301 BOSTON GLOBE SEEKS MORE RIGHTS
April 17, 2000
The Boston Globe has presented freelancers -- photographers and writers -- with a
new contract that attempts to get the right to reuse, in a variety of ways, anything
originally produced for the Globe.
The agreement does not stipulate what the payment will be for all these rights
(that is left to individual negotiation with each freelancer), but it is believed
the Globe wants these additional rights for the same fees they have been paying
for one-time use.
The contract says, "...I also agree that this non-exclusive license includes the
right to publish the Works; to create derivative works; to use, adapt, modify,
perform, transmit or reproduce such material and derivatives in any form or medium
whether now or hereafter known throughout the world including, without limitation,
compilations, microfilm, library databases, videotext, computer databases,
CD-ROMs, and the Internet; and to transfer or sublicense any of these rights to
any entity acting for the benefit of The Globe, as determined in its sole
discretion, or to its subsidiaries, affiliates, successors or assigns;..."
The contract also attempts to retroactively grab all rights to works previously produced for,
or published in, the Globe. This is a blatant attempt to get around the rights
the courts have acknowledged belong to freelancers in the recent successful appeal of the
Most freelancers are not signing. The Globe has set a June deadline for when they
will stop using freelancers who do not agree to their terms. Boston freelancers
are organizing in an attempt to negotiate fairer terms, and are encouraging
freelancers around the country who might do occasional work for the Globe to
reject the Globe contract.
Trade organizations around the country are speaking out in support of the
freelancers working for the Globe. In
Story 300 ASJA
(American Society of Journalist and Authors) and PACA (Picture Agency Council
of America) support the freelancers.
Changing News Environment
contract anticipates a diminished use of traditional print to deliver information
and the Globe's recognition that there are growing opportunities to earn additional
income in a variety of ways from
material initially produced for a print medium. It is not inconceivable
that newspapers will eventually earn a substantial portion of their revenues from
distribution of news content in ways other than in printed newspapers.
In the future more information is going to be delivered on the web and less in
newspapers. Freelancers need to structure their compensation based on how material is used in
order to retain some control over their future. The best way to do that is to
license rights for each usage separately. If you think newspapers will never
change or go away, consider the following:
40% of newspaper revenue is from classified ads. Classified ads can be delivered
much more effectively and efficiently on-line than through a newspaper. The only
thing that will slow down a rapid migration of this revenue stream is the number of
newspaper readers who have access to on-line. How long do you think that is going to
remain at a relative low number?
Stories produced by the Globe will be sold all over the U.S. and the world -- not
just in Boston. Your absolutely right, nobody outside of Boston is going to have any
interest in what a city councilman has to say about pot holes in the streets. That
story is unlikely to have any residual value. But, Boston has MIT, Harvard, major
industries and scientific research facilities of all types. Stories on the things
happening in these institutions will have national and international interest. The
Globe is going to be selling these stories. Why shouldn't the writers and
photographers share in the benefits?
Now you can go on the internet and get lots of information for free. Through links
you jump from one site to another and pick up free bits of information here and
there. In the future many of these links will take you to a site where you must pay
(a modest amount) for information. Paying for the service will be easier than using
a credit card in a retail store today. Users will gladly pay for good information
because they need it, and because the source is trustworthy, reliable and inexpensive
compared to what they would have to go through to get the information they need
Feature stories, originally prepared for newspapers, that explain a new discovery
or a particular process will be used to a much greater extent in textbooks and
educational material. Today, when a professor develops reading material for his
class, he can go to a textbook publisher and say, "I want the first two chapters from
book "A", then chapters 8,9 and 14 from book "B", etc, and this
report from the National Academy of Sciences and these three stories from the Boston
Globe." The publisher will package the
product, sell it for about the cost of a major textbook, and the
Globe will get a percentage of the fee based on the number of copies printed and the
number of stories used. It is not inconceivable that the fees for some stories will
be higher than others because of what was involved in producing them. Through
databases the tracking of specific stories and pricing them differently will be easy.
The Globe will sell reprints of in depth analysis piece on companies or
institutions to the companies. The companies will be willing to pay a great deal of
money for fair and balanced pieces because the piece was prepared by a creditable,
outside, independent source. Fortune, Forbes, Business Week and other smaller
business already earn a great deal of income in this manner. The companies use this
material in their advertising and marketing and it has much more value than anything
the company might say about itself. The same is true for personality pieces about
individuals who sell their services as consultants.
Consider how inefficient the current process of preparing and delivering newspapers
is. I'm not talking about the about collecting and editing the information. That
will continue in the new environment. Rather think about the process of printing
millions of pages of information a day, carting those pages to peoples front doors,
and the percentage of those pages that are never looked at on their way to the trash.
Such inefficiency will not last forever.
Almost no one but the editors is interested in all the subjects covered in the paper.
Some people want city news, others suburban. Some want sports, but have little
interest in international news, etc. You get the idea.
Then consider how long it will be before everyone has not only a computer in their
home, but also a laser printer. Instead of printing presses in the basement of the
Globe, and the trucks and newsboys delivering papers, each reader inputs into their
PC the general topics that interest them, and the level of their interest. This
request list can be modified daily. The reader might set up a standard request like
1 - the two lead stories of the day
2 - summaries (3 graphs each) of the next ten local stories
3 - summaries of 5 international stories
4 - Anything to do with medicine (the reader is a doctor)
5 - 3 business stories
6 - summaries of next 5 business stories
7 - Lead story on the Red Socks and the Bruins
8 - Ellen Goodman's column
While they sleep these stories will be printed on their laser printer. By reviewing
the summaries they can determine if they want to see the entire story connected with
any particular summary, go to their computer, click on the URL and either read the
story on-line or print it out.
