Does the AP know what it’s talking about?

Presenting: A small deconstruction of the Editors Weblog interview with the Associated Press’ Jim Kennedy. The interview (and reporting) left me confused.

“One is to start creating pages of aggregated content based around news stories and topics, which would allow readers to find the most authoritative local sources for the news they are searching for.”

So … these pages are going to be dedicated only to stories of local import — like “Mayor gives a speech”? There aren’t really “authoritative local sources” for anything on a national level — all the papers rely on the AP for their stories. But is it the case that users are having trouble knowing what the standard “local sources” are in their town?

Which leads to the next point:

“Also, he asserted, search engines “point people indiscriminately” towards sources, rather than towards the news’ local paper which should have the most authoritative article. The AP hopes instead to offer more of a guide to a topic, with sources that are more intelligently chosen.”

Again, the article doesn’t answer: Who are the enemies here? There are so few towns with multiple professional news outlets. A newspaper and some TV stations — all of which, I would think, count as “authoritative local sources,” especially considering that most are probably AP subscribers and would be a part of these incoming portals. And what if the most authoritative local source instead sends is stories out on, say, MCT?

So if not these outlets, then perhaps the target is bloggers — ones who grab AP copy from Google or Yahoo, post a link and offer a few comments?

“[The AP aggregation pages] will have URLs so that they can be ‘tweeted’ or linked to on social networking sites but they will not be a destination in themselves: “This is a distribution strategy, not a destination strategy,” Kennedy confirmed.”

This is confusing on so many levels. “They will have URLs.” Well, yeah, they’re Web pages. Should I expect otherwise? “They will not be a destination in themselves.” I understand, I think, that he’s saying that the pages will serve only to feed readers to the “authoritative local sources.” But (a) it still strikes me as contradictory for the AP to say they want to drag traffic currently going elsewhere to their own pages and to say they just want to pass readers along; and (b) does the AP think the same number of readers are going to follow through to the local site as go to the aggregated site? Most readers skim the headlines to begin with, right?

“The second aspect is the AP’s mission to “keep up the fight to protect content from misappropriation and protecting it from those who don’t pay.” He clarified that the he was not talking about “small time bloggers who post a link to a story,” rather “people and entities who come along and scrape content systematically and have no intention of licensing it.””

Hm. Well, that kills the blogger theory from a moment ago. So if the AP isn’t targeting bloggers but these big-time scrapers, then, well, who are they talking about? The story doesn’t provide links — did anyone ask him? Maybe I’m not looking hard enough. What sites is he talking about and how much traffic are they dragging away from the “authoritative local sources”?

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Uber-Google

I finished Jeff Jarvis’ What Would Google Do and I feel like I need to go outside, or take a deep breath, or something.

Jarvis loves Google. Duh. Obviously. That’s the whole point. And that’s cool — I love Google too.

But something bugs me about deifying Google. I want to ask, “Yes Jeff, but what about urban schools?” “Yes Jeff, but what about making sure people have potable drinking water?” What bugs me is that I feel Jarvis might respond, “here’s how Google can solve this problem. Let’s go!”

The plan might be great, but I want to respond, “yes, this would work, but look around. It’s not happening, not yet anyway. People are still without water today.” That perspective is important to me. I worry it gets lost too often when I spend a good chunk of my time on computers with people similarly privileged and, possibly, working within too tight of a bubble.

Let me also be absolutely clear that I don’t mean to suggest Jarvis actually thinks any of this. In fact, considering he spent time in WWGD? on google.org I’m inclined to think he recognizes the immediacy of these problems (even if he praises their response). I’m simply reporting here on the feeling I get as I go through his book — which, thanks to the publishing house structure he used (as he described), may have been more hyperbole than anything.

But apart from that, I’m jotting down some notes, some of the short-form wisdom (“Jarvis laws”?) I’m finding. I have a feeling I’m going to use them often.

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