The Nieman Lab blog obtained a copy of the AP’s latest plan to preserve it’s aging business model. The name – “Protect, Point, Pay — An Associated Press Plan for Reclaiming News Content Online” – sort of says it all (for better or for worse).
The plan is to withhold some of it’s content from it’s wire and other means of distribution, instead forcing member sites to link to the content on an AP site. So…the AP is seeking to compete with its member sites for online traffic? Wha?
The AP plan differentiates between “utility” content and “unique” content when deciding what to keep on this centralized site and what to distribute for member use. The AP’s lawyer seemed to define “utility” content as the AP’s usual offerings of traditional news feeds. The “unique” content, I’d think, would be their supplemental interactive graphics, galleries and non-daily news features from AP staff.
While I can appreciate that the AP is at least thinking 21st century on this latest scheme, it begs the question: What exactly are AP members paying for, anyway? Member-owners subscribe to the AP precisely because we want to use this content on our sites specifically to get page views and sell our own ads around it. If AP members have to send that traffic off site – why even pay the huge AP membership fees in the first place? We can give traffic away for free.
In addition to that obvious question, the plan prompts many more alarm bells.
Steve Buttry says the AP seems to be off on the wrong foot from the get-go with this name about the name:
[It] uses two words that reflect the dangerous thinking that plagues way too much of our industry today: The focus on protection of a declining model rather than development of a new, prosperous model and the stubborn denial of all evidence that paid content is not the path to a prosperous model.
Secondly, on this business of unique vs utility content, Buttry and others ask how this distinction will be made and if member-contributed content will be “protected” too. After all, so much of the AP’s state and local feeds seem to be from member papers’ reporting, not that of local AP staffers.
Thirdly – a Nieman commenter asks how will all of this work in terms of search engine optimization? The AP seems to be hoping these outside links will provide all the SEO they’ll need – but these stories aren’t on all the various member sites themselves – how much will the AP content fall in SEO rankings?
I’m sure there’ll be a lot more info out about this in the coming days and weeks and maybe I’ll feel better about it. Right now, despite what their people may say, the AP seems to be looking for a fight with it couldn’t possibly win.