Video might accompany some of these stories. If the reader is interested in seeing
the video he or she will go back to the computer and view the particular story.
Users may get local information and sports from the Globe, but decide to obtain their
business stories from the Wall Street Journal, International stories from the New
York Times, and government stories from the Washington Post. It will no longer be
necessary for every paper to provide world coverage.
The computer program can call up stories from each of these publishers while the
reader is sleeping and have reader's "custom newspaper" in the printer tray when they
Don't like the idea of laser printing. Keep an eye on e-books. They're in the
early adopter stage now. The main disadvantage seem to be that the screen is not as
easy to read as paper. However, developers insist they will solve this problem not
far down the road. If they can, consider what that could mean for newspapers.
You still set up your basic requests for the standard downloads. But, instead of
printing the information, the data is dumped into your 6x9" e-reader and you take
that with you to the breakfast table or the subway. Find an article you want to save
for further reference, mark it for storage and later dump it to your hard drive.
Otherwise, after you read a story you simply dump it to clear space for the next
day's news. No more papers to carry out to the trash.
This e-reader will probably have enough storage to accept, and re-play, short video
clips as well as stills.
Users will pay a monthly or annual fee for these services. The fee will be less
than they are currently paying to have the newspaper delivered to their door -- and
the publishers will be making more money for providing this service. The fee will
probably vary with the number of stories downloaded each day. Any individual will be
able to search the archive for a specific story and download a single story for a
specific fee. Many people will gladly pay the small fees to get specific stories
rather than go to their public library to look for them. Consequently publishers
like the Globe will start earning usage fees as content is accessed, rather than just
selling a single copy to a library.
Think of the advantages to the editors if this information is delivered on-line.
They will know exactly how many people are interested in stories about the Bruins,
compared to those interested in golf, compared to those interested in medicine,
compared to those interested in food, compared to those interested in Africa.
Obviously, they will produce more coverage on subjects of greatest interest and less
on subjects that fewer people want to read, based on the request data the readers
When editors have better information about what their readers want to read, it may
result in the coverage on certain beats being greatly curtailed and others expanded.
Improved data will change the way stories are assigned.
In a speech entitled "The Death of Print?" at the Graduate School of Journalism at
Columbia University in December 1999, Dan Okrent, Editor-at-Large of Time Magazine
said in his conclusion, "I believe all forms of print, are dead. Finished. Over.
Perhaps not in my professional lifetime, but certainly in that of the youngest people
in the room." I believe we will see dramatic changes in the next decade. If you
expect to be working for more than ten years, you had better start adjusting to the
new environment rapidly.
The web is a video medium, not a still medium. In the near future there will be
greater demand for video and less for stills. People will want to get their
information where they can view video, not just stills. News photographers shooting
stills will have to re-train and re-equip. Think not! Vin Alabiso, AP Vice
President, believe that within a couple of years new technology will enable
photographers to simultaneously capture video and still frames with a single camera.
The quality of the still frames will be sufficient for newspaper and magazine
reporduction. He added, "The technology needs to evolve somewhat, but it is close."
Think about how web delivery will help advertisers. They will know specifically
who is interested in reading what stories. They will have access to the individual
e-mails of each of these readers. No longer do you have to buy a million circulation
to hit the right 5,000 readers. Moreover, as an advertiser finds someone who shows a
little interest in their product they can continuously feed that specific reader more
and more detailed information about the products and services that interest them.
Readers will like this method of advertising, because the are less likely to be
bombarded with so much advertising information about which they have absolutely no
Once a critical mass of buyers start using the internet in this way advertisers are
going to hate paying the cost of newspaper and magazine advertising because it is so
inefficient in selling their product or service. Newspapers and magazines can not
exist without advertising. Advertising -- not subscriptions -- pays the bills. If
even a portion of the advertising disappears from print products the products
themselves will take on a vastly different character.
The "news hole" will dwindle. There is no question that this will happen. The only
question is how fast. When it happens your compensation needs to be based on the
benefits you bring to delivering information in the on-line environment, not the
benefits you bring to dead print.
Down the road more and more of the money publishers earn will be based on what is
actually read, not on simply delivering a product on a daily basis. The quality of
the content will become more important. Content providers will have to learn many
new skills -- and if they are photographers -- totally re-equip.
Publisher will be tracking readership on a per story basis. There is no reason why
some part of the compensation they provide content providers shouldn't be based on
With the distribution the web makes possible, there will be much less need for many
reporters and photographers to cover the same story -- each providing basically the
same information to their own individual publications. Those who are kept on the
payroll, are likely to be doing fewer stories, but each with more depth. The stories
produced will be distributed better and sold over and over to a broader audience.
Are you going to continue to work for the same price per story you have been paid
when you put in more time, more research and produce fewer of them?
If you go online to http://www.merlin-net.com and input the keyword "Boston" you
get a choice of 6032 photos -- most of them taken by Globe photographers. You can
buy an 8x0 for $34.95 or an 11x14 for $66.41 for personal use. I presume the Globe
photographers get no part of these sales.
Many newspapers are making deals with stock agencies to license rights to their
images for other print uses. I presume that when this happens 100% of the
compensation goes to Globe, not the photographer. This may be fair if the
photographer is a staffer who receives salary plus benefits, and has some reasonable
guarantee of long term employment. Freelancers, with no benefits of guarantee of
future employment, should be paid for such usages.