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“From Blueprint to Building: Making the Market for Digital Information"

An action congress for trust, identity and Internet information commerce serving newspapers and beyond
June 23-25, 2010 / Reynolds Journalism Institute / Columbia, Mo.

A question of intent: When is it pro-consumer for competitors to collaborate?

Formation of an Information Trust Exchange, or activities of an American Newspaper Digital Access Corp., potentially involve competitors in a common affiliation. Such affiliation is commonplace -- trade associations are a typical example. In a 40-minute summary and Q&A, University of Missouri law professor [Thom Lambert described the basis of U.S. antitrust law and enforcement, in the context of potential collaboration amount newspapers.

Lambert cited the key cases decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. Lambert addressed approximately 30 publishers, industry executives, researchers and academics on June 24, 2010, during the conference, "From Blueprint to Building: Making the Market for Digital Information," at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute, at the Missouri School of Journalism. (see:

In his talk, Lambert said it is often considered within the law for competitors to agree upon technical standards which will facilitate market expansion where pricing and service options are not considered or shared. Standard-setting is usually pro-competition, he said, where it reduces transaction costs and increases choice for the public and were the total marketplace is more valuable to the public interest than the sum of its parts. The threshhold question a court might consider is: Are the standards necessary to make the market work? Competitors need to be certain they do not seek to discuss or agree on anything that isn't necessary to make the market work.

Here are some pre-talk questions Bill Densmore provided Lambert which helped frame his talk:

    • How can the news industry feasibly collaborate in ways which are pro-consumer and not anticompetitive?
    • How could you build a set of protocols and rules for sharing users and content which would maintain a free and open market for digital information, in which all pricing, packaging and product decisions are made independently by independent competitors?
    • If the FAA controls the airways and airports, but airlines compete on price and service, what is the analogy to digital publishing?
    • If railroads use the same guage track, but compete on the basis of freight rates and deliveries, what is the analogy to digital publishing?
    • If you can buy electricity competitively across a national grid which runs at the same 60 cycles per second and is fully interconnected, what is the analogy to digital publishing?