Dear President Hollande,
Reporters Without Borders, an international organization that defends freedom of information, would like to draw your attention to the critical situation of independent media and journalists in Egypt as you prepare to receive Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi today.
In Egypt, which is ranked 159th out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, the authorities are cracking down in a shocking manner on journalists in the name of combatting terrorism.
Many journalists have been arrested, detained and prosecuted on anti-terrorism grounds in recent months. In a witchhunt against Muslim Brotherhood members and sympathizers, the authorities have jailed both Egyptian and foreign journalists whose only crime was to practice their profession.
The authorities have targeted Qatari TV broadcaster Al-Jazeera in particular. There has been an international outcry about the sentences ranging from seven to ten years in prison that were imposed on three of its journalists last June. Their appeal is due to be heard on 1 January 2015.
Since President Mohamed Morsi's ouster on 3 July 2013, more than 20 journalists and activists have been arbitrarily detained on the grounds that they worked for news media owned by or affiliated to the Moslem Brotherhood. Many of them have gone on hunger strike. In 2014 alone, at least 30 journalists have been arbitrarily arrested for allegedly organizing or taking part in demonstrations or supporting a terrorist organization.
The authorities stop at nothing to gag media and journalists that do not toe the official line, thereby flouting the guarantees enshrined in article 71 of Egypt's constitution, which forbids censorship and prison sentences for media offences.
Freedom of information is also undermined by the Egyptian media's extreme polarization into Morsi supporters and opponents. More than 600 journalists recently took issue with the fact that certain Egyptian media arefollowing the government line on combatting terrorism to the point of banning any criticism of state institutions.
The situation of fundamental freedoms, including freedom of information, has now sunk to a level that is unprecedented in Egypt since Hosni Mubarak's overthrow. Despite the strategic interests linking France and Egypt, economic and security concerns should not eclipse the obligation to support efforts to establish lasting democracy in Egypt.
We therefore respectfully ask you point out to President Sisi that his government's current excesses are incompatible with an improvement in relations between Paris and Cairo.
We thank you in advance for the attention you give to our request.
Reporters Without Borders secretary-general
Home secretary Theresa May wants to be able to connect IP addresses (which identify machines) with users (those using it at that particular time).
In a nutshell this means being able to identify whether you were in a particular place at a particular time – only the ‘place’ in question happens to be virtual: a website.
Now clearly this is aimed at identifying terrorists and paedophiles. But then so was RIPA, a law which has been used to spy on journalists and intimidate staff who speak to them and to “pull reporters’ phone records in every single leak inquiry in the last ten years“, including all calls to the Sun’s newsdesk and by their political editor in one inquiry.
In recent weeks we have heard about prison officials monitoring confidential phonecalls between MPs and prisoners, and between lawyers and their clients.
We have heard that mobile phone companies use automated systems that allow police and others with access to get customer data “like a cash machine”. O2 was the only major phone network that even reviewed requests.
And when it comes to communications data we have heard that GCHQ also accessed that information without a warrant.
It’s not just public bodies either. While the newspaper hacking scandal was being investigated, we heard that former police and others who could gain access to surveillance systems were being hired by:
“law firms, telecoms giants and insurance companies … to hack, blag and steal private information to further their commercial interests.”
In short, once it’s available, it’s available to more people, and for more reasons, than you might assume.
So it’s safe to assume that, if this law is passed, yet more information about your virtual whereabouts and those of your sources will become fair game. And if you and a source are in the same virtual place at the same time, you have a problem.
I blogged earlier about HTTPS but that won’t protect you much in that situation. Tor and a Virtual Private Network (VPN) are where you need to look next.
As it happens, the Electronic Frontier Foundation have a very useful interactive graphic which shows you what information can be gathered by hackers, ISPs, police and lawyers when you browse the web without HTTPS or Tor, and what information is left when you do use either or both tools.
Filed under: online journalism Tagged: https, IP addresses, RIPA, security, surveillance, Theresa May, tor
Since Matt Taibbi’s departure, we’ve been working with the team he hired to consider various options for launching a project without him. After multiple explorations, we’ve decided not to pursue the project. Unfortunately, this means that the team Matt hired will be let go.
