The old dust-up over newspapers (and other media) paying non-staff bloggers for their contributions is being debated on the Center for Citizen Media Blog and only Tish Grier got it right in her comments (“…what’s wrong with just aggregating this content and sharing traffic with local bloggers?”).
I think that’s the answer for newspapers: Aggregate and point off.
It’s a win-win.
Newspapers get great local content (but not all of it), and bloggers get traffic most of them couldn’t get on their own.
If the bloggers optimize their sites and the traffic amounts to even modest numbers, they can make more money than the newspaper would be willing to pay.
From the newspaper’s perspective, it’s not essential to own ALL of the content, only to be able to point readers to it.
The newspaper’s new role is to give readers the opportunity to find the best information in their areas of interest, either geographic (neighborhood) or thematic (sports, movies, news, politics, etc.).
Newspapers don’t have to create all the information, although we must continue to bring our trained journalists’ lens to bear on key issues that require the skills they’ve learned. We must retain our watchdog role.
But we don’t necessarily need trained journalists to report on local grade school plays, car shows, local festivals, etc. It’s great if we can, but isn’t it better to have a mom or dad or interested citizen put something up than to have nothing at all?
Besides, bloggers are in many more places than the newspaper staff could ever be. And their interests are more diverse by dint of numbers alone. So a newspaper’s reach and relevance are increased many fold.
But aggregation is worthless if the links aren’t posted in the appropriate sections of the newspaper’s website and if excerpts aren’t published in the appropriate sections of the newspaper itself. You can’t drive traffic to your website and to the bloggers websites without constant, pervasive promotion.