Newsagency 2.0 – Would a NewsCommons work?

Some time ago i argued that it would be a good thought experiment to consider if web 2.0 applications like blogs, web based calendars et. would provide a sufficient infrastructure for building the backbone of a “no frills” news agency.

While i still even more think that this is a very interesting thought experiment and most likey worth trying it in the real world), i now think it is not going far enough. So in this post i’ll share some of my thought about not only using web 2.0 technology for a news agency but also web 2.0 business models:

I guess these thought were triggered by my intense discussions with Google trying to understand their Google Maps for Enterprise contract. So one day two weks ago i awoke thinking: “What would happen if a news agency uses the approach taken by the unarguably most successful web 2.0 application: Google Maps?” :

  • What would happen if a news agency would provide all of its news as RSS/ATOM Feeds, as well as a set of APIs accompanied by Javascript client code and client libraries.
  • What if these news were free to use for everybody on public websites, the only requirement being that in order to be able to embed the news into a website one has to sign up for an API key.
  • What if a website owner only would have to apply for a contractual relatioship if the news were going to be used on an intranet site or certain advanced functionalities are going to be used?

But this would be the certain death of the news agency i hear you scream say. I”m not so sure about that.

Moreover, i’m quite sure that sooner or later some competitor, publisher and/or web startup is going to try this approach either using the news agencies content or completly neglecting it and using only its own and user generated content. is already going that route to a certain extent. Wikipedia is the prime example for open content in a non news domain. Freebase (more on freebase in a separate article) is trying to be the same for data (including  a semantically enhanced wikipedia), GeoCommons is gathering geodata, and there are lot of other “Commons” in the workings.

Hence i think it is a worthwhile exercise to have a closer look at the advantages and disadvantages of the radical approach of a NewsCommons sketched above.  And if this exercise is only been undertaken just in order to be prepared.
Also some not so radical variants e.g. opening the content only for non-commercial uses, i.e. a CC-BY-Noncommercial license like BBC is using on Backstage, are definitely worth some considerations. Stay tuned.

Is opening up the content the road to hell or the way to go for a news agency? What do you think?