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BBC ‘bleeds value into Yahoo’

Deserves rough week, FT columnist says

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The BBC this week announced a news republishing deal with Yahoo! In deference, to the organisation's non-commercial remit, Yahoo! promises that all BBC News stories posted on the site would be carried free of advertising. The BBC is providing news FOC (free of charge).

FT hack James Harding described the deal as "worrying". Writing in today's Media and Advertising column, he says: "The logic for the BBC is that this helps it meet its public service remit by reaching more online readers. But the commercial value is that it bleeds BBC value into Yahoo!. The Internet portal can swell its perceived value thanks to licence fee-funded BBC content.

"The BBC/Yahoo! deal is the just the latest example of the how the pretence that public service broadcasting principles that suit the Internet world can be of value to commercial organisations, but of dubious benefits to the Beeb and the payers of the licence fee."

And we just thought it was straightforward publishing deal.

Yahoo! in the UK and Ireland has republishing arrangements with over 140 content providers, none of whom think their value is bleeding into Yahoo! We know this because we have entered into a similar FOC arrangement with the portal (except we are a commercial operation and we do not insist that there is no advertising on our stories. How could we?)

A selection of our stories will appear every day on Yahoo! as soon as we get our programming act together (in other words, RSN). The Register also supplies certain stories FOC through TDL Infospace UK, a Web syndication house. Why do we do this?

  • Yahoo! does not charge news houses to reproduce content (but ecommerce operations may be different)
    Some portals charge news providers for placement, and will impose a hefty premium for the right front page of their sections. We think this sucks. But hey, we can see why some Web sites cough up. Remember, many sites are desperate for traffic. Paying a portal to carry headline links can seem like a relatively cheap method of generating traffic, as well as brand awareness.
  • Yahoo! does not pay for content
    Of course there could be some old Reuters, PA deals hanging about. And the advent of The BBC on Yahoo! could torpedo any historic newswire contracts. In which case, it's Television Tax-funded, government-subsidised statist organisation undermining commercial operations. The Register has certain paid-for content syndication deals. So why would we give away to Yahoo! for free, what some others are prepared to pay for?
  • Yahoo! UK has 10 million page impressions a day
    The Register has 10 million page impressions and 750,000 or so readers a month. And we have a smaller percentage of British readers than does Yahoo.co.uk. We think signing up with Yahoo! will expand our audience reach in our home territory. Which makes good marketing sense to us, especially as, unlike Boo.com, we have not spent a penny on advertising or marketing. Yet. (Of course, this sort of calculation will not figure very highly in the thinking of BBC, which has history, a few radio stations, a brand name that many of us have heard of. And a television station or three.)
  • What's done can be undone
    If it fails to pan out between Yahoo! and The Register - we see no reason why this should be the case - the contract will come to an end. The BBC can also walk away. But why should it do this?
  • The company we keep
    The Register gains kudos by hanging out with Yahoo! We think the BBC will gain by associating with the world's biggest portal. The BBC operates a hugely successful Web site operating - generating 75 million page impressions per month - but is it a big Internet player? I don't think so. It is not exactly locked into The Internet Economy.
  • Television Taxes
    What purpose is gained by restricting BBC content to its own sites? There is no commercial gain -- it's not allowed to sell advertising space, or strike ecommerce deals with third parties. Instead, the site lives off taxpayers' money. This could and should change. BBC online content should not be Television Tax-funded. That is where the real iniquity lies.
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