Last year’s model

October 13, 2008

This Editor & Publisher article makes it sound like The Associated Press is going through a small rough patch. I think it’s bigger than that — technology is passing by the whole model AP uses:

 Since the Associated Press announced its controversial rate change last year, many newspapers have started considering other content options. And things are not likely to calm down any time soon.A handful of dailies — including several who admit their AP rates actually fell — have given notice to drop the service, editors in several states are forging content-sharing alliances, and Politico and PA SportsTicker are quickly positioning themselves to help replace the 160-year-old news cooperative in daily news pages.

But is the latest dispute over AP rates and services a real sign that its relationship with newspapers will be forever changed? Can a mid-sized or major daily really exist without the news cooperative? Or is this just a bluff?

“AP is going to lose newspapers, it is a question of how many,” says Editor Dean Miller of the Post Register in Idaho Falls, which several months ago gave its required two years’ notice that it plans to drop the news service. “My guess is most of their losses will be in medium and small markets.” 

Everything newspapers do these days is out there on the Web, and almost immediately. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve commented in this blog about an article I’ve seen online from another Indiana newspaper, then seen that same article show up in one of the local papers after it’s through all the AP selection and transmission processes, usually a couple of days later. That’s stagecoach-against-the train speed. At one time, it took a massive investment in infrastructure to move stories and photos across space, and the AP was willing to make the investment. Now, all it takes is a PC.

The AP is going to last only if it does a lot more original reporting. But there again, AP’s clients can replace that with sharing. Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there’s already a lot of that going on. Catch how many times one of the local TV stations says, “As reported by our partner,” followed by one of numerous newspapers around the state.

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