How The AP Fails To Get Search & SEO (Again)

Gosh, just as the Associated Press announces that it’s going to follow a new meta tagging scheme to protect its content, it continues to show no clue about how to monetize its own traffic much less regulate it. Stories continue to die, just as they have when I covered the issue a year ago.

Back in June 2008, I wrote Hey AP! How About Running A Real News Web Site?, which — in the wake of AP making noise about fair use guidelines — examined how the organization failed to provide any central article that anyone could point at. A key part of my article:

To get back to the bloggers, let me point out a key problem you have. Your stories appear everywhere, like weeds. Then they die, unlike weeds. Like they disappear after roughly 30 days. This was an issue I pointed out when the Google deal was struck.

Now skip ahead to this past May. In writing Do Newspapers Owe Google “Fair Share” Fees For Researching Stories?, I said:

Let’s consider last week’s wonderful story from the AP about how old Japanese maps on Google Earth are causing problems with some in that country. Given that news stories have a tendency to disappear, I’m going to link to the story using its entire headline: Old Japanese maps on Google Earth unveil secrets. Now if the story should move for some reason, as least with the headline, there’s a chance of locating it in some new location.

Try to go to that story today, where I linked to it at, and you get a 404 error:

The page you’ve requested does not exist at this address.

Nice. As Jean commented, you can still find the article over at the Huffington Post. Perhaps HuffPo’s deal with the AP allows stories to be up longer than 30 days. Certainly the Seattle Times still has it, also. But the copy over at Yahoo is dead, meaning all that Digg love it had generated is now going to waste.

If people wonder why I might seem so hostile to newspapers screaming about how badly they’re being done by Google, bloggers and aggregators, it’s stuff like this that does it. This is lunacy. It doesn’t engender respect or a believe that the AP or other organizations really understand the world they’re operating in.

I linked to the article the AP itself had put out on its own web site. They kill it. Links from Digg that would generate thousands of visits are allowed to die. Duplicate content across the web isn’t regulated by the AP itself — there’s no instructions for publications to block that content from search engines; no thought about consolidating links; no thought about how no one can tell what’s the “authorative” piece that they should link to.

And yet the AP and others yap that they don’t get credit enough, that people rip them off, that Google should somehow have supernatural abilities to make up for the mess they contribute to. Please.

But hey, it’s all going to be better now. AP proposes new article formatting for the Web from the Associated Press itself tells us of a new standard (write that headline down, so you can find the article in 30 days when it dies). It involves meta tagging articles, which will:

The tag[s] identifying usage rights could allow Web sites that aggregate content to automatically sort articles by copyright terms and let publishers more easily track how their stories are being used, said Srinandan Kasi, AP’s general counsel.

If you want to know more about the system, visit the Value Added News site. Don’t worry — as you’re told:

Adding semantic value to your news is not rocket science. It doesn’t even require serious plumbing in the depths of your database.

Then scroll down after that intro, and your head will hurt. Like if I use the microformat for “Daily News,” which Daily News is that? Because there’s a number of them out there. The tech specs don’t help.

As for the AP already using this, when I looked, I didn’t see tags on some selected articles I examined. I certainly didn’t see them on AP content being redistributed by AP members. I even wonder if the tags will carry over across the various content management systems out there, once they leap forth from the AP.

But wait, there’s more. What about ACAP? That’s supposed to be a shining star in the rights management area that AP signed on to ages ago. ACAP, which is being positioned (see also here) to European legislators as part of a solution to “protect” newspapers and publishers from those evil “aggregators.”

So now AP is going to use a second system in addition to ACAP? And yet meanwhile fail to follow the most important “system,” basic SEO?

Sigh. Maybe later I’ll ask the AP about it. Maybe they’ll even decide that someone from the AP can speak to me, unlike earlier this year. Believe it or not, I’d like to see them succeed. I only wish it were less talk, less smoke-and-mirrors, less “we can’t unless” and more action with what they really can do now, in an action that technically makes sense.