AP Customers… Owners… Whatever…

It’s odd that so few of the stories about the AP and charging for content point out that the AP itself is a cooperative owned by a group of newspapers. Therefore, when the AP talks about charging some online customers more than others, what they are really saying is that they will band together to charge search engines and news aggregators more than the online components of their member organizations. Maybe stories about the AP going across the AP wire should include a boilerplate disclosure statement.

HONG KONG — The Associated Press is considering whether to sell news stories to some online customers exclusively for a certain period, perhaps half an hour, the head of the news organization said Tuesday.

[From The Associated Press: AP might charge some customers to get news earlier]

At some point the Department of Justice needs to get involved and look at antitrust implications arising from AP actions and from a competitive standpoint I can only imagine that Thomson Reuters and Agence France Presse are salivating at the idea that the AP could price itself out of the market which would lead to a further balkanization of the wire services.

I would also like to see PBS and the BBC throw their hats into the ring in a more serious way. These are, after all, taxpayer funded organizations who create content that should be free or aggressively licensed to for profit news outlets… if we are going to sanction the outright competition of government or quasi government entities with the private sector (e.g. healthcare) why not go whole hog?

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The AP’s Latest Master Plan

It involves adding metadata to content. Yawn. Of course for the plan to work they would have to convince search engines, portals, and any other potential referrer to actually use the metadata, which is always a challenge when the benefits are to the content owner and not the distributor.

Tags identifying the author, publisher and other information – as well as any usage restrictions publishers hope to place on copyright-protected materials – would be packaged with each news article in a way that search engines can more easily identify.

By doing so, the AP hopes to make it easier for readers to find articles from more established news providers amid the ever-expanding pool of content online. That, in turn, could lead to more traffic and more online advertising revenue for a beleaguered news industry.

[From My Way News – AP proposes new article formatting for the Web]

The one thing that I could not help but notice is that the AP in unable to give up the notion that old media is just better than everything else, which is the subtle foundational assumption that they based this plan on… if you know the source of the content is a “credible” news organization then of course you will link to it and/or syndicate it.

On balance I say go for it, the extra metadata attached to content feeds will be useful and if widely adopted they will contribute to a new generation of analytics tools that are able to truly parse authority and influence, which of course will further erode the position that MSM outlets currently hold.

The irony is that there is nothing that prevents them for adding tags to XML data feeds (RSS) today because the way RSS works is that any element (field) not understood is just ignored. It’s really one of the really neat things about how feeds work but it also encourages groundswell movements because their is nothing to stop a consuming application from adopting elements not in the standard… so evolution can occur by merit as well as by proclamation.

The Two Faces of the AP

We hate bloggers, we love bloggers, hate ’em, love ’em, hate ’em… need them.

Of course there is great irony in this excerpt of a speech Michael Oreskes gave recently but if you read the full text you will see something more subtle at play within the AP, which is a realization that the business as they understand it is ending and they don’t have a clear v2.0 to carry them forward. The AP doesn’t want to be an aggregator of blog content, they simply want to be an aggregator of sentiment and use that as the basis for new data services for publishers that are metadata driven instead of journalism driven.

So we have a responsibility to complete the job that is already underway…to reinvent the media business to assure that it can continue to sustain the quality journalism that is so vital. To do that, we must listen to the market. We must listen to the social networking entrepreneurs who are tapping the Internet’s power of community. And to the bloggers who have revived that fine old art of pamphleteering in a powerful new way by combining it with the Internet’s power of aggregation. We must hear them and understand the message of change…but then we must combine that message with what we know inside ourselves to be the value of what we know how to do as journalists. And from that synthesis of tradition and change there will come a new future for journalism. That future is your future

[From Scholarship Lunceon – Overseas Press Club Foundation]

Sounds great but they aren’t alone in this aspiration and given that one of their core markets is literally going bankrupt by the day, it’s an uphill run when combined with culture issues that will resist any bold changes at the AP until it’s too late. The AP will follow the newspaper industry in this regard and eventually their broadcaster business that is built around video will come under assault as well.

Reuters and NewsGator Partner on Election Coverage

I was remiss in not writing about another announcement we made yesterday. Reuters and NewsGator have teamed up to offer U.S. election coverage widgets for individuals and publishers.

The idea of doing widgets with specific event coverage is nothing new, but what makes this program unique is that we are offering full text Reuters coverage and video in a branded widget that can be co-branded and customized for a specific publisher.

When content in the widget is clicked on, the click brings you back not to Reuters site but to the partner site that is cobranding the widget, as is the case here with Joe the Plumber on the Denver Post site. Pretty cool, huh?

Reuters deserves a lot of credit for offering publishers the ability to take advantage of their content in a manner that benefits both the publisher and of course Reuters. With the AP struggling to maintain their customer list of newspapers, it is no surprise that other information service providers are jumping at the opportunity to disrupt the marketplace with innovative syndication offerings.

RSS technologies when combined with widget syndication offer the ideal vehicle for aggregating and distributing content in a manner that retains the integrity of the brand and ensures that monetization flows exactly where it should, to content owners and publishers.

The A.P. Blogger Wars of 2008-

UPDATE: Here’s an update from the AP on the AP.

If the AP doesn’t want bloggers quoting their stories, why make RSS feeds available?

And insofar as “telling bloggers what is acceptable”… nuh-uh, the AP doesn’t get to define their own set of copyright laws and as any first year law student will tell them, attempting to define acceptable use policy would be the equivalent of a terms-of-service agreement that would require acceptance in order to be enforceable. In other words, I can create policy terms at the drop of a hat but in order for them to have the force of law it would be incumbent upon the other party – in this case a specific blogger – to explicitly accept said terms.

This is why I don’t include AP links anymore unless it can’t be avoided. I’ll search down a Reuters link to the same story just to include their version instead of sending the traffic to AP. There is actually an online petition effort call the UnAssociated Press, spread the word.

They do not want people quoting their stories, despite the fact that such activity very clearly falls within the fair use exception to copyright law. They claim that the activity is an infringement.

A.P. vice president Jim Kennedy says they will issue guidelines telling bloggers what is acceptable and what isn’t, over and above what the law says is acceptable. They will “attempt to define clear standards as to how much of its articles and broadcasts bloggers and Web sites can excerpt without infringing on The A.P.’s copyright.”

[From Here’s Our New Policy On A.P. stories: They’re Banned]