AP CEO Tom Curley said the company is creating a digital-rights clearinghouse that should help news media protect their content and generate more revenue as technology hatches new channels for distributing the news they produce.
The Associated Press, a 164-year-old news cooperative, has announced on Monday that it is overseeing the creation of an organization to help newspapers and broadcasters to revive from the decline and make more money as more people get their news from mobile phones and other wireless devices. “We’ve stood by while others invent creative, new uses for our news and reap most of the benefit,” Curley said Monday in a speech before the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association in Austin. “The digital marketplace is on the cusp of an even bigger phase of growth on new platforms and devices,” Curley said. “We have arrived at a moment of significant opportunity.”
New Ways to Read News: As the clearinghouse tries to generate revenue for its participants, it may find itself negotiating with powerful companies such as Apple Inc. and Google Inc., both of which have created products that give consumers new ways to read news. Curley also said that the group will eventually extend beyond newspapers and broadcasters to include magazines and other content providers, including those outside the U.S. Newspapers desperately need to find ways to bring in more money because their main revenue source — advertising — has plunged in the past four years. Television and radio broadcasters also have been suffering financially in recent years, although not as severely as print media.
Agreement with Google: The AP recently negotiated a new licensing agreement with Google, a deal that Curley suggested might have been more lucrative had the news media united their interests through such a clearinghouse. “We only got so far (in the Google contract talks) and we need some help,” Curley said in response to a question after his speech. “And my message to you is: To the extent more participate, the more help and opportunity it might create.”
News Clearinghouse: The news clearinghouse would try to negotiate licensing deals for stories, photos and video produced by participating news organizations, including the AP. News organizations would still produce and own content made available to the clearinghouse. Any payments would go to them, after subtracting administrative fees expected to be 20 percent at first. AP is setting up the clearinghouse as an independent organization. An executive hasn’t been appointed to run it yet. It could be in operation by the end of the year.
Fight Piracy and Content Detecting: The clearinghouse also intends to fight piracy by relying on a tracking system, called a “news registry,” that the AP began developing more than a year ago. Besides detecting unauthorized use of content, the registry’s tagging system can provide insights about the people who are viewing content or the frequency with which a specific company or expert is mentioned in news coverage. That information conceivably could be used to show ads to people who are most likely to be interested in certain products and services or sold to companies trying to understand how they are perceived. Curley indicated that the clearinghouse’s biggest moneymaking opportunity is likely to be the licensing of copyright-protected content to mobile phones and an array of computer tablets such as Apple’s iPad and emerging competitors.
Falling Newspaper Circulation: By 2012, the AP expects more than 250 million wireless devices to either be running on Android, a mobile operating system made by Google, or the Apple system that powers iPhones and iPads. Meanwhile, newspaper and magazine circulation is expected to keep falling. Curley said that will set the stage for the day when there will be “more touch screens than front pages.” “The move to mobile … will usher in a new golden age for the development for products, if we’re up to the challenge,” Curley said.
Mobile Applications: The growing use of mobile devices could allow traditional news organizations to take back control. Curley described “a multidimensional, multi-platform opportunity” that goes beyond existing delivery mechanisms such as websites and search results pages. The AP and many of the newspaper publishers that own the cooperative already have seized on the opportunity by creating mobile applications for the iPhone, the iPad and Android-powered mobile phones. More than 70 newspapers now pay for an AP service for creating smart phone apps in a partnership with Verve Wireless Inc. Plans to do something similar with the iPad are in the works. The AP charges a fee for creating these mobile applications. Without providing specifics in his speech, Curley indicated the AP has something more elaborate in mind for the mobile application market next year. This next-generation app platform “will offer consumers fresh perspectives on the day’s top stories and take them behind the scenes with our experts,” Curley said.
iCircular: As part of its effort to build more mobile applications, the AP will begin offering a new advertising tool, called “iCircular,” that will attempt to sell the digital equivalent of coupons and other circulars that are inserted into newspapers’ print editions. “It’s time to make it a real business and extract some additional value from the marketplace to support the good work we do,” Curley said.