RELATED ARTICLEThe near future of First Look’s next site, Racket, looks fuzzyOctober 28, 2014The announcement follows weeks of seeming instability at the company. New York Magazine’s Andrew Rice broke the news last month that Taibbi, who had been brought on to run the magazine, would be leaving the project. The team at First Look’s The Intercept followed up with a detailed explanation of the management and culture clashes that led up to his departure. Shortly thereafter, Glenn Greenwald announced that editor-in-chief John Cook was leaving The Intercept and returning to Gawker Media.
In the wake of Taibbi’s departure, the remaining staff of Racket, presumably under the leadership of Racket executive editor Alex Pareene launched a new project that fit in well with what was to have been the magazine’s satirical tone and penchant for pranks. RacketTeen, a somewhat inscrutable Tumblr account, poked fun at everything from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to media insiders to parents.
For sale: website. Never launched
— Racket Teen (@RacketTeen) November 25, 2014
The announcement, which leaves the entire staff of Racket without jobs, was met with consternation and general upset by those in the media who had hoped RacketTeen was the sign of more cutting-edge commentary to come. Some also expressed concerns for how the staff had been treated by First Look.
I miss Racket Teen
— Matt Yglesias (@mattyglesias) November 25, 2014
— daveweigel (@daveweigel) November 25, 2014
Laid-off Racket staff don't even get names. http://t.co/xFFfDzO2L2
— Scott Klein (@kleinmatic) November 25, 2014
What’s next for the staff of Racket, and for First Look, remains to be seen.
— Tim Carmody (@tcarmody) November 25, 2014
Fusion is just pulling up the party bus to the First Look offices now
— Bill Wasik (@billwasik) November 25, 2014
Maybe on Thanksgiving Pierre will pardon one member of @RacketTeen
— Natasha VC (@natashavc) November 25, 2014
I reached out to Racket staff members for comment, but so far haven’t heard anything back.
thank you everyone who is gchatting me rn but the entire @RacketTeen staff has to go get drunk now
— Elle Reeve (@elspethreeve) November 25, 2014
Amid the wry jokes, though, it’s important to remember that Pierre Omidyar, First Look’s founder, promised $250 million to the project last year. The organization is often cited on the list of new media projects that are cause for optimism about the state of the industry. With plenty of funds and talent on hand, there’s considerable confusion over what is causing First Look to falter.
The people at the Racket are some of the most talented people in media. To not figure out how to make it work is totally baffling.
— Philip Bump (@pbump) November 25, 2014
David Beard’s first task as executive editor of PRI.org will be to unite the public media organization’s “journalistic city states,” he said in an interview.
That won’t be a small task. PRI is a Minnesota-based public radio distributor perhaps best known for “The World,” a show put together in Boston. Its newsroom operates out of WGBH, a PBS affiliate. It has partnerships with “Frontline,” “Nova,” GlobalPost and Global Voices. And its website is an amalgam of two organizations — PRI plus “The World.” Beard will be its first executive editor.
Beard told Poynter his primary goal is to grow PRI’s reach by making potential audience members aware of the “treasures” the distributor has to offer, including Radio Ambulante host Daniel Alarcón, “Science Friday” and “Frontline.”
“I think its audience, like so much of journalism, is just a tiny fraction in the universe of people who want to see and hear it,” Beard said. Read more
In a year of both triumphs and stumbles in The New York Times’ ungainly digital business progress, today’s appointment of Kinsey Wilson to the post of strategy and innovation editor makes a lot of sense. Wilson lost his job as NPR’s chief content officer in October. His availability fits right in with still-new Times executive editor Dean Baquet’s needs and plans as he prepares for 2015. The hope: Wilson will provide a missing link, both within and outside the Times newsroom.
