Revisiting the Marburger plan (it’s still terrible)

As my friend Dana noted on the last post on the subject, the Marburgers are doing a bit of a better job of explaining their plan. It makes a little more sense, but it is still ridiculously misguided and built to favor big media.

Though David Marburger has been on a new media tour trying to explain his plan is less than 2,000 words – he has been making the point to tell us what the proposal isn’t:

1. It doesn’t “advocate a statutory 24-hour moratorium on rewriting news reports originated by others” (though that’s certainly not what David Marburger says here and here, among many other places.

2. They don’t oppose linking to original content (like Google News does). Sorry if I said they did. Really, they oppose common RSS feeds that have summaries with the links.

3. And we agree on one thing: Pay walls are bad.

Honestly, though, the best look at the proposal’s intentions can be found in the comments area of the on Techdirt’s original analysis. Read the entire exchange of comments between TechDirt writers and the Marburgers and tell me that this proposal isn’t aiming for the law to make competition with newspapers illegal.

Marburger cites sites like the Daily Beast rather than aggregators as the real enemy. He believes a law is necessary to make it so they can’t write up a similar online piece based on the facts originally reported elsewhere. There’s been all kinds of claims as to why this is a problem:

1. These sites drive down online ad rates and free-ride on original reporting to make money. My take: They aren’t making much money from advertising, for one. Secondly, if they can charge a better ad rate, it’s called undercutting the competition – something that is quite legal and encouraged in American business. We might not like the outcome when it doesn’t benefit us, but it doesn’t make it illegal.

2. The newer stories get better placement on Google because they look like the same story and are newer. I say: Then get your site better optimized for search engines. If these sites have better placement, then good for them for being good at SEO. The reason big online news sites have bad SEO is because we move stories around, discontinue link availability after a certain amount of time and run buggy scripts that goof up our sites. They’re doing better because they worked at it – also, not illegal.

3. They are taking content wholesale. Again, I ask – who are the Marburgers, newspapers or the law to determine how much of this rewriting is illegal and who it applies to? I work at an online news site much like that of the PD and we rewrite existing online stories all of the time. I’ll bet they do too. We put ads on these stories and make money off of them – are we the enemy? Or just the new players in online media?

Maybe I’m misrepresenting their plan – but it isn’t for lack of trying. I’ve read the whole thing and all of David Marburger’s explanations of it. They say it isn’t an assault on free market competition, but then make statements that seem to say exactly that.

I won’t back your silly plan as it stands now – and no self-respecting journalist should. Eliminating competition isn’t a fix for newspapers’ ills and it’s downright disgusting how it is being peddled to the not-very-savvy journos among us who are desperately looking to back a magic cure-all.

Our industry was built on competition and the free marketplace of ideas. So, let’s pull ’em up, shall we? Get out there and innovate ourselves a future instead of crying to the principal about how some new kid is stealing our lunch money.

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