MMch has been made of the newsmedia industry’s recent burst of energy related to paid content on the web. The criticism is that what publishers of content-rich media are asking in terms of consumer payments goes against at least two laws: a) content “wants” to be free, generally; and b) the internet should be free and open.

These laws may ultimately be valid. Yet it should be pointed out that these laws also have never been seriously tested.

Globally, there are two broad approaches to extracting maximum value out of the content creation process absent an advertising turnaround:

  • Entrepreneurial: In the United States, news publishers are spending most of their energy devising ways to either get the online consumer to pay for content or to make a firmer connection between fuzzy online metrics and advertising dollars.

  • Legal: In Europe, news publishers are spending most of their energy on copyright protection to reconnect content creation with commercial value – something that, at best, has been interrupted by news aggregators.

Of course, publishers on both sides of the Atlantic are doing a bit of both. Yet it’s fair to say that the American approach is more entrepreneurial while the European approach is more legal.

The disconnect on both continents appears to be about control. American publishers want to dictate the value of content to the consumer, while European publishers want to use tools like the Automated Content Access Protocol (ACAP) to dictate copyright terms.

This need for control is the Achilles Heel of both approaches.

Neither approach is bringing the consumer into the process of evaluating the value of content or the reader’s expectation of fair use.

At minimum, the perception of a high-handed approach isn’t sitting well with a consuming public that views Old Media with growing disdain. A simple adjustment of communications from newsmedia industry bodies that bring the consumer into the equation would, at minimum, mitigate perceptions of angry old rich white men sitting in a room complaining how the world has done them wrong.

Let’s keep an eye on the entrepreneurial soup of options being cooked up in the States, as well as the legal precedents about to move forward in Europe. Let’s also try to keep the consumer front-and-center in communications about these efforts.