RELATED ARTICLEThe newsonomics of The New York Times’ innovators’ dilemmasMay 22, 2014Wilson will serve as one of six Baquet deputies in the recently reshaped newsroom. Most importantly, though, he’s the one who is a full digital convert. Steeped in the traditions and legacies of the newspaper industry, back to his early days working at Newsday and then as executive editor of USA Today, Wilson made his name with his efforts to transform NPR from a big radio operation to a multiplatform one — a transformation still on training wheels. He understands deeply the all-important roles of technology and of partnership in driving all news businesses forward. In those respects, he can be Baquet’s trusted ambassador — the two have known each other for a long time — to worlds not immediately intuitive to Baquet, a master journalist and editor, but one who hasn’t gone digital (“The newsonomics of The New York Times’ innovators’ dilemmas”). With the appointment, Baquet is showing that he is savvy enough to know what he doesn’t know — and to act on that knowledge.
RELATED ARTICLEThe newsonomics of new cutbacks at The New York TimesOctober 1, 2014RELATED ARTICLEThe leaked New York Times innovation report is one of the key documents of this media ageMay 15, 2014Wilson moves into a newsroom recently shaped toward digital yet again. In the October Times newsroom cuts, both costs and legacy positions were taken out. The program of removing as many as 100 positions has centered on “reskilling” for the digital age (“The newsonomics of new cutbacks at The New York Times”). One driver of that, clearly, is the deep print ad losses the Times continues to endure, its third quarter on par with its newspaper peers as one of the worst in recent years. Second, the Times’ leaked newsroom innovation report painted a picture of a newsroom whose digital transition had been real, but also really uneven. Arthur Gregg Sulzberger, the publisher’s son and an heir apparent, led the authorship of that report; he’s since assumed the title of senior editor for strategy.
That is only one of the key relationships that Wilson will have to work. Within the 1,200-plus newsroom, there are of course countless connections to make and reinforce. The good news: Given all the change leading up to 2015, Wilson will find many kindred spirits.
RELATED ARTICLEThe newsonomics of telling your audience what they should doNovember 20, 2014Outside the newsroom — but within the Times itself — Wilson will try to reconnect ties that are strong in some places and weak in others. Consider the recent history. When Bill Keller retired as executive editor in 2011, his digital leadership decamped the Times as Jill Abramson took over. Jon Landman went to Bloomberg as editor-at-large, now heading Bloomberg QuickTake. Jim Roberts joined Reuters for a brief stay, as that company restructured itself, and now serves as Mashable’s executive editor/chief content officer. Jim Schachter was the first to leave; I highlighted his work at WNYC last week. That troika provided outreach both within the building and outside via partnerships. That outreach might have been imperfect, but as one Times exec put it to me, “You at least knew who to go to in the newsroom.” Consider Wilson’s appointment as a new chance to re-establish more orderly working relationships.
RELATED ARTICLEKen Doctor: The New York Times’ financials show the transition to digital acceleratingOctober 30, 2014Of course, since 2011, a lot has changed. Mark Thompson became CEO in 2012 and serves as the Times’ master strategist. Meredith Levien — now looked to for leadership in digital ads generally and native/content marketing specifically — came over from Forbes in July 2013. While Wilson is the new guy on the block, he’ll have a month or several of seniority on the next two Times power players. As he recently reported troublesome quarterly financials, Thompson announced the creation of two new top jobs — chief digital officer and chief marketing officer — and is recruiting for both, as former digital business head Denise Warren departs. Wilson’s relationships with all these players, on his own and as Dean Baquet’s surrogate, will be crucial to the next phase of the Times’ transformation to a mainly digital enterprise.
RELATED ARTICLEThe newsonomics of NPR One and the dream of personalized public radioJuly 28, 2014Outside the company, Wilson, too, will work relationships. In his NPR role, he’s been a frequent visitor to Silicon Valley, working connections with Apple and smaller companies as he prepared to launch the NPR One mobile app, intended to put distance between NPR and its commercial aggregator competitors. That product just got off the ground (“The newsonomics of NPR One and the dream of personalized public radio”) and in so doing rankled some of the execs of public radio’s biggest stations. Those sharp elbows helped push Wilson out of the NPR job, and he is no stranger to them, given his work in dedicated-but-contentious public radio and, before that, Gannett. It may seem like an out-of-frying-pan, into-the-Times-fire scenario, but it’s one Wilson is suited for by knowledge and temperament. One looming question: How will the still-insular Times culture accept a non-Timesman in this position? While new NPR CEO Jarl Mohn figures out his next leadership moves — the appointment of a new head of news is pivotal to that and expected by January — NPR’s loss should be the Times’ gain.
