I was in the audience at The Guardian yesterday morning for a briefing with the NLA’s managing director David Pugh.
The NLA has received an onslaught of criticism since it announced that it would introduce a licence for web clippings from January 2010.
After yesterday’s briefing I firmly believe that the NLA has failed to communicate the rationale and remit of the new licence. Much of the negative comment results from misinformation and the NLA’s tradition approach to communications.
The NLA has briefed PR Week, the CIPR and the PRCA and responded directly to blog criticism. It frequently cites its eClips web site as the authoritative source of information on the topic and while it is exhaustive it isn’t the easiest site to navigate.
But after yesterday I believe that the NLA needs to work harder to take its message to its audience in a more accessible format. In social media parlance it needs to follow the conversations. And to be fair it has started to do this by arranging briefings such as yesterday’s session.
So what did we learn from the sesson? The web clipping licence is a bid by the NLA to recover a contribution from the after market for business-to-business web clippings. It isn’t a tax on web clippings or a bid to licence URLs.
The new web licences will cover digital content on national and local newspaper websites with the exception of the Financial Times and News International publications which have their separate licence requirements.
Clipping agencies such as Cision and Durrants, scrappers such as Meltwater, and PR agencies, all generate revenue from monitoring press coverage online. Clippings are a currency that drives the PR industry.
The NLA believes that newspaper publishers as the original producers of this content should receive a share of that income. The initiative is expected to raise up to £2 million per year for NLA members.
The PR industry has responded badly to the proposals in part because of poor communication on the part of the NLA, but also because it has a mindset that content from newspapers web sites is free.
In 18 months as newspaper publishers raise paywalls in front of their sites and content disappears from Google news searches this attitude will change.
Here lies the real issue of web copyright. The media industry’s approach to online is in turmoil. We have no way of knowing whether paywalls will work and how newspapers will manage their relationships with search engines.
In the meantime the NLA is making a bid to put a model in place to recover revenue for its members. As I have said previously ultimately the future health of the media and technology innovation will dictate the conclusion of this debate.