Google deal uncovers truth that AP is now a competitor to newspapers, and papers are suckers for being members of it 9/2/07Posted by Steve Boriss in Uncategorized.
As reported by Jeff Jarvis and many others, Google News has just reached the incredibly obvious conclusion that its readers would rather not wade through dozens of nearly identical versions of the same original AP story that are published by its member papers. So, striking a deal with AP and three foreign wire services, Google News will now feature the originating wire service’s story, reducing the prominence and interest in similar members’ stories, and depriving members of their future lifeblood — advertiser revenues from Internet traffic.
The question AP member papers should now be asking is not how Google could be so mean, but how they, themselves could be so blind about their relationship with the AP. These newspapers originally established, and now fund, control (in theory), and contribute their own local stories to the allegedly “not-for-profit” AP. But with their members’ money and content, AP first grew into a leviathan with an empire of more than 240 bureaus and 4,000 employees worldwide, and now into a cross between a Frankenstein that has turned on its master and a Dracula that is sucking its blood. Being a member of the AP made sense when papers were necessary middlemen for people to get their news — papers would pay the AP for electronically-transmitted stories, then reprint them and sell them for a profit to a public that had no better access to the freshest news. But now that the Internet and Google News have essentially installed an AP News Terminal on the PC of everyone with broadband service, newspapers who are members of the AP are funding their own destruction. AP members would be better off sitting in their newsrooms, launching their word processors, typing in “According to the Associated Press,” then copying and pasting from Google News, modifying the content every once in awhile to avoid copyright litigation.
Challenge to the AP: I have been raising the above issue for months (e.g. here and here), and have suggested (here, here, and here) that the AP for more than a century has essentially been a cartel, and largely to blame for Americans only receiving a single set of news stories/angles (affectionately called the “National Conversation”) in a country with an infinite supply of them, violating Thomas Jefferson’s vision of news as a multitude of voices competing in a freewheeling marketplace of ideas. I have not heard a peep in way of a defense from any of your 4,000+ employees in 240+ bureaus worldwide. If I am mistaken, please let my readers know by posting comments, and I will retract any errors I have made. If no such comments are posted, their absence will speak for itself.