Inside the AP’s Plans to Protect Its Content

We’ve been reading some excellent posts and discussion this week on one of the Associated Press’ proposals to reinvent itself in the Web era. Much of that discussion has been spurred by Zachary Seward, blogging at the Neiman Journalism Lab. He’s run across a copy of an AP proposal called “Protect, Point, Pay — An Associated Press Plan for Reclaiming News Content Online,” which was distributed among AP execs, board members and some members last month.

You can see the full proposal here, along with links to Seward’s series of commentaries about various aspects of the plan. Part of the plan involves the AP keeping some of its stories off the wire, available only on a central AP news registry site. Members (and others, presumably) could link to stories on that registry, which would be home to deep news content curated by the AP.

In some ways, this is a good idea. Its executives having previously shown disdain for the “link economy” in many public statements, this plan shows the AP embracing it, trying to harness the power of links to make it more relevant in search, which is the heart of the Web. Encouraging!

This, from Seward’s commentary on how those pages will attempt to rival sites like Wikipedia:

The primary motivation of that initiative is search: AP material that resides on hundreds of disparate sites at the same time will hardly rate in Google compared to a single page with hundreds of links pointing to it. That’s a fundamental tenet of search engine optimization.

The same philosophy is driving their plan to build “news guide landing pages” that will aggregate the AP’s content around subjects, places, organizations, and people. Think of the topic pages on sites like The Chicago Tribune, BBC, and others — except that the AP will be harnessing its vast network of members and customers in what could amount to a brilliant SEO play. [Emphasis his.]

You can argue whether this strategy — building something to rival Wikipedia, edited by literally thousands (if not millions of people) each day — is smart. It’s certainly not a new one (see the New York Times’ Times Topics pages, and most of what Yahoo! tries to do).

But what about AP members? How would this strategy help the hundred of news organizations that publish and contribute to AP content?

(More after the jump.)

That’s the discussion that’s raging here, where AP members question what’s in all this for them. If AP is putting what it considers less valuable or less unique stories on its wire, then asking members to link to the good stuff on the registry page, what’s the real value of hosting AP content, given that on member sites bounce rates could increase and page views might suffer? And what about ad revenue? If the AP serves ads against these registry pages, fed by member links, should members get a cut of revenue?

On commenter lays it out thusly:

But if AP is going to:

1. leave member websites with only with lower-value commodity spot news;
2. reserve to itself higher-value supplemental information;
3. reap the SEO juice of a thousand member websites linking to No. 2 above;
4. Sell ads against their own supplemental content to the exclusion of member ad sales (i.e., abandon the hosted-news model)

Then AP should be prepared to:

1. Radically reduce AP assessment rates to members, or
2. Send pro-rated checks to members for their respective fraction of traffic sent to AP’s supplemental content via member links (reverse syndication), or
3. Both

Obviously, the AP’s plan is still in development. But its new “news registry” is set to launch Nov. 15.


2 Responses

  1. […] Posts Inside the AP's Plans to Protect Its ContentFun Times with Tumblr: The Daily Baz and The Sweet Tea Body CountThe 2009 […]

  2. Hey, Lance. Thanks so much for this post and, in particular, wading through the comments for those choice bits. Appreciate it.

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