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Vin Crosbie Vin Crosbie
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Dorian Benkoil Dorian Benkoil
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Bob Cauthorn Bob Cauthorn
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Ben Compaine Ben Compaine
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Dorian Benkoil senior consultant at Teeming Media. An award-winning journalist and editor, he was a foreign correspondent for AP and Newsweek, and international and managing editor for ABCNews.com. At ABC News he moved to the business side, handling sales integration and business development, before joining Fairchild Publications as General Manager for their Internet division, becoming editorial director for mediabistro.com, then a consultant for Teeming Media in New York. He graduates this year with an MBA from Baruch's Zicklin school of business. Learn more about him at Benkoil.com or his blog - MediaFlect.com.

Robert Cauthorn is a journalist, former vice president of digital media at the San Francisco Chronicle, and was the third recipient of the Newspaper Association of America's prestigious Digital Pioneer Award. He launched one of the first five newspapers web sites in the world and is generally considered to have delivered the first profitable newspaper web site in 1995. Cauthorn has been in the middle of the transition from old media to new and is recognized as frank-talking critic when he believes newspapers stray for their mission. In mid-2004 he became the president of CityTools, LLC a new media startup based in San Francisco.

Ben Compaine has divided his career between the academic world and private business. He was a journalist when manual typewriters were considered state of the art, but also led the conversion of his college newspaper to cold type. He has started and managed weekly newspapers. His dissertation at Temple University in 1977 was about the changing technologies that were going to unsettle the landscape of the staid and low profit newspaper industry. Since then he has focused his research and consulting on examining the forces and trends at work in the information industries. Among his most well-known works (and the name of his blog) is "Who Owns the Media?".

Vin Crosbie has been called "the Practical Futurist" by Folio, the trade journal of the American magazine industry. Editor & Publisher magazine, the trade journal of the American newspaper industry, devoted the Overview chapter of executive research report Digital Delivery of News: A How-to Guide for Publishers to his work. His speech to the National Association of Broadcasters annual conference was one of 24 orations selected by a team of speech professors for publication in the reference book Representative American Speeches 2004-2005. He has keynoted the Seybold Publishing Strategies conference in 2000; co-chaired and co-moderated last year's annual Beyond the Printed Word the digital publishing conference in Vienna; and regularly speaks at most major online news media conferences. He is currently in residence as adjunct professor of visual and interactive communications and senior consultant on executive education in new media at Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, and meanwhile is managing partner of the media consulting firm of Digital Deliverance LLC in Greenwich, Connecticut.
About this blog
Two forces have shattered the news media. Technology is the first. Although media technology is undergoing its greatest change since the day in 1440 when Johannes Gutenberg first inked type, for more than ten years now the news industry has mistaken new technologies merely as electronic ways to distribute otherwise printed or analog products. Estrangement is the second. The news media has lost touch with people's needs and interests during the past 30 years, as demonstrated by rapidly declining readerships of newspapers and audiences of broadcast news. How we rebuild news media appropriate to the 21st Century from the growing rubble of this industry is the subject of this group weblog.
In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline

Rebuilding Media

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June 17, 2008

The Real Threat to AP

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Posted by Dorian Benkoil

There’s a lot of grumbling and retorting about the AP’s attempt to then sort-of retreat from making bloggers either paraphrase or take down their pickups of material from the venerated wire service. But there’s a more immediate problem that runs deeper than complaints from bloggers like Michael Arrington, Jeff Jarvis or Jeff Nolan.

A few weeks back the editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer on "On the Media" talked about how newspapers in Ohio were reaping great benefits trading material, and linking and cross linking. More importantly, she said she was no longer reliant on The Associated Press for her stories from the region but instead was getting the original versions direct from the other sources around the state rather than paying “a big chunk” of her budget, about $1 million for rewritten AP stories. Picking up directly, on the Web, and putting other papers’ stories directly in the newspaper was also better quality, she said, and readers were noticing:

“I mean, we've always had access to news from all over the state. It was just, you know, it went through the AP mill. I frankly think we're getting better, more distinctively written stories because they're not going through the AP mill.”
If local papers skip the AP, that means the core constituency is in revolt. That will potentially be more corrosive than the fight with the blogosphere over fair use. "As long as there are are two papers to trade articles, the AP will exist," one rake at the wire service -- where I worked for seven years on the international desk and as a foreign correspondent -- quipped to me once. But what if the members form their own cooperatives and cut out the AP as middleman?

I’m not saying this will happen immediately. AP, whose core business is the not-for-profit cooperative dues of member newspapers, has offered to cut its rates starting next year. Newspapers, despite ad and circulation declines for decades, have been notoriously slow moving, and many will be reluctant to pick up content from papers they might think of as competitors; the AP has given them the cover they sought to do so less blatantly. But the economic pressures are only increasing as revenues and readership decline more precipitously, and any success in Ohio could be the thin edge of a wedge. “We've set up this little cooperative,” said the Plain Dealer editor, Susan Goldberg. “I don't know how it'll work in the future, but right now it's working really well.”

Add to that AP’s deal to have its direct results placed higher in Google than member papers, further pissing them off, and newspapers will look harder at the Ohio example. We're talking months or perhaps years, certainly not decades. The example could spread nationally or internationally.

CEO Tom Curley has been leading the AP into a future in which an increasing share of its revenues comes from sources other than member dues, such as direct photo revenues, Web content services and broadcast fees. But the transformation may not be fast enough. AP doesn't have the luxury of Bloomberg or Thomson Reuters in which news gathering can be supported by financial terminals that really bring in the bucks.

AP should own the Web. It has its roots in the trading and sharing of information. It gets a significant chunk of revenue from providing the backbone through which others pass content. It coded and tagged and parsed content with everything from category codes to prioritization markings, and ways to match text and photos decades before those practices became fashionable for everyone. But culture and old habits are very hard to change, and I fear for the company's viability hope it can work out a more creative win-win solution for all.

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