Advertising Age had an interesting this week by Simon Dumenco on how the blog universe relies heavily on images commissioned by traditional media. Basically, many blogs count on getting away with not being challenged over the rights, some even citing wobbly “fair use” as an excuse. “This is because bloggers have come to believe,” Dumenco wrote, “and copyright holders have mostly not disabused them of this notion — that “quoting” pictures to comment on them amounts to “fair use” under copyright law.”
As more MSM outlets cut costs, in the form of original photography, blogs will have to turn more to alternative sources for images. But it seems unlikely that we will see even the most “big media” blogs start to commission original photography en masse. For one thing it simply isn’t worth it, because digital cannot yet match the reproductive quality of print.
Traditional media, regardless of its limitations, still sits at the top of the content supply chain, simply by virtue of the resources it marshals to produce publications or broadcast programming. Having teams of photographers, copy editors, fact checkers, and art directors may increasingly be seen as a luxury that few can afford, particularly if the greatest beneficiaries of the investment are bloggers.
Links to content are a big part of the traffic engine, but that only fulfills only one narrow part of the publishing objective. Without tangible returns on the investment that only “big media” is so far prepared to make, it is likely that marketers - now content providers in their own right - will increasingly fill in the gaps.