News publishers coming to terms with aggregation

Traditional publishers have long operated from a position of weakness online in part because they have lacked the tools and licensing mechanisms for capturing value from the viral distribution of their content.

As I’ve flagged here a few times recently, however, investment and attention are finally starting to flow into developing the layer of business-to-commerce commerce tools that largely has been missing from online publishing up to now. And publishers seem finally to be warming up to the idea that viral distribution is an opportunity, not merely a threat.

The latest to get on board is the Washington Post, which just signed up with NewsCred, the New York-based startup that aggregates content from premium publishers and makes it available under license to non-publishing brands to incorporate into their own online and social-media strategies, along with tools for customizing and curating the fire-hose of content they sign up for.

It’s similar Ricochet, the B2B platform developed internally by the New York Times that I wrote about here a few weeks ago, which allows brands to grab Times content and wrap it in their own advertising for use in their social media marketing. The Times is planning to make Ricochet available to other publishers as well.

Neither NewsCred nor Ricochet is likely to be a panacea for publishers, but at least they represent investment going toward the right layer of the network. And it’s likely to prove a better investment than litigation.