Posts about ap

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.)


Well, I hope we’ll know more about the standdown in the AP Affair, but I’m glad and not a bit surprised that hostilities have ceased. Fair use and fair comment remain murky, as they were intended. The larger story about the changing architecture, economy, and society of news media also remains.

I’m recording a BBC Radio 4 appearance later today on the topic. The AP chose not to join. Too bad. I think the more openly this discussion is held, the better. It’s complex and not clear cut from any vantage.

Whither the AP

What has me most upset about the AP Affair is that I fear we are seeing the beginnings of its death throes. I value the AP and don’t want it to die. I want it to morph to a new model and a new future. But I am afraid that in its fights, we are seeing its inability to adapt (not all its own fault; I’ll bet blame goes to its board and member/owners). And in its current combatants, we see the preview of a day when the AP has no friends left: not its members, not us readers/writers. If it does die, it could be that these parties would shrug and not mourn. And that would be the tragedy.

As I blogged here, the AP’s members are beginning to revolt. They are sharing their stories directly and see value in no longer going through the AP mill. That is a shot across the service’s bow.

So let’s say that local newspapers enter into networks — with other papers and with local bloggers and perhaps even with local TV stations. Will they need the AP state wire anymore? Doesn’t look like it.

And let’s say that local newspapers become what I’ve predicted and urged: very local. They cover their areas on their own and with these new networks. They no longer try to cover the rest of the world. That could be where the AP comes in. But the AP is still expensive and papers are shrinking and complaining — that’s what the revolt is really about. So this could also be where link platforms such as Daylife (disclosure: I’m a partner there) or even a general-interest Digg arrive to provide links directly to coverage on any topic wherever it is covered. I’ve suggested that papers will be left with a links editor who handles anything beyond the local limits.

Now add the fact that the AP has fired a shot across the bow of bloggers, not realizing that their links are valuable (and their ire dangerous); see the post below. At its core, this is about the AP’s conflict with its clients in becoming a consumer brand. If the AP tried to become that consumer brand — able to monetize links from bloggers and fans — it would value links from bloggers; instead, it is desperate to monetize its ownership of content and can’t face the prospect that this model is dying. But the AP can’t become a consumer brand because that would put it in competition and conflict with its members/owners. As Brian Cubbison says in the comment here, the AP is a wholesaler trapped in a retail world. Reuters is dealing with that conflict because it’s not owned by its clients. The AP can’t.

So what does the world look like without the AP? It pains me to ask but it’s a possible universe. Local papers can get local content from their own networks and national, international, sports, business and other content via links. They can also enter into cooperatives — which is where the AP started — to cover other events, such as the Olympics (now that every paper can’t afford the ego trip of sending huge staffs to overcovered news). The AP’s other clients — TV stations and such — have sources of national and international coverage from Reuters and Agence France Presse. Readers get links directly to original journalism at its source. The sources of that journalism get more audience and more opportunity to monetize it and support their work. The world keeps going.

How could the AP survive? I think it needs to become a curator and distributor of original content — likely not in a syndication model but in a shared sponsorship network. It could continue to be a cooperative for bespoke coverage, but only on demand. It would be much smaller. Or it could be freed to build a consumer brand able to monetize audience like Reuters (though its board of members/owners would likely never go for that). In any case, it can’t stay stuck in the limbo it’s in now, getting in trouble with every side. That, I believe, is why it is acting like a trapped animal.

And that, you see, is why I am so concerned by the AP Affair. It’s about more than a few bloggers and links and lawyer letters. It’s about the future of the news business.

: LATER: Moments after I posted this, I see that Dorian Benkloil, writing at Silicon Alley Insider, agrees that the members are the problem.

The link economy v. the content economy

In media, we are moving from a content economy to a link economy.

The AP Affair is the best illustration of the clash between these two worldviews.

Let’s turn the discussion on its head. Let’s say that the real value in this equation is not content and information — both of which are now quickly commodified — but links, which are the new currency of media. Links can be exploited and monetized; get links and you can grab audience and show ads and make money. Content is becoming a cost burden, what you have to have to get the links, but in and of itself, content can’t draw value without an audience, without links.

So now let’s turn this fight on its head. The AP should not be asking for payment for its content. The bloggers should be asking for payment for their links. That is where the value is in this economy.

Step away from that ‘comment’ link. I am not seriously suggesting that bloggers should demand or accept payment for links. Indeed, that would be quite unethical — very PayPerPosty: selling out and devaluing our credibility. That’s why we don’t do it. Our link ethic would not allow it.

Still, there is value in our links and the AP, if it understood this new economy would understand that it is a gift economy and links are presents that can be given or earned but not bought. But the AP is still operating in the content economy, which values control instead. That age has passed.