to license and track their content on the web.

NewsRight logo

David Westin, the president of NewsRight and former head of ABC News, says news organizations are suffering even though demand for news on the web is exploding, calling it an “imperfection in the marketplace.”

“Much of that digital growth is coming to the benefit of companies who themselves are not hiring reporters, or at least not very many reporters. They are relying on content taken from websites of the traditional news providers,” Westin said.

That’s a polite way of addressing unresolved tension between traditional news organizations and the aggregators, bloggers, and scrapers — “some of which are perfectly legitimate, some of which are perfectly outrageous, and a fair number of which lie in between and are subject to honest disagreement,” Westin said.

The details are still being worked out, but the company will provide a platform for news organizations to license and distribute clean feeds of their content to third parties. That software includes analytics to help measure the reach of the content — and find out whether it’s being ripped off. NewsRight will provide legal guidance to publishers where necessary.

BeaconA little history: Remember THE BEACON? Back in 2009, the Associated Press took a somewhat more antagonistic approach to protecting its intellectual property on the web. We reported on the AP’s plans to build AP News Registry, “a way to identify, record and track every piece of content AP makes available to its members and other paying customers.” Part of that plan was the beacon, a little bit of JavaScript embedded into the AP’s syndicated news feeds, which helped expose people who, in the AP’s view, were scraping or, well, over-aggregating, its material. The AP took a lot of flak in the journalism universe.

The beacon is still very much alight and integrated into the NewsRight platform, which AP spun off into its own separate concern. The company is tracking more than 16,000 websites that use material from almost 900 news sites in its database, Westin said, and the software is measuring more than 160 million unique readers and four billion impressions a month.

Most of the websites that auto-scrape AP news feeds without permission don’t remove the tracking code, Westin said. To hunt down those savvy enough to remove the beacon, the tracking software also scours the web for text that matches the source material and flags anything that’s a 70-percent match or stronger.

Westin, who spent years as a litigator in Washington, said NewsRight is not Righthaven, the aggressive copyright enforcer that has all but folded. “We have not been set up first and foremost as a litigation shop,” Westin said. “Now, that doesn’t mean down the road there won’t be litigation. I hope there’s not. Some people may decide to sue, and we can support that with the data we gather, the information we gather. But…those are very expensive, cumbersome, time-consuming processes.”

NewsRight’s partner news organizations include Advance Publications, A.H. Belo, Community Newspaper Holdings, Gatehouse Media, The Gazette Company, Hearst Newspapers, Journal Communications, McClatchy, MediaNews, The New York Times Co., Scripps, and The Washington Post Co. AP remains on the NewsRight board and is a minority shareholder. Westin said NewsRight is accepting new applications for news organizations and bloggers who want to syndicate their content.

POSTED     Jan. 5, 2012, 10:30 a.m.
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