Watching the Associated Press implode in public
is, frankly, a bit disappointing. Here's an organization that has tremendous assets that could be put to amazing use in the creation and dissemination of online news... and it's basically doing everything backwards. Zachary Seward is posting some of the details of the AP's plans, as outlined in a memo sent to AP members, starting with its plan to hold back some of its content from the wire service
. To be honest, without seeing the details, my first thought was that this could make a bit of sense. After all, the whole concept of a "wire service" online doesn't make much sense
. It was designed to get news out to a number of different sources to make sure that all newspapers could cover some key stories. But when anyone
can access any news online, redistributing the identical story to a bunch of different websites really seems rather pointless.
So I had hoped this was a recognition of the fact that this aspect of the AP's business didn't make much sense any more, and maybe (just maybe!) the AP was finally getting down to the business of learning how to use the web for what it's good at, rather than pretending it still needs to do what is no longer needed.
No such luck, unfortunately.
You see, the AP's plan is all about locking up
content. The reason some content won't go out on the wire is because the AP (incorrectly) believes that it can hoard the content and get all the traffic, and thus it will screw over its members by not giving them the content. If I were a member paper, this would be the point at which I quit the AP. The AP is effectively saying "you'll get the content that doesn't matter, and which everyone has, and we'll keep the good stuff."
And, it gets even sillier, as the AP admits that it expects all its member papers to link back to this content that the AP will seek to control at the expense of its members, in order to generate Google juice to the AP's site, off the backs of its member papers. I can't see how this will help members at all, though it's likely to piss them off.
Perhaps that's a good thing, though the execution is bizarre. The AP's members may be a part of the problem, but trying to convince them that the AP hoarding content is better for them, and expecting them to buy it, seems like a long shot.