Blockchain: How can it de-fake news?

The first week of October saw the 49th FIBEP World Media Intelligence Congress in Berlin, an opportunity for media monitoring companies from around the world to meet, network, exchange ideas and experiences, and listen to a range of talks and panels on areas of interest to the sector. The theme of this year’s congress was ‘Media Intelligence and the New Paradigm of Brand Communication.’

I attended, meeting clients as well as new faces providing the opportunity in getting up to date with the issues that face MMOs, one talk in particular stood out as having interest for those of us who work in publishing; the handling of content and copyright. It spurred me on to go and read up on how this technology can be used in our sector.

The talk in question was given by Dr. Elisabeth Hödl from Ubifacts in Austria and was entitled ‘Solving Trust Issues through Blockchain’.  

For the uninitiated (as I was myself a week ago) this blog post by Nik Custodio on Coindesk has the best explanation I have come across: Bitcoin explanation even a five year old will understand. To encapsulate something that is really quite complex into a bitesize blog friendly chunk, it might be helpful to describe Blockchain as a publicly accessible, decentralised ledger - a giant network, which records transactions.  Since it allows near instantaneous transfers anywhere in a matter of seconds without the need for banks or the involvement of any authorities, its primary application has been in the financial sectors. (You may have heard about its most famous application – the digital currency Bitcoin for example)

What does it mean for those of us who work in publishing and copyright?

The relevant applications are twofold – one, it has relevance for news sites looking to monetise content (see the New Scientist blog post) and two, as a means to validate content to combat fake news. It’s the latter that I will focus on here.

The democratisation of content in the online age and all its attendant benefits is well documented elsewhere, but it has also brought a sizeable pitfall to the news landscape in the digital age: Verifiability. How can readers be assured that what they are reading online is trustworthy? The most recent, very obvious and noisy icon of the fake news issue is the 2016 US elections during which even the mainstream US outlets engaged in public mudslinging about bias.

A number of start-ups have recently waded into the fray with novel ideas to use Blockchain to combat this very 21st Century problem. Snip and Userfeeds are two of the best known, and aim to utilise that ‘decentralisation’ that I talked about above to help readers navigate the mass of content with open eyes.

Snip, as the name suggests, offers concise news stories, covering a wide range of topics. Snip uses SnipCoin, its proprietary ‘cryptocurrency’ and the community of writers who write the stories on Snip are ‘paid’ in SnipCoins. These can be used by readers and advertisers alike to spend on the platform. The important bit here is that readers can rate content and flag them as erroneous or fake, ensuring that users get to vet the content for other users.

So, what next? As is often the case with new technologies, nothing will happen quickly and there is much work to be done. However, in a world where fake news is a real concern with real impact on revenue lines, the implementation of new technologies like Blockchain to the publishing sector can only be a help. Clearly, whether an article is actually ‘true’ or not, is outside of the scope of Blockchain, but until that point such technology exists, this seems like a very good start.


IP Crime and Enforcement

Our friends at the Intellectual Property Office have produced their annual blockbuster report into IP crime and enforcement. Weighing in at a hefty 117 pages, it covers both physical counterfeiting of goods and online IP infringement, and contains many encouraging examples of action being taken to tackle what is theft by any other name. Take a look at it here.


NLA media access is supportive of the efforts being made by the IPO and its partners in copyright enforcement for the very simple reason that we believe that creativity has value, and that value has to be protected. That applies to journalists and publishers just as much as it does to the many other areas of IP in the report. All of us in the creative industries – whether in publishing, music, film, TV, photography or design – have a common interest here.


In our case protecting IP is not only a matter of rhetoric. Our work translates into money that is reinvested into journalism - £35m to publishers in 2016, for example. That is a return which we have worked to increase, year by year, since the NLA was established.


Our commitment to boosting publisher revenues is a constant. But how we do that has changed – and the IPO report makes clear that change is essential, simply because IP infringement has itself become more sophisticated and digital technology has made copying and distributing content very simple for the unscrupulous.


We take action wherever we can. We ensure that the use of copyright material produced by newspaper and magazine publishers is paid for; we’ve moved from licensing physical copying to online distribution; and we pursue offenders including via our online copyright infringement service OATS. We are committed to innovation in copyright protection and licensing – and that includes making the licensing system simpler and more affordable to encourage compliance.


