Good AFR.com news – but will they finally get it?

Credit David Kirk for pushing the side of reason – especially while doing his other job as Rugby correspondent and blogger.

..afr.com, will be relaunched for the second time this year in “a matter of weeks” with more content likely to be made freely available after months of criticism

The decision by Fairfax chief David Kirk puts him at odds with the head of the group’s business division, Fairfax Business Media chief Michael Gill, who was quoted on Thursday as saying their approach to the much maligned internet site “would not change a jot”

Here’s that Micheal Gill quote, courtesy of The Age:

Mr Gill hinted the “news and simple stuff” on the relaunched website would no longer use Flash — “it will behave like a website” — but reiterated he had no intention of following The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal and scrapping the paid subscriber model for online. “We’re very certain that our business is a subscription business,” he said 

mmmm. No flash, but either ‘subscription business’ or ‘more content freely available’.

It is a late decision, but no doubt helped along by the NYTimes going free, and the persistent rumours about the WSJ going free next. I’d love to see the NYTimes traffic stats for the last week or so – the archives are proving great fodder for the blogosphere.

Although David Kirk said:

We got it wrong at the outset, we are going to get it right, so stick with us,”… …..We are going to make afr.com more accessible for users..

he also said:

– but let’s go back to the beginning.
There are four dimensions at work here: news and information; archives; investment and financial tools; and a digital rights management system.

Right.

No wrong. I see little need any more for the digital rights management system as those WSJ rights are worthless soon, and any DRM gets in the way of usability. That may mean some contract renegotiations, but they should start with the premise that information should be free.
The investment and financial tools are available for free elsewhere, even in a spreadsheet. Moreover, people that can pay for those investment tools should really have them on their desktop already – and would probably prefer a straight data download.

Archives – well the recent ones should be open, else why would the live articles ever get linked to, and the historical ones should be open, as they create a wonderful long tail of content. A blog search for New York Times archives retrieves 60,000 results – pretty impressive for a week.

So – we shall wait to grok the fullness.

About Lance Wiggs

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1 Response to Good AFR.com news – but will they finally get it?

  1. scott lewis says:

    Gill and Fairfax really don’t understand online publishing at all. I worked in a business information company for five years, and developed some good products that did things like supply summaries of AFR/Age/SMH articles via email newsletters, complete with links to the full-text on the Fairfax websites. I don’t think they ever understood we were doing them a favour. Reportedly, most of our contacts with Fairfax were quite hostile.

    The latest AFR website was designed specifically to prevent that kind of linking (as mentioned in a Crikey story) using an Adobe technology called Flex. One side effect of this is that it doesn’t show up on Google searches. At all. Adobe actually provides a special application to allow linking by Google into Flex sites — so one has to conclude this is deliberate by the AFR. It has chosen not to be accessible by search engines in an internet era when these dominate.

    I could cite other examples, but it really isn’t worth it.

    The primary problem that Fairfax and other newspaper publishers face is that they don’t understand the money that can be made from distribution. In print publishing the big deal is actually production, getting ink on paper. On the web, production is much easier. Distribution, however, getting the right content to the right people, is much more complex.

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