It’s curious. Both The New York Times and NPR command huge national audiences. Both can claim pioneering status in moving from legacy formats into the new digital-delivered world. Both depend on their audience — the Times through subscribers, NPR through station payments bolstered by millions of members — to feed their journalism. Both have suffered job cutbacks just this year. Yet both possess the strengths to make it to the other side of this digital divide.
Twenty-five years of news industry experience on the web has yielded quite an education for some. Increasingly, the leadership of places like the Times and NPR is being cross-pollinated, as veterans — like Kinsey Wilson — take what they’ve learned at one shop and apply at another.
Photo of Kinsey Wilson (right) at the 2011 IMA Conference by Current.org used under a Creative Commons license.
Via New York Times standards editor Phil Corbett, Mark Bulik reminded staffers Tuesday to cut the holiday clichés:
As yuletide clichés go, “Christmas came early for so-and-so” is nearly a match for “’tis the season.” We’ve done a fairly good job of avoiding the latter. But it seems that every year, Santa checks his list in advance and brings an early Christmas present to someone via The New York Times. A few ghosts of clichés past:
Bulik lists phrases to avoid, including “early Christmas present,” “Christmas came early,” “’tis the season,” “all the trimmings,” and “the white stuff”.
Last week, NPR standards editor Mark Memmot warned NPR staffers against using a few holiday standards, including:
- “Twas the night before…”
- “Over the river and through the woods …”
- “Bah, humbug.”
Is it possible that we have to thank the white Southern press of the 1960s – even the segregationist press – for its restraint in resisting FBI attempts to smear the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., with sexual scandal?
That question is raised, but not sufficiently developed, in a Nov. 11 New York Times piece written by Yale historian Beverly Gage. She discovered in the files of FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover an uncensored draft of what has been called the “suicide letter.” The letter was part of an elaborate effort to discredit King, who was about to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
Based on wire taps and audio tapes, the one-page letter, supposedly sent by an outraged black citizen, described in the vivid language of the day examples of King’s marital infidelities and sexual adventures. The writer, actually an FBI agent, threatened to go public in 34 days with details of King’s affairs. Read more
Sam Zell’s book “GRAVEDANCER: The Art of Winning in Turbulent Times” has been sold to Portfolio, Publishers Marketplace reported Tuesday. The book is “a personal and professional memoir” with “compelling stories about his biggest deals and share tips for entrepreneurs who want to follow in his footsteps.”
Such entrepreneurs may wish to read about Zell’s foray into the media business in this 2013 Chicago Tribune series.Read more
Former NPR executive Kinsey Wilson will become editor for innovation and strategy at The New York Times, the company announced Tuesday.
Wilson, who is a trustee for Poynter, left NPR in October.
At the Times he will “be in charge of expanding mobile strategy and creating new digital products inspired by Times journalism like the NYT Now and NYT Cooking apps,” the Times’ release says. Wilson will also “be the newsroom’s main liaison on digital matters to the business side of The Times Company.”Read more
The Chronicle Herald in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Monday broke a court-ordered ban on publishing Rehtaeh Parsons name. Parsons died last year; she was tormented by a photo that she said showed her being raped.
The photo fell under Canada’s child-pornography laws, which meant, a judge said, that Canadian media would be enjoined against printing her name in subsequent actions. That led to weird write-arounds like referring to a “high-profile child pornography case” and the Chronicle Herald refusing an ad from Parsons’ uncle naming her.
