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.

  • Bimal Shivaji

    Hi Jeff,
    Your post which was carried in Guardian, opened a new world for me. I work as a rewriter in The Hindu in its edition in Trivandrum, India.
    It was quite an interesting post.

  • Jon

    Your post seems more of a regurgitation of all you had said previously during the affair.

    It seems you don’t really understand the business of a news wire or you didn’t bother to actually research any background for your article. You only mention AP and RTRS no mention of AFP the other international news wire. Comparing AP with RTRS doesn’t make sense they’re two totally different animals. For a UK audience maybe a look at what PA are doing would have made sense. Are national news agencies in a different position than the big wires?

    The Guardian also seems to believe that all that’s fit to print is also fit to post and they post this piece online with not one link to anything (yet supposedly this is the new economy of journalism). Do the Guardian have a policy against printing URLS in newspaper copy? Maybe a link to some background on this new link economy would have been useful, a link to Daylife would have helped too.

    To top it off I couldn’t even comment on the Guardian article itself. I was hoping for some actual Jarvis thought on where the wires were heading or could be heading and instead we got a fluff piece. A seriously disappointing article

  • Well, Jon, whoever you are, so sorry to disappoint.

    I often take ideas that I explore with all of you in the blog and turn those into columns; that’s what the Guardian asked for. The columns distill a lot from here.

    Yes AP and Reuters are different animals but that’s the point: the AP must become a different animal (insofar as its owners and board allow it to change — and survive — if they don’t kill it first).

    Getting URLs into articles is a problem for every publication I know. That’s no excuse. You’re right about that.

    And I do believe the Guardian will be implementing comments across more of its content soon; it just added Pluck to its blogs and it is migrating various parts of the product to a new platform. I don’t speak for them on that but they are quite open to comment — witness Comment is Free.

    The one favor I have to ask of you: At least have the courtesy and guts to include your name, especially when you want to snipe. You know who I am. To hide from me as you respond is, well, rude, don’t you think?

  • Talking about news sevices, I have noticed a bizarre phenomenon lately. A whole bunch of new financial news services that appear to be competing with the big guys — Reuters, DJ and Bloomberg.

    I can’t figure out for the life of me how they’re earning revenues and a lot of these new services are very secretive about their owners and funding. For example, no bios on their websites.

    I’m wondering if they’re tied to Forex trading sites. And I know that some of the people who accredit these services to get into lockups, where potentially market-moving info. is released, are curious about what’s going on too.

    Among the mysterious new services: Need to Know News, Canadian Economic Press, World Business Press. RTTNews is similar but more established.

    It’s all very peculiar given that they’re entering a competitive established market with high barriers to entry and that the quality of the product provided by the newbies is often highly questionable.

  • The AP was founded to bring efficiencies to its owners’ newspapers. Instead of every paper trying to do original reporting, they would share stories and rely on AP to fill in the gaps. In exchange for the cost-avoidance and thus higher profit margins the newspapers paid fees to the AP — since the AP had no other source of revenue.

    Today, the inefficiency that is suffered by all but the largest of the online news sites is that they are too fragmented and too geographically focused to build viable online news sites. So, today, what the AP should be doing is producing a single news site that can aggregate and monetize the content of most of the newspapers. In this new world, where the AP has revenues other than membership fees, the AP should become an increasingly important source of revenue for its owners — the newspapers. (Note: This is already almost reasonable. Papers’ fees are only something like 30% of the AP’s revenue… Most of their revenue comes from non-members.)

    The biggest problems with getting the AP to do the right thing are:
    * Most newspapers still suffer the conceit that they can build and maintain viable geography-based online sites. The will learn too late that this doesn’t work. “Hyper-local” reporting is vitally important and potentially valuable, but it can only be monetized when co-located with non-local content.
    * The AP is overly influenced by its largest members (New York Time, etc.) who are building non-geography based news sites which, as models for what the AP *should* be doing, are competitive with what the AP should become. (As long as a handful of large papers rule the AP, the smaller papers are guaranteed to get screwed. What is in the interest of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal is exactly against the interest of virtually every other paper.)

    bob wyman

  • I question whether Associated Press actually has much say in the matter. These are the reasons:

    (1) Much of the material Associated Press runs is taken from its member newspapers and publications. As soon as the member generates material, “Copyright is secured automatically when the work is created,” according to the Copyright Office Thus, with material picked up from members, the original copyright rests with them, not Associated Press.

    (2) Associated Press would be able to acquire the original copyright from the member source, but it takes a written contract and registration with the copyright office. It’s unlikely, however, that the Washington Post is going to transfer all of its rights in full.

    (3) Associated Press would be able to “share” the copyright under transfer rules, but it must have an agreement with the original author to do so — a simple statement should do. Just asking to use and redistribute the material shouldn’t be sufficient.

    **(My broadcast organization is a “subscriber member” of the Associated Press. Here is the total sum of all our membership agreement has to say about AP’s right to use my material:

    **”Subscriber shall, without cost to (AP), promptly make available to (AP) …. all information original to the Subscribe in all forms gathered by Subscriber that is spontaneous in its origin, for use in news report(s) of AP and its subsidiaries.”

    **That’s it. No request to “share” copyright.

    Associated Press may place the copyright notice on material I and other subscriber members turn over under our agreement, but it is meaningless. We’ve simply granted them a license to use it, not to share in the copyright.

    I may place a copyright notice on any material I get from an associate and I may do it forever. But it has no meaning. Thus, the Associated Press notice on material picked up from the Washington Post similarly has no meaning.

    The Copyright Office has no means or authority or desire to enforce the notion of copyrighted material. It is the concern of the original author who may, or may not, call on a trespasser to cease and desist.

    My conclusion: Member subscribers of Associated Press have not taken steps to tell their press association to stop “pretending” to have the copyright authority over material they supply AP. But that’s OK. They still own the copyright anyway. It cannot be taken away. By the same token, AP has oversteped in claiming rights they do not have.

    All of this tempest about bloggers has been nothing more than “selective harrassment.”

  • Perhaps the USP of the AP in the digital world is its reputation for accuracy and reliability.

    In news this is a priceless commodity.

    How the AP deals with the opportunities of the 21st Century as Jeff suggests is down to the present watch.