Posts about ap

1. Solve journalism’s data problem. 2. Kill the AP. 3. Invest in the next market.

First, a constructive proposal: News organizations need to band together — not to cut off their content, along with theirs noses, or to collude in antitrust cabals — but simply to set a new metadata standard identifying original reporting. If every news story carried a switch identifying original reporting, then aggregators like GoogleNews and Daylife (where I’m a partner) could give precedence to and link to that journalism at its source, helping support that reporting in the link economy.

The problem today is that aggregators favor freshness, but the latest story in a topical cluster is often the 87th rewrite of the news and it’s usually from the Associated Press, which cuts off links and credit to the original journalism (for all its bluster, the AP is actually the biggest problem newspapers have online, but more on that in a minute).

Now I know that a flag that says “give my story better play” is ripe for gaming. But the news aggregators work with limited if large pools of sources (in the low thousands). In such a small universe, bad behavior can be monitored and punished (by the aggregators, readers, and competitors). So with this method, the Washington Post’s Walter Reed stories would get precedence over others’ rewrites.

In the structure of the link economy, it’s then up to the Post to monetize that audience. This could be aided, though, by a marketplace that supports reverse syndication, which would send traffic to original journalism and even share revenue with those who send links to it.

If the AP really wanted to help support original journalism, it would build that marketplace – and it would stop rewriting, homogenizing, and anonymizing all its members’ news. Or when it does, it should provide credit and links to the sources, a moral necessity in the link economy; I urged the AP to adopt such a link ethic last year.

Instead, the AP is, incredibly, looking to start a news portal. A damned portal. Sherman, who set the Wayback Machine to 1998? Fix it, willya? Are they kidding? No. Doug MacMillan reports in BusinessWeek today AP head Tom Curley “plans to create ‘landing pages’ that would host articles from any news sources that allow their headlines on the site.” So the AP – hardly a household brand – would try to change readers’ habits and market to get them to come to a newspaper portal? Ghosts of the New Century Network, the newspaper Keystone Konsortium that died in 1998. Damnit, Sherman, hurry.

Rather than competing with the entire internet, which is what the AP is trying to do (or, as Kara Swisher says scolding AP chairman and foundering newspaper mogul Dean Singleton, “stop the internet from being the internet”), wouldn’t it make sense to improve the standing of newspapers’ original work throughout the fabric of the internet? That’s why I’m suggesting the original-reporting metadata standard above. (And by the way, even if such a standard isn’t adopted, the chief scientist at Daylife and I have discussed ways to suss out original work and give is priority; that’s second choice.) (Alslo by the way, such a standards could be expanded to create feeds of updates and corrections.)

But the AP is not going to do that because, as newspapers are slowly learning, the AP is their enemy. Not the internet. Not Google. It’s the AP that has to insist on going against the flow – the damned tsunami – of the internet because it lives by homogenizing and it can’t monetize the link economy. So the AP tries to make Google and aggregators – and the the internet, for that matter – the enemy. It’s a matter of survival.

Though Paul Farhi and I disagreed about what to do about it, we agree that the AP is a problem. And though Saul Hansell gets me wrong in his rather twisty path to his conclusion yesterday (I’m not saying newspaeprs as they exist would thrive if they’d wised up a decade ago; I’m saying they’d be unrecognizab ly reinvented), we agree in the end: Shut down the AP. Says Mr. Hansell:

The only conclusion here is that the very existence of The A.P. is the greatest contributor to the scourge of free news. And so, by the logic of the newspaper industry, Mr. Singleton has only one choice: To fight the problem at its source and shut down the A.P. for good. That makes at least as much sense as the current campaign against windmills, aggregators and search engines.

Papers are canceling their contracts because it is too expensive. Journalists doing original reporting everywhere should resent the AP for turning all the knowledge they create into commodity news — and selling it with no benefit to them in the form of payment, credit, or links. The AP is built for the content economy and is incapable of shifting to support its members or compete in the link economy.

I would cut up the AP into its constituent parts: Spin off the journalists who do original reporting and make this core into another news source to compete on the open market, in internet economics, building a brand and selling ads and going up against Reuters, The Times, and other national and international sources. Then kill the Borden’s Dairy that homogenizes news, milking it (sorry) of its value. The AP is an antimarket player and once it’s taken out, a new market can grow to support journalism.

