400 Years of Content Piracy?

The Center for Media Research pointed me to an international newspaper website that says 2005 (not 2009) is the 400th anniversary of the newspaper — and that complaints about content piracy are just as old. The same item also contains a hint to new media publishers looking for ways to adopt up-to-the-minutes tool & techniques — follow the money.

These insights come from the World Association of Newspapers, which sponsors an editor’s forum where “senior newsroom editors (can) share ideas, experiences and new initiatives on how to defend editorial excellence in the face of shrinking budgets and the onslaught of new media, new technologies and changing readership lifestyles.”

The group also supports a blog with a section on revenues and business models in which I learned that Le Monde has been losing readers and money and is looking for a 50 million Euro bailout and newsroom layoffs to right itself.

The international editors’ website credits The Gutenberg Museum in Mainz, Germany, with pushing the debut of printed news back to 1605, the year that a formerly hand-copied newsletter named Relation converted to the then-new technology of block printing:

“Martin Welke, founder of the German Newspaper Museum, who is also the ‘father’ of the discovery, together with Professor Jean Pierre Kintz, a Strasbourg historian, told WAN that the publisher of Relation was a certain Johann Carolus, who earned his living at the turn of the 17th century by producing hand-written newsletters, sold to rich subscribers at very high prices, reproducing news sent to him by a network of paid correspondents.”

The item, which contradicts earlier assumptions putting 1609 as the birth date of newspapering, goes on to say that “In October that year (1605), Carolus wrote a petition to the Strasbourg city council asking for “protection against reprints by other printers”.

So the more things change the more they stay the same. (Or, in deference to any French readers, La plus ca change, la plus c’est la meme chose.)

Other than the satisfaction of knowing this, I note that long-deceased media pioneer Johann Carolus began by adapting the technology of his day to the most valuable information first. I’m not yet sure how to act on this lesson but it’s worth bearing in mind.

Tom Abate
Cause if you ain’t Mass Media, you’re Mini Media.