While We're Making Suggestions To The AP, How About Not Disappearing The News?

from the join-the-21st-century dept

In the wake of the ridiculous dustup between bloggers and the AP, where the AP threatened bloggers who help promote AP articles, some are starting to point out that the AP's problem goes well beyond a seriously distorted view of copyright law. The reason this came up at all was because the AP's business model is pretty screwed up in a web world. This was clear from the fact that the more involved the AP gets online the more it ends up competing with all its member newspapers. Almost every action it takes seems to help the AP's business model, while hurting its members. With the latest skirmish, the AP is ensuring that those partner sites get fewer links in and less traffic. Back when the AP signed a deal with Google News, we pointed out that its member newspapers should be pissed off. Basically, the AP and Google had worked out a deal to keep traffic away from the member papers. That's no way to survive. Eventually, if this keeps up, those members freak out and stop supporting the AP.

That leads to great suggestions from Danny Sullivan on how it's time for the AP to totally rethink its business model, recognizing what the web does for its business:
Well, wake up call. You need a new model. Really. Or you're going to die.

The AP should have a news portal. You should take in content from your members, put it up in an easy-to-find way and generate the ad dollars to be redistributed back to your members. Like do it now, before since the entire licensing thing ain't going to live that long.
It's worth reading the whole thing, as it's right on point. However, there is one additional thing that's worth mentioning: the AP really needs to learn to keep its news online. Back when I would link to AP articles, one of the most annoying things was that they would disappear after a couple weeks. We used to get complaints all the time from readers who would find an older post and the underlying AP article would be gone. I had thought that maybe its deal with Google would change this, and started pointing to the Google versions of AP articles... but, nope, those disappeared after a few weeks as well.

In the narrowminded world of an AP exec, they probably think this leads to more licensing revenue, since it will make people search out and license the article after it can't be found any more. Nope. It just makes people pissed off. Many newspapers have realized that there's tremendous value found in freeing up the archives, and monetizing that long tail of traffic via advertisements. That's a lot more effective than pissing off large groups of folks (including the people who promote your articles) and hoping it leads to a little more licensing revenue. So, while I agree with Danny's recommendations for the AP to join the internet era, I'd also add a recommendation that it open up its archives and recognize that URLs should be permanent rather than fleeting.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Shohat, Jun 24th, 2008 @ 11:20pm

    Ahem

    AP have a real product.
    Not everything should/can be ad-supported.

     

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  2.  
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    Niles, Jun 24th, 2008 @ 11:42pm

    Yeah, I remember back in my early blogging days, the frustration of looking for an AP article I'd commented on in my archives and finding that the link no longer worked.

     

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  3.  
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    Brad Collins, Jun 24th, 2008 @ 11:47pm

    Why do newspapers think their archives are more valuable than what's on their front page?

    I've never understood why newspapers hold on to their archives so tightly. I worked with several English and Chinese papers in Hong Kong and they seem to have the same approach as the papers in the States.

    They will allow you to see new content on their web site for free but anything older than a month or so get's locked away unless you pay a license fee or buy it on CDROM.

    I argued with them time and again that their older content is making them next to no money being locked away, but if it was all online, it would drive traffic to their site which would make them far more money than selling the archive on a CDROM with heavy DRM.

    I never did get anywhere with them. That was over ten years ago and it seems not a lot has changed since then....

     

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  4.  
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    rob friedman, Jun 25th, 2008 @ 12:17am

    if the URLs aren't permanent they should let archive.org do their thing.
    oh wait, that's too open for them i'm sure.

     

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  5.  
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    Mike (profile), Jun 25th, 2008 @ 12:18am

    Re: Ahem

    AP have a real product.

    A real product that is obsolete online today.

    Don't you think that's a problem?

    Not everything should/can be ad-supported.

    Indeed. But that doesn't mean the existing business model works.

    In fact, it's pretty clear that the AP's existing business model is on pretty shaky ground.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Shohat, Jun 25th, 2008 @ 2:10am

    Re: Re: Ahem


    AP have a real product.

    A real product that is obsolete online today.


    That's just plain wrong. As much as I "enjoy" today's selection of information source, they are pretty much worthless due to the very values you so strongly appreciate : anonymity and lack of accountability.



    And with all due respect, except for IT news and US politics, user/blogger generated news/coverage, is simply non-existent. People write more about micro-market companies like Apple more than they do about giant conglomerates which actually affect every single aspect of life.
    People do not generate coverage. They quote it, and everyone link to each other, but it's nothing but echo chamber for Reuters, AP and others.
    Analysis and dialogue are not part of the news.
    There is no Web2.0 news model.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Jun 25th, 2008 @ 2:19am

    Re: Re: Re: Ahem

    People do not generate coverage. They quote it, and everyone link to each other, but it's nothing but echo chamber for Reuters, AP and others.

    You seem confused about what I am saying.

    I am not saying that AP *coverage* is obsolete. I am saying the AP's *business model* of licensing its content to other news sites is obsolete.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Shohat, Jun 25th, 2008 @ 3:26am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Ahem

    QUOTE


    A real product that is obsolete online today.



    I am not saying that AP *coverage* is obsolete.
    I am saying the AP's *business model*...is obsolete.


    I am not confused. You just said two different things.

