Fleet Street

AFP drops Google claim in settlement

AFP and Google settled their long-running copyright squabble on Friday when they signed a licensing agreement that will allow the French news agency's material to appear on Google News.

In 2005, AFP had filed a much-discussed US lawsuit seeking damages for Google's unauthorised use of its text and images in Google's news aggregator without prior permission.

"The agreement will allow uses of AFP's content in ways that go beyond its typical use of content in Google's services," AFP chief executive Pierre Louette told his own wire.

A Google spokesman said the agreement will "dramatically improve the way users experience newswire content on the internet" and will "help highlight original journalism, giving credit to the newswire journalists who worked hard to break the news."

It's the latest hint that the search engine is adopting a different approach to the newswires than it is with "retail" news publishers. Last summer, Google also signed another licensing agreement with the Associated Press. No further details were released, although that deal was said at the time to be for a yet-unreleased new service from Google, rather than for Google News.

Research by Chris Paterson of Leeds University showed that two wires — Reuters and AP — dominate the provision of news online. No wonder Google wants to keep them onside. Google may be making nice with the wire services, but America's latest newspaper mogul is not a fan. The new owner of Tribune newspapers, Chicago property magnate Sam Zell, reignited the old Google-as-kleptomaniac topos when he told students at Stanford University: "We have a situation where effectively the content is being paid for by the papers and stolen by Google etc."

He added: "If all of the newspapers in America did not allow Google to steal their content, how profitable would Google be? Not very."

Bloggers promptly painted Zell as a publishing neophyte making the schoolboy error of not realising that Google does not monetise Google News. But there were a few dissenting voices. ZDnet's Donna Bogatin pointed out that Google does use newspaper content in results from its ad-supported main search engine.

In fact, the research that has gone into Google News is being used to improving Google's search algorithms to facilitate timely results. Google News product manager Nathan Stoll last autumn told Press Gazette that this research is one of the major benefits Google gets from its unprofitable news aggregator.

New ideas for news design

Two design studios have over the past few days unveiled experimental projects that combine traditional news website design with social media trends.

Oliver Reichenstein of Information Achitects Japan, which is currently working for a newspaper client on a developing a more "logical and intuitive unity between screen and paper news", unveiled a hypothetical reimagining of the Washington Post as a wiki.

It's an impressive idea which, as one blogging journalist put it, "combines the traditional and the postmodern" by presenting an old-fashioned-looking print design at the top of the page with a radically interactive set of features below the fold.

Canadian internet consultants Hop Studios, meanwhile, wonder what a news sight might look like if it were "built for sharing instead of for telling?" Its design exercise, for a newssite called (wait for it) Tickr, is based on the photo-sharing site Flickr. It dispenses with traditional newspaper sections in favour of tag folksonomy. It also adds commenting and blogging features, bookmarking and Digg-style voting.

In other words, it would be a bit like the well-established social news site Newsvine.

Meanwhile, the Portland Oregonian has begun a different sort of experiment with Flickr. The US paper is uploading all its photos onto the photo-sharing site. Discussion so far centres on whether this is a violation of the Yahoo-owned photo-sharing site's terms of service.

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