As Jo Johnson, the minister responsible for the IPO observes in the report: ‘without [IP] innovators do not get paid, legitimate business cannot thrive, consumers suffer and…criminals prosper’. In that spirit NLA is going to continue to work to ensure that newspapers and magazines get a fair return and infringement is minimised. 


NLA media access makes pay-walled web titles available via eClips

On 1st August, NLA media access announced the first of many titles to be made available on our new eClips Web Specialist product; www.thegrocer.co.uk

eClips Web Specialist will give clients access to unique premium content that is not available using traditional scraping methods or seen in print editions. In keeping with all of our eClips products, these will be supplied directly from the publisher, including content from behind the paywall.

We will be making a number of other titles available in the coming weeks and months including websites such as www.spectator.co.uk, www.energyvoice.co.uk, www.mca-insight.com and www.utilityweek.co.uk.

If you would like more information about these sites and the eClips Web Specialist service, please don't hesitate to get in touch.

Bob Johns

Client Services Manager

e: bjohns@nla.co.uk

dl:0207 3329355


Not one day: every day

Today is World Intellectual Property (IP) Day. OK, it might not lead to people dancing in the streets. But intellectual property – the idea that creators have rights over what they create – is so fundamental to the work of NLA media access that we can’t let the day pass unmarked.

Established in 2000 by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), this year’s theme is the role that intellectual property rights play in encouraging innovation and creativity through attracting investment, fairly rewarding creators, and providing them with space to develop ideas.

That is also NLA thinking. IP rights are central to journalism and underpin the news we read every day. Without them, investment in quality journalism would simply not be feasible.

Our work has delivered significant results and provided direct support to publishers and their journalism. In 2016, by upholding publishers’ IP, we delivered them £35m in royalties. This marked a 4% increase over the previous year. 

We’ve done this by keeping up with technology, step by step. Wonderful though the internet and the digital economy undoubtedly are, they have made it a lot easier to copy and share content that someone else has invested time and money in producing. That is simply wrong. It might seem to be a free lunch for some, but it comes at a cost – less of the reliable journalism which democratic debate requires.

So our IP services are responsive to the challenges of digital media, such as deriving value from online content and limiting the use of material on the internet without permission or payment. Our online copyright infringement service OATS works to tackle serious copyright offenders. In 2016, we contacted over 800 websites, leading to the removal of almost 80% of the infringing content.

IP protection will always be NLA’s central purpose: not just on World Intellectual Property Day but every day of the year.

You can learn more about World IP Day, support or participate in the event by using the #WorldIPDay hashtag. 


NLA media access Annual Report

Today sees the publication of NLA’s 2017 Annual Report, which charts a year of strong performance and record returns to publishers – and also one of substantial change for the organisation.

2016 saw long-standing members of NLA’s leadership team depart: David Pugh retired as Managing Director after seven years of success, including driving revenue growth of over 50% since 2011. Our longstanding Sales Director Susan Dowley also stepped down after an impressive 11 years with the company. We wish them both well.

The year also saw significant change outside the organisation. Several new players entered the UK MMO market, and online news outlets continued to experiment with different forms of subscription alongside the conventional advertising-funded model. The Independent becoming a digital-only newspaper was a dramatic example of how news and publishing is evolving in the digital age – a change that NLA is navigating while maintaining our service to customers.

In this context we are delighted with NLA’s record results and continued domestic and international growth. We posted revenues of £42 million, growing overall royalties for publishers by more than 4%. This was especially significant for magazine and regional publishers, who enjoyed an increase in royalties by 13% and 8% respectively. Our successful investment in the eClips and ClipShare services took the total number of articles included to over 95 million. We signed six new national agreements with companies in France, Sweden, Germany, Austria and Luxembourg.

As we look forward to 2017 and the new financial year, I am pleased that Tim Brooks will give us his guidance for three more years as the Chairman of NLA. His strong leadership has been invaluable during this period of exciting but important change for the business, and will ensure we continue to focus on our core purpose: delivering high-quality content quickly and efficiently to those who value it, while protecting the intellectual property of those who produce it.

Henry Jones,

Managing Director, NLA media access