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The Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA) licenses companies to copy from national and regional newspapers and collects fees on their behalf.

I've been talking to the NLA's commercial director Andrew Hughes about the fees newspapers are asking web monitoring services such as NewsNow to pay in order to index and link to their content...

Can you explain what the NLA does? What is its relationship with newspapers?

The NLA was set up in 1996 to create a licensing body to manage newspaper copyright collection from businesses such as press cuttings agencies.

It is owned by the eight major newspapers, who all have an equal share, though it represents hundreds of other smaller newspapers. We have been collecting for use of newspaper content offline since then, and have recently looked at how to apply this for companies and websites that use newspaper content online.

How is the NLA funded?

By the newspapers, though we generate almost £25m gross per year, which is used to fund our activities.

What kind of fees are you expecting from news aggregators such as NewsNow?

We are suggesting that they (NewsNow) pay a web database license fee of around £5,000 to £10,000 per year. We are just focusing on B2B web monitoring services, and the charges could start at £50 per year, depending on the headcount and user base.

So, NewsNow would pay up to £10,000 per year, and users of their paid services would also pay us for the use of this content. The average fee is around £155 per year. I'm surprised that NewsNow feels so strongly about it, as it is a relatively small amount.

Do you think NewsNow is concerned about their users having to pay more?

If you look at the fees that NewsNow charges on its website, users pay from £95 per month for tailored services, though our experience is that many are paying more like £3,000 to £5,000 per annum.

I don't think it is being unduly greedy to suggest that some of this comes back to us on behalf of the organisations creating the content. That is the nub of the issue for us. It's a simple issue of fairness.

Who sets these fees and how have they been determined?

We have set the fees, through a process of  consultation and discussion. We have used offline press content fees as a reference point, and have even discounted this. So online, we are charging around a sixth of the usual fees.

We realise that charging for this online is a new concept, so we have adjusted the fees to take account of this.

What has the response been from the web monitoring services to the NLA's web licences?

We have reached agreement with many of the major press cuttings agencies as well as a large web-based agency, which I can't name at the moment. We are also in a polite dialogue with Meltwater.

I wouldn't say that people welcome the arrival of fees, but some see the benefits of legitimising their use of this content and avoiding exposing themselves to any issues around copyright infringement.

This is something we have seen offline. Before 1995, many businesses that relied on newspaper content could not find a buyer, because no-one would look at an industry which was based around copyrighted content.

The more far-sighted will realise that the legitimacy we provide, as well as the protection from any problems around copyright will help them in future.

If the charges for web monitoring services to use distribute newspaper website content are so low, what is the point?

It is correct that the amounts are relatively low, total revenues may be £1m in a couple of years, and this won't change the face of the newspaper industry by any means. However, newspapers are expecting that the use of their content has a value.

A sense of scale needs to be maintained by all players, it is a small sum of money we are asking NewsNow and others to pay, which is a point of principle for us.

One important point that, deliberatelyy or accidentally, NewsNow misrepresents, is that we are not seeking to disturb the operation of its free sites for consumers, these are notsubjectt to NLA regulation.

In essence, we are deliberately drawing a line between paid services for business users and consumer services.

Do newspapers appreciate the value of links from aggregators? Is there not a risk of cutting off this source of traffic?

The newspaper industry is supporting linking third party use of its content in this way, and appreciates the value of this to its businesses. To suggest otherwise is to fly in the face of reason.

Newspapers are absolutely in favour of links and the NLA is not looking to stop sites from linking.

Why do you think NewsNow is so opposed to the idea?

I can only speculate on NewsNow's motives, perhaps the idea that a licence is needed to copying and use newspaper content is something they feel uncomfortable about. The idea that, once you put content online it can be freely copied is not something newspapers are happy about.

At what point are paid services breaching the terms of the license? By linking with a headline? Providing extracts?

The creation of an index around this content is copying, as is providing headlines and extracts. Newspapers' terms and conditions are clear on this issue, and copying is not allowed under these terms.

Things change on the web, and the invitation from NLA is to accept that change happens and to move into the future. You have to evolve and move forward, you cannot stop the clock on the web at the point where everything is free.

In business terms, you have to recognise that newspapers have shareholders, employees and a business to protect. A way forward needs to be found that will be beneficial to all parties.

What happens if NewsNow refuses to comply?

We have a dialogue with NewsNow, and we hope it will not come to that. Ultimately, if NewsNow refuses to operate by the rules, it creates a difficult situation for us. Our obligation is to treat everyone fairly.

In relation to paid services, we are inviting them to operate them under licenses, and we are protecting them from some of the potential implications of copying that content.

The other thing we are keen for people to understand is that we have invested £2m in providing a better platform for the web scraping and crawling community to use, our eClips web

Scraping and crawling can be ineffective at times and doesn't deal with time issues and take context into account.

We want to make it easier by taking content from newspapers' CMS systems, and we can offer the professional media monitoring agencies a better experience by providing this service.

You are only after a slice of NewsNow's B2B business. Why not B2C? What's the difference between a service that makes money from businesses, as opposed to advertising / consumers?

