For all of my career and far beyond, the Associated Press has existed to serve the interests of the newspaper industry. For most of that time, AP has served our interests well.
When our readers needed us to provide national and world news, stock tables and coverage of sports beyond our own markets, AP developed a cost-efficient way to provide that content and fill our huge newspapers. It was a great relationship. AP contributed to and shared in our success while we racked up profit margins way beyond our best advertisers’.
Right now, content that’s widely available elsewhere is not what newspapers need. Our newshole for such content in print is shrinking and AP’s wide distribution of our biggest stories devalues them online. Jeff Sonderman argues in his NewsFuturist blog that AP has outlived its purpose.
While I have already criticized the protective approach of the AP (and most of the industry that owns it), I disagree with Sonderman and others who say the cooperative has outlived its purpose. The purpose of serving our industry is as urgent as ever. AP just needs to update how it serves us.
AP’s service costs as much (for a newspaper the size of The Gazette) as the salaries and benefits of several staff members who could provide unique local content not available elsewhere. It’s questionable whether the content AP provides is going to maintain that value much longer. If AP focuses on the content role, no amount of copyright protection will keep that role from deteriorating in value.
How AP could deliver real value for members is to lead the way in developing tools and platforms for member newspapers to provide local e-commerce services as I described in the C3 Blueprint. It could lead the way in development of mobile applications that members could use to deliver content and generate revenue (AP has developed a popular iPhone app and dealt with the fine-tuning issues involved).
I am pleased to read that Mark Potts (a fan of C3) and Jeff Jarvis (a vocal AP critic) are trying to help local digital news operations develop new revenue streams through a startup called GrowthSpur. We need more such efforts like this to develop the tools, platforms and approaches to succeed in the digital marketplace.
This is where the Associated Press could lead the way and demonstrate again its value to the industry. Stop protecting your glorious path and help lead us to a prosperous future.
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