“Maybe if you’re here, you’re already dead.” - AP’s sponsored tweets and the long slow death of our industry

 by Martin Belam, 8 January 2013

Is it just me? Or does it sometimes feel like the whole of the internet is screaming at the news industry: “Jeez, you guys really need to innovate more and hurry up and get yourself a new business model.”

And then the response to any attempt at a new model is “But not that one.”

I thought this more than ever last night as the @AP debuted sponsored tweets. Twice a day, in amongst a free feed, that delivers free news, over a free internet service, that users freely themselves choose to subscribe to, they intend to place labelled adverts.

You would have thought that they were proposing that the sky was going to fall on everybody’s heads.

I got called an ‘apologist’ and a ‘PR hack’ by one tweeter for even questioning the outraged outburst of “disappointment”, “#Newsfail”, unfollowing and criticism from columnists.

Try and charge for content and everybody will tell you that a universal paywall can never work. Erect a pay-fence and the internet will laugh at you for deliberately making it porous. Try and obtain profiling data to better target advertising, and you get accused of ‘snooping’ on the user. Stop making an app that is losing money and people will tell you that you are an idiot. Give an app away for free and you’ll generate comment rage that it isn’t across every platform. And that is before people arrive on your ad-supported service encouraging others to install an ad-blocker.

It can all be rather depressing.

And I wasn’t cheered up much by this comment from Lloyd Shepherd the other day. In a thought-provoking post looking at how his own views have changed over the last few years about how analogue businesses might transform to digital ones, he finished by wondering aloud:

“Maybe you can’t get there from here, after all. Maybe if you’re here, you’re already dead.”

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