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Google deal uncovers truth that AP is now a competitor to newspapers, and papers are suckers for being members of it 9/2/07

Posted by Steve Boriss in Uncategorized.
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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.

Comments»

1. Howard - 9/2/07

While there are likely to be some yet-unknown implications to the Google/news service deal, your post is a bit apocalytic, I think.

AP doesn’t sell Google its “state wire” with local news that originates from our papers, so that traffic isn’t affected. Neither is organic search.

What changes is that Google News readers won’t click on one of the multiple newspaper sources previously listed by Google News for basic AP content. That’s better for readers, isn’t a big traffic source for us, and could even clear the way for better display and availability of the genuinely unique material newspaper websites feature.

Anybody whose business plan revolves around drive-by traffic from incidental links to generic AP stories is in deeper trouble than this post suggests.

2. Steve Boriss - 9/2/07

Howard, In my view, this isn’t really about Google at all. Google’s action is a symptom of a much bigger problem, and perhaps everyone owes Google a favor for exposing it. Readers do not have to buy local newspapers or visit their local online sites to get national and international news anymore. That traffic is going to go to the “best of breed” news sites (including AP content) and blogs on the Internet, leaving local papers with their own original content. Their businesses will collapse to that, so they need to look ahead and take the plunge into other, and actually more interesting original content for news consumers — hyperlocal news.

3. James Robertson - 9/2/07

Here’s a better question: Why would you look at a local newspaper for national and international news anyway? If your local paper isn’t covering local news, what on earth is their value add?

4. Steve Boriss - 9/2/07

James, Yes. I am puzzled why more in the newspaper business cannot see this.

5. Google and the wires torpedo newspapers » mathewingram.com/work - 9/2/07

[…] and my friend Scott Karp provides some perspective at Publishing 2.0. Steve Boriss also has a post at The Future of […]

6. Steve Safran - 9/3/07

I’m with Boriss on this one. You have to look at the direction the AP is moving. Today nation and wire. Tomorrow…?

Robertson is also correct: what does having the same AP copy as everyone else actually add to your site?

7. smartnewsnc - 9/3/07

Why haven’t more newspapers copped to a limited value of wire copy? Local news is much more expensive to create than wire copy is to buy.

Revenues are dropping; newsrooms are shrinking. Doing more local and less wire, that’s a tough sell to the corporate VPs. And as online has been such a tiny fragment of the budget, the implications of news aggregators and such just aren’t on most editors’ or publishers’ radars.

Meanwhile the market research — what little of it newspapers have done — has been ineffective: Readers always say they want more of everything.

8. Steve Boriss - 9/3/07

smartnewsnc, I believe that at the core of the problem is that newspapers have not had any real competition for decades, don’t know a threat when they see it, and would not know how to react if they did. If they don’t invest in local or hyperlocal news, they will ultimately not own anything unique that has value to readers, and by extension advertisers. Simply cutting costs and outsourcing their news to others is a path to oblivion.

9. Time to rethink AP’s model? - Lost Remote TV Blog - 9/3/07

[…] them and sell them for a profit to a public that had no better access to the freshest news,” he writes. “But now that the internet and Google News have essentially installed an AP News Terminal on […]

10. wfstuff.info » Time to rethink the AP model? - 9/4/07

[…] them and sell them for a profit to a public that had no better access to the freshest news,” he writes. “But now that the internet and Google News have essentially installed an AP News Terminal on […]

11. Google and AP enter into landmark deal | AEJMC Membership Forum - 9/4/07

[…] them and sell them for a profit to a public that had no better access to the freshest news,” blogger Steve Boriss writes. “But now that the internet and Google News have essentially installed an AP News Terminal on the […]

12. Timothy Birdnow » Good By AP; We Hardly Knew Ye - 9/5/07

[…] is what makes this story so interesting; the Associated Press, that information Cartel pushing its journalistic junk on the […]

13. September 5, 2007 | Keku.com [alpha] - 9/17/07

[…] than strictly linking to outside sources. Does this somehow mean that the Associated Press is Frankenstein-meets-Dracula? Jim Carey strikes a blow against The Man. The uniformed, dictatorial, Burmese government man, […]

14. BizzyBlog » Why AP Is the Way It Is, and Where It’s Going - 5/24/08

[…] Google News was not paying them for words in the brief synopses linking to their articles, the AP made a deal with Google News (link is to Boriss’s Future of News web site — Ed.) to feature the AP’s version of […]

15. gmcquade - 6/24/08

I disagree. As a former working member of the press, print, TV, radio and even as a stringer for all the networks and wires services.

AP is one of the last news outlets that is expanding. It just recently added more than dozen folks to a brand new entertainment division in January.

People were saying the same thing about entertainment tabloids when they first started 25-years ago, that no one would watch. Right.

90 percent of content is some way or some how connected to entertainment or mulitmedia.

AP should be saluted for keeping up with the times and changing technologies, while newsrooms cope with shrinking advertising dollars.

There are places all over the world AP reports on, and with accuracy, unlike some blogs, where they publish first, apologize later. This is why newspapers subscribe to AP services. Amen.

16. Steve Boriss - 6/26/08

gmcquade,

I believe that the AP is best described as a leech, sucking-off its victim-members. They are not growing because they are pleasing customers, but because of revenues taken from their increasingly suffering members. They are also a force for a single set of stories of the same worldview, and in fact are a monopoly found in violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act (1945). The court’s remedies were unfortunately insufficient to fix the problem. America would be better off without the AP, with the press serviced by competing news sources.

17. gah_briefing » Google News/AP deal could impact local news business - 7/18/08

[…] For more on the AP/Google News deal and discussion of its implication on the news/newspaper business, click here. […]

18. AP asker - 7/29/08

What does AP mean?

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