Both models are valid, but for us, there is a clear dividing line between free ad-supported services directed at consumers and the paid B2B models. It is up to publishers to decide what they want to do about ad supported B2C models, it has never been discussed with us.

Graham Charlton

Published 3 November, 2009 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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Comments (10)

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Scott Bowler

I think he's missing the point - the news aggregators are giving something back to the content providers: traffic.

How the content providers monetise this traffic is up to them. Without news aggregators the number of people coming to their site would be significantly less. This looks like another dangerous step to creating a tiered web where we all have to pay for content.

All this means is that news becomes a commodity that only the well off can afford to consume.

Having said that, we've seen time and and time again that these sorts of things annoy the "internet" and there's usually a massive backlash - let the games begin.

almost 7 years ago



Why don't the Newspaper Licensing Agency have a list of the newspapers they represent on their website?

If I were making the decision at NewsNow the solution is very simple - stop using content from NLA owners/clients.

It's not like they have a monopoly on news...

almost 7 years ago



"Newspapers are absolutely in favour of links and the NLA is not looking to stop sites from linking."

They seem to be shooting themselves in the foot - people will switch to free sources. A bright spark somewhere will come up with a new business model and make traditional press outlets even less relevant than they are becoming.

"The idea that, once you put content online it can be freely copied is not something newspapers are happy about."

News Aggregators like News Now don't copy - they grab the headline of the article and link to the source article.

It seems to me that the newspapers realise their offline sales are dropping and are trying to make up the difference online. Rather than innovating and adapting, they're switching to tactics used by the RIAA - "pay up or we're coming to get you" and we've all seen how well that works.

Perhaps if they set up their own aggregators and charged fees to use them (and offered something that set them apart from companies such as NewsNow) then this would be a more reasonable approach.

This article has really irked me!

almost 7 years ago



Oh, and here's NewsNow's response to this: http://www.newsnow.co.uk/press/openletter.html

almost 7 years ago

Dana Todd

Dana Todd, CMO at Newsforce, Inc.

The bigger threat is search engines in the US - Yahoo News and Google News. Why aren't they addressing the much larger issue?

almost 7 years ago

Hayden Sutherland

Hayden Sutherland, Director at Ideal Interface

My guess is The NLA  don't want to go after the B2C market as Google, etc. probably have more and better lawyers. Its therefore best for them to try and make a case for claiming money from the B2B side of things first, in the hope that they don't wake the sleeping giants....

almost 7 years ago


Newspaper Licensing Agency

1)    Traffic – paid aggregators are responsible for under 1% of traffic to newspapers’ sites.

2)    Costs – It is a B2B initiative.  Consumers, bloggers and others who use free aggregators will not need a licence and will not have to pay. Newspapers make their own arrangements with consumer market players. The new licences apply ONLY those who charge for or pay for online web monitoring.

3)     “own aggregators” – this is exactly what we are doing with eClips web (see above). This will provide a faster, richer service to aggregators and cuttings agencies. The NLA has invested £2m in this product and we are providing this to aggregators – at a cost - to improve their services and therefore the market as a whole.

almost 7 years ago

Hayden Sutherland

Hayden Sutherland, Director at Ideal Interface

Even assuming it is the case that paid aggregators only provide less than 1% of traffic... they also provide significant inbound links for a better SEO perspective, which adds to the overall relevance and positon of the newspaper site across the we. This provides significant value which the newspapers are trying to cut off.

Also why make the distinction between those services that charge (abeit for a headline and a hyperlink) and those 'free' ones that make revenue from advertising, etc.? If copyright has been infringed, why are the NLA only going after those that charge? Surely if a law has been broken, it doesn't just apply to those that have a registration fee for their service, does it?

Or has copyright not really been infringed here?

almost 7 years ago


Keith Simpson

The NLA 'Gestapo' hijacked the PR industry 10 years ago and now clients and agencies are forced to pay them £millions for editorial which is freely available once you've bought a newspaper. Now they are turning thier attention to the digital world as the next sector to bully into submission. My advice is to have nothing to do with them. Never speak to them. Don't answer their calls. Don't catch their eye. Once you appear on their radar you're a target!

almost 7 years ago



As Keith has already indicated, the NLA initially charged media monitoring firms for physically copying the content -- however, they now charge any company that uses newspaper content within their business.

It is not the really the aggregators that NLA sees as a potential goldmine; but companies using the Internet. Within five years, all companies will be forced by the NLA to pay fees to newspaper web sites to access their online content. By hitting the aggregators first, in subsequent witch-hunts, the NLA will claim that hundreds of companies already paying subscription fees. After the companies start paying, ISP's will be targetted ( which of course, will pass the charges onto the end user ).

This is the start of an Internet tax.

I put the NLA in a similar camp to the Performing Rights Society. The wikipedia page for PRS is interesting reading ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PRS_for_Music ). "In 2008 the PRS expanded their legal battle to require licensing to include 61 year old mechanic, Paul Wilson, who plays his radio when he works by himself , a bakery that plays a radio in a private room at the back of the shop, a woman who plays classical radio to calm her horses, and community centres that allow children to sing carols in public."

almost 7 years ago

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