Scoble Is Right: Start Iterating -- Fast!
The Kindle Will Reduce Book Sales?!

Newspapers and the A.P.

Newspaper stack I'm certainly not a newspaper industry expert, so maybe what I'm about to suggest is ridiculously naive.  I'll go out on a limb and do it anyway so that the real experts can correct me if I'm wrong...

After reading this article in yesterday's New York Times I couldn't help but scratch my head and ask "why?".  The Columbus Dispatch spends $800K per year on A.P. stories to round out their newspaper's content.  $800K.  Even though this syndicated content is a very important ingredient to any newspaper's formula, that's a large number, particularly in these troubling times (and in this struggling industry).  So while I understand why newspapers have paid these syndication fees in the past, I don't understand why they plan to do so in the future.

Why don't all the newspapers of the world unite and simply share their content with each other?  (OK, there's the radical and possibly naive suggestion.)  There would have to be rules in place so that one paper isn't simply constantly sponging from all the others, but reasonable policies could easily be developed.

It seems like the A.P. was a solution to yesterday's problem.  Before the advent of the Internet and all the ways to move e-content from point A to point B it was a very useful model.  But haven't we gotten to the stage where all the newspapers could form their own new federation and accomplish the same objectives?  The article talks about some local initiatives where several papers in Ohio formed a co-op to address this; why not take it up several notches and build a worldwide co-op?

Newspapers are apparently contractually obligated to give the A.P. two years' notice of cancellation.  Fine.  Use the next 24 months to hammer out a global co-op plan and move on!


Michael Miller

One problem with your suggestion might be that most local newspapers have little or no original content these days. Just look at your local paper; the Indianapolis Star has a smattering of local reporting, focusing primarily on sports and politics, and relies on AP and its parent company for the bulk of its stories. It's not like the old days when newspapers had big staffs (including their own movie and music reviewers, investigative reporters, Washington bureaus, and the like); decades of cost cutting have resulted in much smaller newsrooms and a over-reliance of the same old retreaded national stories. That's one reason I quit reading the Star years ago for everything except the small number of local stories that still exist -- the local rag simply doesn't provide a unique look at anything happening outside the Indianapolis City County Council, and not even much of that.

Joe Wikert

Although the Star definitely has its share of syndicated content I have to admit that the front page of most sections is local and often several of the stories inside those sections are as well. Believe me when I say I'm no fan of the Star but I have to applaud their efforts to offer more local content than before. In fact, that's probably about the only reason why we still subscribe to it!

I'm sure your argument is true for far too many papers these days though. I'm just not seeing it with the Star.


Another problem. AP is basically what you describe. It is a non-profit owned by its newspaper subscribers. In other words, the subscription fees you see are better described as budget apportionments from AP's respective owners.

Much of the copy that moves on the AP wire is written by newspaper reporters across the country. In fact, one obligation all AP subscribers have is making available their own local newspaper stories for distribution on state and national wires. When you read that AP story about how a moose has fallen in love with a cow in North Dakota? That moose wasn't tracked down by an AP reporter but a local newspaper reporter, and some AP wire copy desk worker found it amusing and stuck it on the national wire.

Michael A. Banks

They've been sharing the same stories, for years. Features made a difference at one time.

Michael Miller

Apparently some newspapers are talking about dumping AP for shared content:

The comments to this entry are closed.