Westminster Media Forum rows about link economy

A spat at the Westminster Media Forum on May 20th provided the rare opportunity to put human faces to some of the big issues facing news journalism.

Matt Kelly, digital content director of Trinity Mirror Group, called NewsNow, the news aggregator run by fellow panel member Struan Bartlett, a ‘parasite’ which had contributed to the erosion of news.

In January this year, Mirror.co.uk followed the Sun and Times in blocking NewsNow, which has two million users a month, from crawling its site for the links that make up its offer.

Bartlett said his service met the current demand for news from a mix of sources: ‘I don’t think that’s promiscuity; I think that’s choice.’ Meanwhile, Kelly reiterated the Mirror’s strategy to the challenges of the digital age, based on repeat visits from readers loyal to a distinctive brand. Newspapers would go on for years to come, he said: ‘No other medium makes such a deep and rich bond with the consumer.’

Earlier, Bartlett rejected a suggestion from chairman Ray Snoddy that NewsNow was complicit with the ‘free news’ culture. ‘You make it sound like it’s a crime,’ he said. ‘We only link to what’s there already. I don’t believe we ever encouraged anybody to put their news on the Internet for free.’

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