“We believe it’s in the public interest in this unique case, given the widespread recognition of Rehtaeh Parsons’ name, and given the good that can come, and has already come, from free public debate over sexual consent and the other elements of her story,” an editor’s note atop Monday’s story reads. It continues:
It is difficult for readers to follow a news story when the name associated with it is omitted, and we want to inform Nova Scotians of the outcome of this legal case.Read more
Two NGOs that support the media – the Moscow-based Information Agency MEMO.RU and St. Petersburg's Regional Press Institute – have for the first time been added to the official list of “foreign agents,” a term used since 2012 to stigmatize NGOs that receive foreign funding and are suspected of “political activity.”
After examining a lot of documentation, the justice ministry added them to the list on 20 November, in yet another sign of how events in Ukraine continue to exacerbate repressive tendencies in Russia since Vladimir Putin's return to the Kremlin.
MEMO.RU operates Kavkazsky Uzel (“Caucasian Knot”), a leading Russian media, covering the 20 regions of the Caucasus. It has for 12 years been a partner of the best-known human rights NGO in the post-soviet area,International Memorial Society, and prints many of its publications. One of the entities of the Society, the Civil Rights Defense Center “Memorial”, has been on the “foreign agents” list since July, but the justice ministry went one step further and asked the supreme court to dissolve the Russian Memorial Society on October 10.
Grigory Shvedov, who heads MEMO.RU and edits Kavkazsky Uzel, told Reporters Without Borders that the potential impact of being added to the list was “hard to predict for the time being.” He said he intended to file a legal appeal against the decision but was still awaiting official notification.
“I cannot comment on this decision because I have not yet received it,” he said. “According to what I read on the justice ministry website, they think we are foreign agents. I think this is not right (...) I think our activities are not political. In any event, this law is a disgrace for Russia.”
Created in St. Petersburg in 1993 as the Russian American Press and Information Centre, the Regional Press Institute became an independent NGO in 2003 with the mission of supporting independent news media, journalists and journalism students in Russia.
The authorities have been harassing it ever since 5 July when its director, Anna Sharogradskaya, was briefly arrested at St. Petersburg's Pulkova airport and her computer equipment was confiscated. In response to the complaint she filed, a court ruled on 14 November that the confiscation was legal. Now the justice ministry has announced that she is to be prosecuted for “extremism” and “inciting hatred.”
“By adding these two media support NGOs to the ‘foreign agents' list, the authorities have fired a new warning shot across the bows of freedom of information in Russia,” said Johann Bihr, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.
“It is not only slanderous but also dangerous. Derived from Soviet terminology, this label brands civil society organizations as suspects, as enemies and as targets. We again urge the government to end this form of harassment, which is incompatible with the constitution and the international conventions ratified by Russia.”
The law slapping a “foreign agent” label on NGOs that get international funding and are deemed to be involved in what are very vaguely and broadly defined as “political activities” was adopted in July 2012, a few months after an unprecedented wave of protests in most major Russian cities.
The law initially envisaged that the NGOs concerned would register themselves but this was amended in June 2014 because many organizations refused to cooperate. The justice ministry now has full powers to impose the “foreign agent” label itself, without a court decision and without the consent of the NGO concerned.
Only one NGO had registered before June. Since then the justice ministry had put 16 NGOs on the register and the list is likely to get longer. Human Rights Watch reports that, after the accounts of hundreds of NGOs were inspected in March 2013, 55 received warnings, 20 were told they were outside the law and around two dozen prosecutions were initiated against NGOs and/or their directors.
148 NGOs, including Reporters Without Borders, sent an open letter to President Putin on 20 November condemning the “foreign agents” law as an attempt to smear and criminalize civil society and stressing the importance of NGO activity for the well-being of the Russian state and society.
The Russian Security Council meanwhile approved an overall strategy for combatting extremism on 20 November, one that is to be finalized by June. After discussions dominated by the spectre of the “colour revolutions” in nearby countries in recent years, the new strategy identified “certain foreign NGOs” as one of the main national security threats.
