NewsRight Launches With 29 Publishers; ‘Not A Litigation Shop’

Posted on January 6, 2012

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Three years after the Associated Press started the News Registry to help publishers track their content online—and make money from reuse—comes NewsRight, the startup designed to make that work actually pay off.

Headed by David Westin, the former head of ABC News, NewsRight, the new name for AP spinoff NLG, moves into this phase with more than $30 million in cash and in-kind investment from 29 founding news and info publishers covering 841 sites. It also has the rights to license content—not just to track it through the microtag attached to every piece of content on member sites.

The in-kind investment covers the News Registry technology from AP that was spun off into NewsRight’s predecessor and other tech assets. Westin, a former AP board member for broadcasting, joined as CEO in April. At ABC (NYSE: DIS) News, Westin ran a large news global organization. At NewsRight, he heads a lean staff spread between San Francisco and New York; he expects to make some sales and product hires soon.

The roster includes Advance, Hearst, the New York Times (NYSE: NYT) and the Washington Post Co. (NYSE: WPO)—but not Gannett (NYSE: GCI) (full list below). No specifics on the amount of cash but there are three different tiers of membership. Each member has one vote and no company has more than one board member; Bob Nutting, president and CEO of Ogden Newspapers, is the chairman.

The News Registry already tracks more than four billion impressions a month from nearly 170 million unique users but NewsRight has yet to sign a single deal. During an interview, Westin said the company was limited to preliminary discussion until it had the full rights clearance from its members.

NewsRight’s first target: media monitoring services and others who charge enterprises for collecting news and info. He didn’t want to get specific during an interview but for examples think Meltwater, Moreover, Vocus, and BurrellesLuce. He also didn’t want to talk specifics about how the economics of a deal would work but said Newsright would get a fee with the bulk going back to publishers based on what they provide.

He hopes going public will encourage people to come up with new products that might have been considered too difficult before NewsRight could offer one-stop licensing across hundreds of sites. NewsRight services also include data and analytics that would show licensees how specific content is being used.

While NewsRight is headed by a lawyer, it would be a mistake to confuse NewsRight with Righthaven or other concepts based on raising money from copyright transgressions. Publishers can use the information provided by NewsRight to pursue their own actions but that’s not the startup’s mission. “We don’t own the copyrights, we couldn’t bring a lawsuit if we wanted to,” says Westin. “We really are interested in entering to business relationships and contracts. We’re not a litigation shop.”

Full list of NewsRight founding members: Advance Publications, Associated Press, Axel Springer Group, A.H.Belo Management Services, Belo Management Services, Business Wire, Community Newspaper Holdings, El Dia, Galveston Newspapers, Gatehouse Media, The Gazette Company, Hearst Newspapers, Journal Communications (NYSE: JRN), Landmark Media Enterprises, McClatchy (NYSE: MNI), Media General (NYSE: MEG), MediaNews Group, Morris Communications, Morris Multimedia, NPG Newspapers, The New York Times Co., Ogden Newspapers, Pioneer Newspapers, Schurz Communications, E.W. Scripps (NYSE: SSP), Stephens Media, Swift Communications, Times Publishing Co. and Washington Post Co..

After all, in March, the AP’s News Registry, which provides analytics for 800 news websites, says it won’t track the activity of users on any of those sites as long as they have a browser with the DNT “header” turned on. In a post on its official blog, browser maker Mozilla says the AP is the first company to do that on a large scale, and that it only took a few hours for one engineer to implement.

The AP News Registry provides data to news publishers about how their own content, as well as AP content they feature, is consumed. A lot of that data—just measuring which content is most popular, for example—doesn’t involve tracking at all. But the platform can also track viewing habits across different platforms, which is useful when AP content ends up on so many different sites. That can offer deeper information about the audience, allowing publishers to get information about batches of readers that might be interested in subjects, like sports or business, or in particular brands, like the S.F. Giants or Microsoft.

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