Newspapers and others who create original journalism can then create a marketplace where they share links and value. They or a new company – or Google – can help them by selling ads on all that content. This will encourage them – economically and ethically – to link to each other (as quality papers are doing) and then to distribute their content into the web (as the Guardian, NY Times, BBC, and NPR are doing with their APIs). Others that run news – Yahoo, et al – will then have a marketplace to get news from the best sources (not the poor imitator, the AP) and in a reverse syndication model, they both benefit.

The problem is that the AP simply does not fit in the internet economy. So it is trying perversely to mold the future to its model and portray itself as Don Quixote tilting against the content mills when it is the worst mill itself. Sorry, AP, but you’re the problem.

: LATER: A suggestion for using the REL tag.

: LATER STILL: Arianna makes reference to the link economy on Charlie Rose.

Aim the gun the right way

The last time Paul Farhi and I disagreed, it was about who’s to blame for the fall of newspapers (he found journalists blameless; I didn’t). We disagree about the same topic again. This time, he’s arguing – in an incredibly long American Journalism Review piece – that it’s the Associated Press’ fault for selling content to portals.

I’m going to suggest that you compare his analysis to that of Joey Baker, who writes a heavy metal rendition of Clay Shirky’s already-legendary essay on the economics of news.

Inherent in what Farhi writes is every old assumption about the economics of media, unchallenged by others and by the reality of a new reality. The notion is that portals were empowered by having the AP’s news and that this made it into a commodity (not the AP’s homogenization of the news, not the fact that knowledge, once known, is a commodity). But as the AP’s execs and defenders say in the piece, if the AP had not been there, Reuters would have been. Indeed, Reuters was. A

nd today, Reuters has shifted to a reverse-syndication model in which it gives headlines to portals for links back, which Reuters then monetizes (sharing revenue back for the value of the links). The AP, handcuffed by its paper-owners, can’t do that. The papers should be following Reuters’ example by giving the headlines in exchange for links, which they then monetize.

The AP is, indeed, hurting papers, but not the way Farhi thinks. It’s hurting them by cutting off links to the original reporting. That is how the link economy works. (Oh, and by the way, the big bad portals are themselves crumbling. One wonders which will die first: the papers or their supposed killers.)

The fallacy in Farhi’s argument is this: “When you give away the news, it becomes a commodity. When something becomes a commodity, you lose your pricing power. And that’s where we are today on the Web.”

Now see Joey Baker shooting that through such arguments – aka “the kool-aid of the bass-akwards mind fuck that the ‘old media’ folks try to sell you” – like a machine gun:

“Our economy is based on the trade of IP, and yet, paradoxically, the internet has made information practically infinite. Therefore, attempting to make money by controlling the amount of information is doomed to fail. Put another way: controlling the scarcity of something that isn’t scarce can’t work.”

There are more bullets in his gun:

History is not a good guide here: The internet is a fundamental shift from anything we’ve experienced before. It’s as revolutionary as the printing press and as radical as the written word. It’s both asynchronous and instant two-way communication.

There are however, fundamental laws. We just don’t know them all yet. The idea that you can delay, or should delay the transition to an internet based economy is just stupid. We’re here. Welcome to the future.

We depend on competition in our economy (fundamental law), which means that the first person to figure this out is going to make a boat load of money. Delaying, will guarantee you’re not that person.

There are two camps out there: folks … who think that there is some way that we can charge users for content just because we’ve always done it (we haven’t). And folks like me, who are convinced that the internet is such a fundamental shift to the economy and information management, that charging for basic content is just asinine.

The first of these commentators writes about media for The Washington Post. The second is a student. The first lives in the old world and understands its rules. The second lives in the new world and understands its rules. Who are you going to listen to about the future? It seems obvious to me.

Circling the wagons

Jon Fine reports in Business Week that the Associated Press is contemplating charging for content, quoting AP head Tom Curley saying, “Everybody knows [the business] has got to shift to some sort of user payment model.” Everybody? Not quite. I’ll put up my column playing wack-a-mole with this meme later.

The birth of networks

Out of the dire need to cut back, news organizations are at last looking out and forming networks. Newspapers in Ft. Worth and Dallas are going to share news. Newspapers in Ohio have been doing that. Now TV stations in Philadelphia are setting up a separate company to make video.