Russia is ranked 148th out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.В реестр «иностранных агентов» попали две общественные организации поддержки СМИ
Минюст Российской Федерации включил 20 ноября 2014 года Институт региональной прессы и частное «Информационное агентство MEMO.РУ». Этот термин является ярлыком, который навешивают с 2012 года на подозреваемые в «политической деятельности» НКО, получающие средства из иностранных источников.
На фоне украинских событий не прекращаются обостряться ограничивающие свободу тенденции, получившие толчок в России с возвращением к власти Владимира Путина. 20 ноября 2014 года впервые две организации поддержки СМИ были включены в реестр НKО, выполняющих функции «иностранных агентов». После проверки их счетов и прочих официальных документов Минюст пришел к выводу, что Институт региональной прессы и частное Информационное агентство «MEMO.РУ» финансировались из-за границы и вели «политическую деятельность».
MEMO.РУ управляет российским интернет-изданием «Кавказский узел», которое освещает события в двадцати регионах Кавказа. Будучи более двенадцати лет партнером наиболее известной на постсоветском пространстве правозащитной международной организации «Мемориал», это агентство также тиражирует различные публикации это НKО по всей стране. Минюст, кстати, обратился в Верховный суд 10 октября с тем, чтобы потребовать роспуска организации «Мемориал-Россия». Один из ее филиалов правозащитный центр «Мемориал» уже занесен в перечень «иностранных агентов» с июля месяца.
Отвечая на вопрос Репортеров без границ о последствиях этого решения для портала «Кавказский узел», главный редактор интернет-издания и директор MEMO.РУ Григорий Шведов считает, что «пока их трудно оценить». Даже если он и намерен обратиться в суд с тем, чтобы оспорить решение о записи НKО в реестр «иностранных агентов», он еще не получил официальное постановление : «Я не могу комментировать это решение, поскольку его еще не получал. Из того, что я прочитал на сайте Минюста, ясно, что они думают, что мы иностранные агенты. Я думаю, что это неправильно. (...) Считаю, что наша деятельность не носит политический характер. В любом случае этот закон является позором для России».
Институт региональной прессы, созданный в 1993 году под названием «Российско-американский пресс-центр», стал независимой НПО в 2003 году. Он нацелен на поддержку независимых СМИ, журналистов и студентов журналистики в России. Институт подвергается сильному давлению со стороны властей после задержания генерального директора института Анны Шароградской 5 июля в аэропорту Пулково, в ходе которого было конфисковано все ее информационное оборудование. Суд, получивший иск от пострадавшей, постановил 14 ноября, что конфискация была законной, а Министерство юстиции объявило, что собирается привлечь ее к ответственности за «экстремизм» и «подстрекательство к ненависти».
«Включение в реестр «иностранных агентов» двух НKО, оказывающих поддержку СМИ, является новым предостережением, угрожающим свободе информации в России, - так считает Йоханн Бир, руководитель отдела Восточной Европы и Центральной Азии Репортеров без границ. Такая характеристика не только клеветническая, но она и опасная: будучи пережитком советской терминологии, она бросает на организации гражданского общества тень сомнения и подозрения, выставляя их в качестве врагов и мишени. Мы вновь призываем власти прекратить такое преследование несовместимое с Конституцией и ратифицированными Россией международными конвенциями».
Закон, расценивающий некоммерческие организации, получающие финансирование из-за границы и ведущие по размытому определению «политическую деятельность» в качестве «иностранных агентов», был принят в июле 2012 года, через несколько месяцев после начала беспрецедентного массового движения протеста в большинстве крупных российских городов. Текст, изначально предусматривающий самостоятельную запись соответствующих НКО в реестр, был дополнен в июне 2014 года в результате отказа многих организаций. Отныне Минюст располагает широкими полномочиями, позволяющими ему на свое усмотрение вешать на НKО ярлык «иностранного агента» без судебного на то решения, ни согласия самих организаций. В то время как только одна организация внесла свое название в список до июня 2014 года, Минюст занес в перечень 16 дополнительных НKО. Этот список может и дальше расшириться: по оценкам организации «Human Rights Watch» после проверки отчетности сотни НKО в марте 2013 года 55 организаций получили предупреждение, 20 других известили о том, что их деятельность незаконна, в то время, как было начато 24 судебных процесса против НKО и/или их директоров.
