Tuesday, February 13, 2007

AP and Cit-J

AP has signed an agreement with Canadian-based NowPublic to integrate some of NP's citizen-journalism content into the AP report as appropriate.

Journalism.co.uk reports that the AP's Jim Kennedy says the content will be vetted for accuracy by editors on AP's national desk. AP will pay for the content, though Kennedy isn't saying how much (if it's like the old stringer checks in the many years I was there, don't figure on getting rich).

AP's news release also says local bureaus will "work with NowPublic communities in selected locations on ways to enhance regional news coverage." (That will be interesting, since AP is battling its long closed-system culture. Yes, it would accept great photos taken by "ordinary" people of events like the Oklahoma City bombing photo that won a Pulitzer prize. But few words reached the wire unless they came from an authorized stringer or member media outlet.)

I wouldn't tout this as a major shift, however. It's more like a tiny step that helps give legitimacy to the concept of some forms of user generated content. There's a lot of marginal stuff on NP's site. I suspect AP wants access to the video and pictures more than the words, which are comparatively easy to get.

Why Vancouver-based NP? Well, a few reasons perhaps. First, as the AP release touts, NP lists 60,000 contributors in 140 countries. Also Canada is a bit of a special case for the AP. By an agreement by which it shares with CanPress, it's never had more than a Toronto bureau. (As a side note, CP's Web site is far superior to the wall AP puts up for a Web portal.) So supplementing its coverage there makes sense for AP. And NP has somewhat of an editing system in place, where questionable or incomplete stories can be flagged or where people can be asked to follow up on stories. I suspect that kind of intervention makes AP more comfortable. Still, much of what's there is a mishmash (including the APs own stories that are promoted by NP contributors).

But the bottom line is that AP's business model has been seriously upset -- not just that its core newspapers are dying, but the newsgathering model that made it economically viable is under siege. AP has always relied on local media to generate a substantial part of its news report. If it had to hire the staff to actually produce all the stories it moves, it would likely be close to going under. If it is going to continue to be viable, it has to figure out how to harness UGC -- and the people behind it -- to help make up that hole left as radio stations consolidate and newspapers and TV cut back.

Looked at in that light, the agreement with NP makes sense. Don't look for AP to go out and get all jiggly about UGC. Sites will have to have some of the controls NP has. But do look for more opportune agreements like this.

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