Clay Shirky, as part of Nieman’s lab predictions for journalism in 2011, has commented on what he thinks the future of news syndication and wire services might be.
He points out that we’ve got to point now where thousands of outlets publish identical articles, thanks to the proliferation and widespread access to wire services. Even the most inane story can be replicated.
This kind of linking, traffic driving, and credit are natively web-like ideas, but they are also inimical to the older logic of syndication. Put simply, syndication makes little sense in a world with URLs. When news outlets were segmented by geography, having live human beings sitting around in ten thousand separate markets deciding which stories to pull off the wire was a service. Now it’s just a cost.
Shirky continues to point out that a system which awards, and highlights, original reporting, is much preferred. Instead, the current system gives a story the appearance of having being widely read, across outlets and nations, when in fact a very small number of these will be original reporting.
Using Google News to search for anything, this quickly becomes obvious. Plenty of local newspaper websites are among those that syndicate national stories, provided by wire services. It may well help them drive some traffic to the site. Why would users however, go to a local newspaper website to read national stories? They are unlikely to, instead they’ll go to the BBC, Guardian, Daily Mail.
I’m sure that the news wires will continue for some time yet, but it’s difficult to see how users benefit from widely syndicated articles when the original is always accessible online.