20 ноября 2014 года 148 организаций, в том числе Репортеры без границ, направили открытое обращение Владимиру Путину с тем, чтобы осудить попытку в виде принятия закона об «иностранных агентах» дискредитировать и криминализировать гражданское общество, а также с тем, чтобы напомнить о значении деятельности НKО для слаженного функционирования российского государства и общества.
В тот же день Совет безопасности РФ утвердил основные ориентиры стратегии борьбы с экстремизмом, которая будет доработана к июню 2015 года. На фоне «цветных революций» в новой стратегии борьбы «ряд иностранных НKО» приводятся в качестве примеров основной угрозы национальной безопасности.
Россия занимает 148-ое место из 180 во Всемирном индексе свободы прессы 2014 Репортеров без границ.
Google wants to be the wallet you use to pay for news. Again.
Last week, the company debuted Contributor, an experimental platform that lets people pay publishers for visiting a site. Instead of buying a subscription, readers put $1 to $3 a month into an account that is used to pay publishers on a per-visit basis. Currently 10 sites are participating in the experiment, including Mashable, The Onion, Science Daily, and wikiHow (others have not been announced by Google).
The way it works is that each publisher gets the equivalent of the market rate for an ad shaved off their contribution each time they visit a site, according to Google spokeswoman Andrea Faville. Users can support their favorite website and enjoy an ad-free (or at least Google-ad-free) reading experience. People using Contributor get a NSFW-looking pixelated box in the familiar ad slots on a page, along with a message thanking them for contributing.
Contributor is currently invite-only, but the project has the potential to be expanded out to more publishers and a broader collection of users, Faville told me. “A healthy web depends on healthy publishers,” she said.
Whether or not banner ads are dead, media companies of all sizes are trying to invest in new ways of making money. According to Paul Cafiero, a spokesman for Mashable, the company is curious to see what the experiment with Google yields.
“Mashable is continuously experimenting with new platforms, formats, and technologies to provide our audience with the best possible experience,” said Cafiero. “We are excited to work with Google in this experimentation phase of Contributor to test out this new form of ad distribution.”
Contributor is one of a number of reader-revenue options a publisher can use alongside advertising, events and other sources. A number of publishers like The Next Web have already experimented offered ad-free reading as a premium, subscription-level service. Getting funded by the crowd is also becoming a popular strategy, through sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo that offer easy mechanisms for supporting passion projects. Artists, inventors, and established companies are appealing to the audience’s wallets.
Contributor is the latest in a line of efforts from Google to reach out to an industry that has seen it as an adversary at best and a thief at worst. In September, YouTube introduced Fan Funding, which lets viewers throw a few dollars towards video producers.
RELATED ARTICLEHow Google is quietly experimenting in new ways for readers to access publishers’ contentOctober 31, 2011Google Consumer Surveys is another kind of paywall alternative for publishers, asking readers to answer questions in exchange for access, with Google paying publishers per response. So far, the survey system has remained small, favored by medium-to-small news organizations.
RELATED ARTICLEThe Newsonomics of Apple/Press+/Google’s pay-for-allFebruary 17, 2011One of Google’s original experiments in paying for content was One Pass, a transaction tool that let readers pay for their news subscriptions through Google Checkout. Debuting in 2011, One Pass was seen as an alternative to Apple’s Newsstand that offered ease of use and fluid transactions without Apple’s 30 percent cut.
One Pass failed to catch on, with only a handful of publishers using the system before it was shuttered a year later.
Then, as now, Google faced a problem convincing publishers to work with them. Even as the company has courted favor with the media by branding its products as tools for journalism, they remain a target from publishers who say Google search welds too much power over the distribution of content.
Faville said Google is committed to finding ways to help publishers support their work. If Contributor proves successful they might expand it to more partners, she said. “This is another experiment in that same vein in looking at different models in helping publishers fund their content,” she said.
Photo of a wallet by Amit Gupta used under a Creative Commons license.