Media: Still grasping for a clue

by Mathew on January 26, 2008 · 10 comments

We can all debate the wisdom of the Wall Street Journal maintaining a pay wall (or at least part of one — see my recent post), and even the wisdom of newspapers and media sites having registration walls. But surely we’ve gotten beyond the point where anyone would argue that publications should try to control where and how you link to them, right? Wrong. According to a post by Don McAskill, CEO of image-sharing site SmugMug, BusinessWeek specifically asked him not to link directly to a recent article they wrote about his company.

When I first read that, I confess that my jaw dropped open in amazement. Did I go through a time warp of some kind that put me back in the mid-1990s? No. But reading through BusinessWeek’s bizarre and long-winded “user agreement” is like going back a decade or more, to a time when traditional media — and companies of all kinds — thought they could control how users accessed or made use of the material on their websites, right down to preventing them from linking to certain things.

In fact, if you read through the part of the policy that covers “deep-linking,” which is made to sound like something heinous and clearly illegal, it also forbids “bots” from going through the site, which would seem to cover what Google and pretty much every other search engine on earth does. That’s smart. Don’t just try to block people from linking to your articles — try to prevent them from ever being found at all! Brilliant. (The BusinessWeek article is here, in case you want to read it).

Don also writes about how a story the L.A. Times wrote about SmugMug isn’t available easily either, because of the site’s registration wall. I know I’ve been stopped short before by the Times wall (check the comment at that link — the registration wall pops up after a certain number of visits), and each time I go away and never read the article that has been linked to. I know I could just use BugMeNot, but I just can’t be bothered, and so the story goes unread. How is that doing anyone any good? That’s pretty dumb — but BusinessWeek takes the cake.

  • http://broadcasting-brain.com Mark Dykeman

    I understand the desire to protect one's content, but in the relatively open environment of the Web and the blogosphere, trying to control inbound linking is far more trouble than it is worth. I think there is far more value to Business Week in permitting the link to expose their brand, plus bolster their reputation a bit by seeing some gratitude from the interviewee. But I'm not a professional media guy, so what do I know?

    In fairness, I would be willing to allow that Business Week hasn't reviewed that old user agreement in years and their management might not realize how it doesn't fit in the current Web environment. However, it's certainly in their best interest to dust it off, take a good look at the publishing industry, and consider some radical changes.

  • http://www.allaboutnortel.com Mark Evans

    What do you expect from traditional media. :) Clearly, BusinessWeek doesn't understand the Web despite their fascination with the key players.

  • http://www.stephe.ca Stephe

    And yet these are the exact same publications that invest huge effort (and money) trying to increase their print circulation. These media companies really need to learn that its all about AUDIENCE online – just like in print.

  • gregory

    never have read the la times online…. eff the wall

  • Pingback: lucasjosh.com » Blog Archive » Still grasping for a clue?

  • http://www.irwebreport.com/daily/2008/01/27/canadas-good-governance-hypocrites/ Dominic

    Um, had the same problem this weekend. Wanted to link to an excellent column in the Globe and Mail Report on Business from a couple weeks ago. But it was locked behind a pay screen.

    Fine, but what about all those user comments on the column. How can the Globe charge for access to other peoples' comments? Or have commenters given the Globe copyright?

    I don't know but it sure doesn't make a helluva a lot of sense. The only reason to comment is for people to see what you've said.

    Which is why I'm doing it here, hoping some of the higher-ups will see it.

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    I understand (and share) your frustration, Dominic. And that's a good
    point about the comments. You can be sure that I've tried to make the
    same points to the powers that be at the Globe, and I will continue to
    do so.

  • http://www.irwebreport.com/daily/2008/01/27/canadas-good-governance-hypocrites/ Dominic

    Um, had the same problem this weekend. Wanted to link to an excellent column in the Globe and Mail Report on Business from a couple weeks ago. But it was locked behind a pay screen.

    Fine, but what about all those user comments on the column. How can the Globe charge for access to other peoples' comments? Or have commenters given the Globe copyright?

    I don't know but it sure doesn't make a helluva a lot of sense. The only reason to comment is for people to see what you've said.

    Which is why I'm doing it here, hoping some of the higher-ups will see it.

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    I understand (and share) your frustration, Dominic. And that's a good
    point about the comments. You can be sure that I've tried to make the
    same points to the powers that be at the Globe, and I will continue to
    do so.

  • Pingback: El Mike’s Internet News Blog » Blog Archive » Why Is Business Week Telling People They Can’t Link To Its Site?

Older post:

Newer post: