Tuesday, April 19, 2005

AP's big moves

AP announces it will charge for online content that until now had been free. Starting Jan. 1, AP will charge all its members for content used online. (Note that the story linked above is on AP's industry news page, which changes weekly. Here's a Newsday version that might stay longer.)

As written here before, there no longer is a question of convergence, it is simply how and when, and AP, the 800-pound gorilla behind the scenes, will force the issue as it has so many times before in this industry. Paid Content has the details, including an interview with Jane Seagrave, AP's director of new media markets.

Seagrave has one comment I found very interesting:
Anyone who understands the web and how the AP works knows we had the original 24/7 operation here but, for years, much of what we were doing was perceived to be for print. Now, as the technology has enabled people -- and requires that people -- provide news on an ongoing basis, the AP is well equipped to do that, ironically. Probably better equipped than many print publications.
The gorilla's been feeding in the background folks and is ready to exert its muscle. With the move to the database, AP also will change its pricing methods, from "per wire" to what Curley calls "a few broad tiers of entitlement" -- in other words, layers of access to the database.

It will be interesting to see at what level existing online operations continue to use AP content. AP is moving aggressively in this area. Note, for instance, the word earlier this week that it is negotiating rights agreements with Google News. (LA Times article.) In a dig at Google, Curley said in his speech to AP members: "It’s a world too sophisticated to be left to farms of servers and robots and business models built only on them."

Curley 's speech has been getting a lot of notice for his announcement that by the end of the year the wire giant will switch to a database model of delivering news, something he's been touting on his barnstorming tour of press association and other news meetings for more than a year.
After a century and a half, AP is shedding its telegraph model of content delivery for a database model, the project at the heart of eAP.
With the arrival of the eAP database, you will have easier access to the full spectrum of our text, photos, graphics, audio and video. Members will be empowered to search, select and customize the reports they want to receive from AP. The old “fire-hose” method of delivery will be retired, in favor of custom access to the database.

And those database items will be tagged so that they can be more easily related to other items.
Some other things of note:
  • Less repurposing of print content (i.e. shovelware) and more material original for digital media.
  • Material specifically directed at 18- to 34-year-olds (though let's hope it's better than AP's lame attempt at a blog started earlier this year). In a comment a little reminiscent of Seagrave's above, Curley told the assembled AP members: "Many of you expressed skepticism about your own ability to develop print or Web-based products that resonate with this audience."
  • A more powerful sports statistics service: "Our new sports statistics initiative is intended to increase our clout in negotiating data rights and access with the leagues and other authorities in the growing, and increasingly competitive, business of sports."
  • Moves to bolster financial and entertainment news
  • Moving assets into video, which acknowledges where a lot of multimedia is going. (Last week, AP said it was getting out of the all-news rado business).

Interesting couple of lines in the speech:
  • Second, to enhance our speed, we seek increased productivity and flexibility across all parts of the company, from news to technology to the business side.
  • We are determined to retire outdated policies and practices and to reinvent and redeploy resources to gather and deliver the news in ways that meet the demands of our “always-on” audience.
It will be interesting to see how that plays out among already stretched bureau staffs. But Curley does say: "After all, the new freedoms inspired by this electronic world will require all the connected and dedicated journalists we can dispatch. ...We must maintain our financial strength to support our journalists and the tools they need to deliver the world’s most authoritative news report across all media types."


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