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New York Times, Washington Post, AP Found NewsRight

The organization will license aggregation of digital content

Newspaper organizations are banding together under an organization titled NewsRight to license and profit from the spread of their content online.

A project first developed by the Associated Press and initially named the News Licensing Group, NewsRight launched Thursday with 29 investors, including the AP, New York Times Company, Washington Post Company and numerous other major newspaper coporations.

Its board includes a who’s who of media executives from many of those same companies, such as Tom Curley, President and CEO of the AP, Katharine Weymouth, publisher of the Washington Post and Gary Pruitt, CEO of McClatchy. Its chair is Bob Nutting, CEO of Ogden Newspapers and the owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team.

“We are providing the easiest legal way for internet companies to gain access to quality journalism,” David Westin, the CEO and president of NewsRight and the former ABC News chief, told TheWrap. “We can give them the rights under copyright to use the stuff. They don’t have to be over the line, close to the line, worry about the line. It’s one-stop shopping.”

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NewsRight puts code into every piece published by the sites it works with – 841 newspaper sites at this point – and that code travels with the story across the web. If someone else steals it, NewsRight’s database registers it.

This is not a program to halt aggregation practiced by the likes of the Huffington Post or many other news organizations. If effort is put in to rewrite the work, NewsRight will let you be (at least for now). Those that just “scrape” stories are the target.

“The news and information companies that have come together to form NewsRight believe strongly in the value of original content and its widespread consumption. But as we help content crow, we also need to uphold accountability and integrity – and that is exactly what NewsRight aims to do,” Nutting said.

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Westin said the first product launch would likely be for subscription aggregators, companies that charges business and other enterprises for the serice of providing a structured feed on a given subject (say, energy). NewsRight will charge a subscription fee to provide those aggregators with such a feed.

Given that some sites already provide this feed, why use NewsRight?

“We can provide a full feed, make sure it’s the right version, gauge how popular it is, give the services other information about it, and give them the assurance that whatever they are doing is without question lawful,” Westin said.

Of the sites providing their content to NewsRight, there will be two classes – investors and non-investors. The founding participants – the investors — will get money both from a share of the licensing and as shareholders. Non-investors will just benefit from the licensing.

Exactly how much revenue this venture will bring in remains unclear. Westin said it would be substantial without releasing a target figure.

He also doesn’t believe that this program will cure the ills ailing newspapers. Though as an industry the major newspaper companies remain profitable, their profits and revenues have nosedived over the past decade.

“My view is it’s necessary but not sufficient,” Westin said. “There are a lot of causes for the difficulties newspapers are having, We don’t claim we will solve all the problems. On the other hand, if we can't solve this problem, it will be very difficult for other solutions to work.”

Why is that? Because this is a model based on the concept that newspaper content is worth something and the reader must pay for it. To some new media folks, that is a backwards approach, but it is the same philosophy driving the surge in paywalls the past several months.

The way to track its success is by how many more publications sign up, how many businesses will work with NewsRight and how much value can be recovered and passed back through the licensing. That last question is the same one every newspaper is trying to answer online, so consider this yet another test.