UK Newspapers Launch Their Own Pay-For Web Aggregator

UK newspapers have launched their own online service offering pay-for news alerts to PRs clippings agencies, despite ongoing court proceedings against their strategy.

The eClips service is aimed at existing clippings collectors who provide media monitoring services for clients in public relations, and has been in development for two years by the Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA).

The NLA was founded in 1996 by the eight national newspaper publishers to collect fees from cuttings services who photocopied print clippings for clients. In planning eClips, the NLA last year introduced controversial new online licenses that also compel commercial digital monitors like Moreover to pay for crawling members’ websites, as well as their clients for receiving subsequent “copies” of news excerpts.

The PR industry’s PRCA umbrella and the Meltwater digital news monitor took the NLA to London’s High Court but lost in November. Their appeal began last week. Meanwhile, a case at the Copyright Tribunal, a quasi-legislative body that rules on intellectual property levies, is also set between the sides for this coming September.

Free aggregators like Google (NSDQ: GOOG) are exempt from the licenses, which the NLA requires only from commercial monitoring services. Nevertheless, in its announcement today the NLA nevertheless trumpets how its own eClips “covers, on average, 11 percent, more content compared to Google News” when examining, Mail Online, The Telegraph, and alone.

It also claims its own service contains an average 20 percent more content than the third-party commercial monitors, whose spiders crawl news sites themselves.

One possible reason for that – eClips has effective “firehose” access to news sites’ content databases, including to articles from publishers, like The Times, that are paywalled or that otherwise block independent web crawlers. NLA says it can make these articles accessible up to two hours faster than third-party crawlers.

NLA says Gorkana, Precise and Moreover, which serve 3,500 UK clients, have signed on to use eClips.

Regional newspaper website content is due to be added to eClips in the next few months. The eClips service already provided digital versions of print clippings.