AP actually is listening to its customers here. Many news operations select only a small portion of the massive AP feed, choosing only the AP-provided content that fits its brand and positioning and reader interest.
For competitive and branding reasons, news outlets might be willing to link to some sources, but not others. The New York Times would harm its brand if it linked in any form to the New York Post. CBS News would be more than happy to link to the New York Times, or even the Post, but it would undermine the credibility of the CBS News brand to link to a Fox News report.
Offering the link as an option forces a human to decide if it's going to be there, and if the link is of value to the newsorg and its brand. In most cases, it will be.
Customers also are free to rewrite AP material to put it into each customer's own voice. The customer might use completely different wording than the AP writer, but the broken-out link allows linking to original sources with a minimum of fuss.
Bit.ly does offer limited analytics.
And finally, the AP has thousands of different customers that use a huge variety of HTML editors and content-management systems. They ranging from extremely modern and sophisticated to ancient and decrepit. There's no guarantee that tags would be read properly.
AP also serves many broadcast customers - and it's not uncommon for AP copy to simply get slapped on the prompter, particularly in live, breaking-news situations. Gunking it up with long URLs would make it useless.
Hope that helps.
Techdirt has not posted any stories submitted by Mark Ranzenberger.