CNN is heading 180 degrees in the wrong direction with its attempt to start a wire service to compete with the Associated Press, I think. CNN is just trying to amortize the cost of its existing coverage by reselling it and it may find a few clients. But I’m dubious because newspapers and news sites are canceling every syndication contract they can (I did that six years ago when I worked on sites). Yes, CNN might undercut the AP, but since it takes two years to cancel an AP contract – and because newspapers have an ownership stake in the AP and because there is volume and quantity there – I don’t see CNN taking over a critical mass of AP business quickly.
But there’s a much, much bigger strategic mistake at play here:
What’s needed instead is an infrastructure to share and link to original journalism. Newspapers in Ohio are doing that now. Newspapers in the New York area have said they’re working on something similar.
That network could have been created years ago when newspapers created the doomed New Century Network but it died because they wouldn’t give up control or get along. But today, they’re desperate, absolutely desperate, to save any penny by using someone else’s stuff. No longer complaining about aggregation, they must aggregate themselves.
Many players can create the infrastructure that enables newspapers to share and link to their original journalism. (and, full disclosure, I work with one of them, Daylife). But they don’t even need infrastructure to get started. All they need is email or links and permission. That, I believe, will undercut CNN’s effort to undercut the AP.
CNN is holding a meeting of newspapers editors in Atlanta this week to sell them on the new wire. If I were there, I’d gather my colleagues over drinks and form my own wire service, for free.