Friday, January 26, 2007

AP goes Wii Wii

Yeah, a cheesy headline. How else am I supposed to get you to read this?

The AP is coming to a game console near you. Nintendo and AP have signed an agreement for AP to provide a news feed to Wii users.

Nintendo and the Associated Press (AP) have signed a two-year agreement which will allow the American news cooperative to provide news and photographs for the upcoming Wii News Channel. The Wii News Channel is scheduled to launch on Saturday, January 27. Once it goes live, users will be able to access content provided by the AP directly on their Wii consoles.
It requires the Opera browser.

That announcement brought an e-mail from a newspaper person who remembered some posts in which I said, in as many words, once AP has sold the wire to Yahoo, why does anyone else need to buy it? The e-mail posed three questions:

What should a "print newspaper" do when its vendor becomes its competitor?
Is any newspaper prepared to simply stop running wire news?
Should the local newspaper join the Wii channel and hire its own "Wiiporters"?

My answer:

The threshold question is whether the Wii audience is an audience you would ever reach any other way. Is it potentially additive or just carving up existing audience? I think AP probably has made the assessment that it is not one you would reach through normal newspaper channels and their Web sites.

Second question, then: If not reachable now, does this make that audience less reachable in the future? In other words, are they being socialized to not get the paper or go to the paper's Web site. That one's infiintely more complicated and not completely answerable. Probably, in some ways, yes. But the General Social Survey, which consistently has asked about media use, just as consistently has exploded the reasoning of years past that as people grow up, get mortgages, etc., they become newspaper readers. Every cohort has shown consistently lower newspaper usage across time (for an intersting article on this, try this link http://naa.missouri.edu/academic/peiser00.pdf. It was published in 2000, before everyone started "discovering" this out loud in the past couple of years.)

So for the "mass" audience online, such as it is, the Yahoo question still holds. But the modern publisher, to support a full-service "newsroom" (and I use that term specifically to embody the concept and not get all confounded with the emotional and other nuances that come with "newspaper"), is going to have to learn instead of dipping from a broad river of audience and advertising how to aggregate many different streams into a viable flow of support. In that sense, then, yes, I darn well would get a place on the Wii Wire. You would probably reach a segment of the audience you are unlikely to reach otherwise. The real question becomes monetization and whether enough of a revenue stream can be generated to cover at least the marginal costs.

I didn't really answer the one about not running wire news, but I do note that on the Web, at least, before Howard Owens left Bakersfield he stopped running the AP on the Web there.
I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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