Major news groups yesterday jointly committed themselves to enriching the value of their online content while countering the threat from copy-and-paste websites and "netizens" used to getting everything for free.
While the formation of the Online News Producers Club was aimed primarily at protecting the proprietary material of news websites, it may underline the readiness of the print-media industry, which also operates most of the top news websites, to find a firmer commercial foothold in cyberspace.
A joint declaration forming the club was signed by 13 major online news-content providers: ASTV Manager, Thai Rath Online, Daily News Online, Matichon, Post Publishing, the Nation Multimedia Group, Siam Sport, INN Online, Thansettakij Online, Dara Daily Online, Nawnha Online, Siam Rath Online and Thai Post Online.
This is the first formal collaboration of journalists to deal with the current situation where many commercial websites borrow copyrighted material to post on their websites without permission.
The club will be patient and diplomatic at first in trying to convince the commercial websites with pirated news to halt their activities, said Nation Broadcasting president Adisak Limprungpatanakij.
The club wants them to add RSS feeds to their websites, so visitors interested in articles can receive the news from their sources directly, he said.
NO TO PIRACY
"We don't want to limit the news accessibility of people, but we want the owners of commercial websites to be aware of the fact that we have to invest in news production, so they should respect the copyrighted content and not pirate it," Adisak said.
"We always welcome them to make a link back to the original source of news. That would be a better way out for both the websites and the news producers."
The club will select its president and form committees to map out a strategy and measures to promote the proper use of online news among Internet communities and websites.
With news groups still struggling to find a workable online business model, the situation has been hampered by the proliferation of pirated content on commercial websites, a big stumbling block to any plan to charge readers for online news.
All news websites in Thailand are now free, but media-industry observers believe local operators will sooner or later follow the trend of their Western counterparts, who are moving faster towards charging for online news.
While online ad revenue has been increasing, the rise is not fast enough for the print industry to make a drastic switch to a virtual business. Trying to charge readers also carries a risk of sabotaging present online ad revenue, which depends largely on the number of visitors to each website.