    You said product. Not model.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Jun 25th, 2008 @ 3:32am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Ahem

    You said product. Not model.

    The product is defined by the business model. The AP is selling licenses. That's their "product". And it's obsolete.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Shohat, Jun 25th, 2008 @ 4:28am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Ahem


    The product is defined by the business model. The AP is selling licenses. That's their "product". And it's obsolete.


    Product : Music
    Business model : DRMed licences.

    Product - good.
    Business model/licensing - bad.

    Two different things.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 25th, 2008 @ 4:37am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Ahem

    You could as easily interchange "Content" or "Value" for "Product", and "Product" for "Business Model" in your definitions. The 'Product' Mike refers to is what is being sold (licences) rather than what makes those valuable (content) - doesn't seem an unreasonable definition to me.

     

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  12.  
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    Paul`, Jun 25th, 2008 @ 5:12am

    Re: Re: Re: Ahem

    "They quote it, and everyone link to each other, but it's nothing but echo chamber for Reuters, AP and others."

    If this is so then they could open up their achieves, sell ad's and cash in on the traffic driven to their sites via the 'echo chamber'.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    John Wilson, Jun 25th, 2008 @ 8:45am

    Re: Re: Re: Ahem

    You need to watch your generalizations there.

    And with all due respect, except for IT news and US politics, user/blogger generated news/coverage, is simply non-existent.

    The reality is that what you're saying simply isn't true. There are lots of small "news" blogs out there which service smaller, rural areas that are poorly served, if served at all, traditional media. These people do generate news coverage, even if you aren't particularly interested in it.

    And yeah, there are lots of US politics sites, there are also sites dealing with political events in other nations as well. (Repeat after me, the United States is not planet Earth!)

    People do not generate coverage. They quote it, and everyone link to each other, but it's nothing but echo chamber for Reuters, AP and others.

    As I noted above people do generate coverage. To say otherwise is arrogance of the highest order.

    Because you're not interested enough to find it or to want to read it doesn't change that fact.

    As you bring up Reuters I find it more than interesting that Reuters seems to have a more tolerant view of bloggers linking to their stuff than AP does. In your view, then, AP has a better model than Reuters does. I'd challenge that.

    Analysis and dialogue are not part of the news.

    Do tell that to the editorial boards of newspapers, the opinion writers, the editorial cartoonists, guest columnists and others who do nothing but provide analysis and commentary.

    As for the dialog, tell that to the people who fill the letters to the editor sections of newspapers.

    There is no Web2.0 news model.

    That's not the point, though I'd challenge that too.

    Looked at from a Web 2.0 perspective (oh, how I've come to hate that term) newspapers are what they always were a portal which serves up news, analysis, commentary and interactivity.

    I think there's a need to remind you of what AP really is. It's a collective which exists simply to pool stories from it's owners (radio, television, newspapers) and to distribute them to the owners. That it employs staff of it's own is more a function of that than of anything else.

    All this is, of course, done for a fee which pays for the service it's owners want. Should the newspapers, AP's owners after all, decide they don't want this AP is dead.

    Back to Reuters for a moment it's also of some interest that they don't age stories out of existence anywhere near as quickly as AP seems to.

    Back to the Web 2.0 stuff. As I noted newspapers are a print portal to the news, nothing more and nothing less. They are ad supported and always have been.

    That said I'm at a complete loss to explain your hostility to the idea that a similar model for the web is either dangerous or unneeded.

    You appear to argue that the model that works in the print world for newspapers and AP either can't or won't work on the Web (any version you care to mention).

    If it works for print or broadcast it can work on the Web.

    AP sticking to it's current idea of its model along with its rather strange notion of what is and is not fair use is a recipe for extinction no matter how valuable the service may be.

    You're missing the point as badly as AP is. Links mean traffic, traffic means increased readership, increased readership means higher fees for ads and ad placement. Quotations supported by those links means the same thing.

    It works for print and it will for the Web if AP gets off its high horse here and just understands its own business better than it appears to.

    ttfn

    John

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    SpinLock, Jun 25th, 2008 @ 10:01am

    I worked at the AP

    I worked at the AP as a software engineer, before moving on a couple of years ago. Their business model is membership-based - they sold their only advertising division 5 years ago. Access to the AP archives is a product they charge their members extra for. Non-members don't get access.

    The current executive crew has essentially no understanding of the Internet, but they know their business model is in trouble. Any time they put their content directly 'out there', their members bitch up a storm - and rightly so, I suspect.

    I've disagreed (quietly, of course), with almost every decision I've seen them make in the last 8 years. When I close my eyes and think AP, all I can hear is a ticking sound.

    They've made multiple false-starts in the last 8 years, trying to 'database' their entire world of content. In fact, there's a huge computer system and Teradata and IBM software boxes sitting in a warehouse in Cranbury NJ gathering dust from one of their aborted attempts. Millions down the dumper. They've hired and fired the IT executive crew 4 times in the last 8 years. Most of the 'good' software engineers have fled.

    Tick tick tick....

     

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  15.  
    icon
    Eric Goldman (profile), Jun 27th, 2008 @ 4:11pm

    Bingo

    As usual, you're absolutely right. I have stopped linking to AP stories because of their silly expiration policy (and not because of their stupid anti-quoting policy). Eric.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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