It’s a start on a model that I think will be important in the regeneration of the news industry. And it’s a short step from sharing with fellow news organizations to sharing with independent agents in the public (starting with your own former employees who set up blogs and then working with blogfers).

Sharing will replace syndication, I think. That’s why I’m not confident in the success of CNN’s effort to set up a new wire service to compete with the AP, Reuters, and AFP. It might work for international coverage because it’s hard to share content with a source in another language and there’s a vastly different base of shared knowledge. But domestically and locally, I think that sharing and reverse syndication (a la Political) will win the day.

Piece by piece, new models emerge.

AP bomb

So now Tribune Company has given the AP notice – two years’ – to cancel, joining the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Bakersfield Californian, Idaho Falls Post Register of Idaho Falls, and Yakima Herald-Republic and Wenatchee World. These are more than shots across AP’s bow. They are shots at the AP, which has to reinvent itself. More on that later.

The start of reverse syndication (and end of the AP?)

New Jersey’s Star-Ledger today put out an entire edition without anything from the Associated Press within. The sharp-eyed reader will notice lots of local news by staff plus articles from other papers–Washington Post, LA Times, McClatchy, the Glouceseter County Times–and content from online services such as Sportsticker.

It’s one more nail in the heart of the AP as other papers cancel their contracts and more threaten to.

At the same time, Political announces that it will give stories to papers with ads attached that Politico and Addify sell and they will share revenue with the papers. Politico’s deal is the first major substantiation of the reverse-syndication model, a product of the link economy. It’s another nail in the heart of the Associated Press, which is built instead for the content economy.

The old syndication model in the old content economy just won’t work today when all the world needs is one copy of a story up in the cloud with links to it. Today, the more links that article can get, the more valuable it is. So sharing value with those who send links to it only makes sense.

The AP is not bad (no matter what foolish things it may have done in the blog kerfuffle recently). It’s just expensive. Papers the size of the Cleveland Plain Dealer say they pay $1 million a year. As they get more local, as reverse syndiction models come to the fore, as they have to tighten budgets, the industry-supported AP syndication model is mortally threatened. Still, this isn’t about the AP. It’s about the new architecture of news and media.

Guardian column: Down to the wire

My Guardian column this week reprises the talk of the last two weeks about The Associated Press — not so much the blog kerfuffle but the clash of media models and the fate of syndicates. The end:

Wire services, like all news organisations, must reinvent themselves. Reuters is building a consumer brand, competing with some of its customers; that’s one answer. Others: a syndicate could become a network of links to original content, a curator of the best, most reliable original reporting from any source. A syndicate could also become an advertising network supporting the best of that content. It could become a cooperative – which is how AP was founded – to report that which isn’t being reported already. It could become a platform and marketplace for reporting, enabling anyone to contribute to a larger network of news.

The crowdsourced life

I happened to tweet this morning about two crowdsourcing moments — student tries to crowdsource his tuition; Michael Arrington crowdsources his rats/ship/flee list for Yahoo — when Mark Comerford tweeted back with a link to the crowdsourced job interview:

Joanna Geary, a young journalist trying for a job at the Birmingham Post, told her readers about the task she had to perform for the interview: “I have to outline a training course that would convert traditional print journalists into ‘fully-equipped and knowledgeable multi-media, multi-platform journalists’ in just five days.” So she decided to ask for her readers’ help. I said in the comments that that act alone should get her hired. It shows she thinks in the new way: open, networked, relying on and trusting the gift economy and respecting her readers and what they know.

This is reflex for me now. I come to my friends on the blog — you — to ask help all the time, especially with my book. I’m working on another project that has to stay secret right now — not mine; I’m helping someone else — and it’s killing me that I can’t tap the wisdom of all of you.

What this really means: Your friends are, indeed, your greatest asset and when you can tap them for help you exploit their value to you. The internet now enables you to do that anytime with anyone. If you don’t have friends, you can’t do that. Newspapers, magazines, companies of all sorts need to realize that is why they need friends.

We are in a relationship-based economy. (Which is another way to look at the link economy of media, Associated Press, and why turning friends into enemies is just bad business.)