Blogs as 21st Century Newsies: The Guardian's Syndication Experiment

Guardian newspaper

Even as competitors are busy bricking paywalls around their newspaper Web sites, desperately trying to keep the old business models running, the U.K.'s Guardian is taking a wholly different path. The paper has just introduced a free story syndication tool.

The tool is part of the paper's "Open Platform" initiative, and what it does is pretty amazing: If you're a publisher of a blog that uses Wordpress, you can now re-post Guardian articles directly on your blog. The Guardian is essentially giving away its online news content. For free!

There are some conditions, of course: You have to publish the article in full. You also mustn't remove or alter any "text, links or images," so that you preserve the original article with all of its Guardian-sourced editorial goodness. You have to register to get an access code to let you re-publish content, but there's no fee involved. The articles come with performance tracking code built-in, which you also mustn't tamper with, but for the privilege of reproducing the content for free this isn't too much of a price.

The astute observer will be wondering how the Guardian is monetizing this, given that competing papers are busy shutting off free access to their own content on their own Web sites. And the answer is the obvious one: The freely syndicated articles have ads embedded in them (which you must not adjust if you're republishing—though the Guardian notes you're free to have your own ads elsewhere on the page to drive your own monetization efforts). So by republishing the Guardian content, you're effectively multiplying the newspaper's advertising footprint ... and this is how the publication is hoping to make a success of this bold move. If it finds its articles grabbed and republished many times—a situation that may happen as less and less big-name news articles are freely available—then it'll be able to charge more fees to its advertising partners.

Really, this is quite a bold experiment by the publication. In a time when other traditional news sources are running scared from the big, bad Internets, the Guardian is trying a "grab the bull by the horns" approach, and launching an anti-paywall strategy. Only time will tell if it's successful.

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  • tony berkman

    Eit, I'm surprised you'd say this is a "bold move." In fact it a selfish move on the Guardians part.

    From a basic seo/google perspective, it will cause bloggers to to flagged for having duplicate content and the guardian's site will come up first. The Guardian will benefit on the backs of bloggers promoting their sites on sites like blogcatalog and technorati and other blogging networks.

    It's more like spamming the web than doing anything good. How much more of the same story do we need. The beauty of blogging, is fresh content, unique perspectives. It's the reason so many readers gravitate to bloggers and not to papers and magazines, anymore.

    A bold move for the the guardian would be the exact opposite of what they have done. If you're a blogger, you can post directly to the guardian. Now, that's bold.

    Making the comparison to Murdoch, isn't accurate. The Guardian, doesn't want to charge, because they don't have the leverage to make enough money to charge online. Murdoch's empire does. Quality content, created by people, will never be free, unless it's being done as a hobby.

    You will start to see more bloggers charging, micro amounts for posts, in the future. Some things will be free, however, annual digest posts, or monthly specials, will start to cost money.

    Any blogger, who looks at her site as a creation of value. Something that caters to her readers would not "copy a post from a newspaper." That's done already by a 100 plus million spam bloggers already, without permission. Most of those blogs receive zero to 5 visitors a day. That is their objective. With 100 million blogs, one hit a day is 100 million visitors. A few dollars a day to someone living in some parts of the world is a lot more than they will make at a full time job.

  • Ilona Biro

    "If it finds its articles grabbed and republished many times--a situation that may happen as less and less big-name news articles are freely available--then it'll be able to charge more fees to its advertising partners."

    It's not "less and less big-name news articles" it's "fewer and fewer... articles". Even bloggers need to preserve decent grammar when posting...