Link Lessons: Stop licensing AP content

by Jason Preston on May 5, 2008

Iam calling this sporadic, as-it-pleases-me to write it series “Link Lessons” because I think that with very few exceptions, newspapers have largely ignored the power of the web’s biggest currency: the link.

I think smart linking goes hand in hand with an emphasis on local coverage in the quest for newspaper survival.

This is going to sounds like a complete contradiction, but here goes: When are newspapers going to realize that they are competing with the AP, and stop paying for AP content when they could simply link to it?

Here’s why this is actually a good idea:

Increase the relevancy of your print product

I remember checking out the newspaper rack in Starbucks recently. It usually sports the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and my two local papers, the Seattle P-I and the Seattle Times.1

The disappointing thing was that the front page of the P-I shared three articles with the front page of the New York Times. If I want national news, I’ll buy the Times. If I want AP stories I’ll go to Yahoo! news.

I’m not going to feel like I need to buy my local paper unless it’s clearly covering local stuff that isn’t in the national papers. Cutting AP stories will make room on the front page for stories that will sell better to a local audience.

Save money and resources

This one is pretty obvious.

Money not spent on licensing content from the AP is money earned. Invest that cash in developing a good delivery format for the Kindle or in hiring a Design Director for your paper’s web site.

Get friendlier with Google

Search Engine Optimization is usually one of the prime selling points for starting a blog. And it’s true: blogs get a big leg up in the internet world because they’re structured to really take advantage of Google.

But there’s more to showing up in Google than just your link structure. One of the key factors in Google search rankings is the originality of your content. Basically, Google figures that the exact same search result only needs to be offered once to people who are browsing the web. And the best source for that content is always going to be the original source.

In other words, Google actually penalizes you for having the exact same content as someone else. Especially if yours didn’t show up first.

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1. I have no idea how you’re actually supposed to italicize newspaper names. I’m just copying The New Yorker, which leaves the city name alone.