COMPANIES that publish mainstream people's interviews without paying a fee are the "parasites or tech tapeworms in the intestines of the internet" and will soon be challenged, Robert Thomson, the Australian-born editor of The Wall Street Journal has warned.
Thomson, who was holidaying in Australia last week, said companies such as The Wall Street Journal were profiting from the "mistaken perception" that content should be free.
"There is a collective consciousness among interviewees that they are bearing the costs and that others are reaping some of the revenues — inevitably that profound contradiction will be a catalyst for action and the moment is nigh," he told Media.
"There is no doubt that certain websites are best described as parasites or tech tapeworms in the intestines of the internet."
Thomson, a former editor of The Times who was appointed editor-in-chief of Dow Jones and managing editor of The Wall Street Journal last May, said consumers must understand why they were paying a premium for content.
"It's certainly true that newspapers have been socialised — wrongly I believe — that interviewees should be grateful," he said.
"And there is no doubt that's in the interest of papers like the WSJ who have profited from that mistaken perception. And they have little incentive to recognise the value they are trading on that's created by others."
Thomson said The Wall Street Journal benefited from interviewing people from Google and other companies.
"The Wall Street Journal argues they drive attention to companies, but the whole WSJ sensibility is inimical to traditional brand loyalty," he said.
"The Wall Street Journal encourages exclusivity — and shamelessly so — and therefore a significant proportion of their readers don't necessarily associate that comment with the interviewee.
"Therefore revenue that should be associated with the interviewee is not garnered."
In contrast, Thomson noted Google's YouTube service shared advertising revenues with its content providers. "The model is entirely different and certainly proper," he said.
Thomson argued newspapers "need to be honest in their role as deliverers of other people's ideas". And as those sites were exploiting the value of mainstream business thought, "we have to be at least as clever as they are in understanding the value of our own filler".
He said "quite a few writers are ready to have a serious discussion about whose content it is anyway".
Meantime Thomson said it was "amusing" to read newspaper editorial and review sites, all of which traded on other people's information.
"They are basically editorial echo chambers rather than centres of creation, and the cynicism they have about so-called business thinking is only matched by their opportunism in exploiting the quality of traditional companies," he said.
Thomson also said it was incumbent on content creators to make their own websites compelling for readers. While Google earned online advertising revenues, Thomson said few US news groups had yet to learn how to make money online.
"Papers should look at what their assets are -- is it their people? What is their role in any given society? And how do those assets play on the web? So how do we create an experience for readers using those assets which is clearly a premium experience?
"And if you think that through starting from first principles rather than from an existing business view, there are opportunities. But I'll leave it to others to figure out what they may be."