One of the world's largest newsgathering organizations has called for the release of the visual evidence of the death of Osama bin Laden. The Associated Press has filed Freedom of Information Act requests for such material and its senior editorial official has asserted journalists must be given the chance to judge for themselves whether to publish the content.
Michael Oreskes, the senior managing editor of The AP, tells The Atlantic Wire
that President Obama has pledged to run a much more transparent administration. While he notes this would be a difficult decision for the president, he says it is the job of journalists to seek this material. This material is important for the historical record, he argues.
Obama appeared on CBS' 60 Minutes Sunday and said the release of such material could incite violence and incur harm. Obama said he has seen the photo and "it is him."
Since the death of bin Laden, several organizations have sought the release of the visual evidence to support the assertion he is dead and to understand more about the confrontation that led to his death.
But there is an enormous debate on the necessity to release the evidence. Some argue
that it does not add any important information to the issue and only runs risk. What do you think?
The Associated Press plan with its Web content stretches significantly into new territory and is required reading for anyone interested in the direction of digital media.
It redefines the news service and the terms by which it and its membership gather and distribute content. For instance, it holds back some content to permit members only to link to its central site --- essentially taking it out of syndication.
It partitions its content according to the "utility" or "unique" features it provides --- that is, information readily available from others has a commodity quality and utility function, while the unique material (value-added graphics, for instance) would only be linked from a member site to AP.
It would also use a technical tracker of content across the Internet to monitor usage --- and seek compensation, presumably. The technology is under development.
And it will attempt to garner massive search engine-driven traffic with its centrally located unique content, in that its member organizations will link to one place and not disperse the content's search-engine appeal across hundreds of sites.
The document asserts that the aim is to preserve quality journalism (presumably by keeping the monetization inside AP) and prevent unlicensed use of its content (presumably by keeping the monetization away from others).
The document outlining the policies, attached through the Nieman Journalism Lab
and in the Scribd format below, was distributed in recent weeks to AP's board and executives.
The Associated Press has been sending signals for months that it intends to get serious about ensuring its content isn't freely shared. Now it has seemingly set a rate card, and it's a strong message to those who would cut and paste its material.
Mashable obtained the rate card
, which takes effect supposedly when bloggers or others use more than five words of an AP story. The charge: $12.50 for those five words.
A sliding scale rises to $100 for the use of more than 250 words. There are some discounts for educational and non-profit sectors.
The Washington Post's Paul Farhi asserts in the American Journalism Review that newspapers were harmed irrevocably by the Associated Press' decision to sell its content to such portals as AOL and Yahoo (then, presumably, to the newspapers' own sites).
He suggests that, if the genie were kept in the bottle and only the AP's family had access to the content, newspaper sites would not have found themselves competing against other information providers in the digital space so severely and rapidly. It would have bought time.
He dismisses the notion that Reuters or Agence France Presse would have been adequate substitutes.
Jeff Jarvis took him up on this argument and, while getting more than a little personal, suggested that it's AP's reluctance to link back to the original content that is most hurting the papers that own it.
In the digital age the media services of greatest use will be the ones with deep vaults of video. Which is why CNN's new offering of a full wire service ought to be taken seriously by Associated Press.
CNN.com is a well-written site, so extending that effort into a supply of breaking news is clearly viable. Other challenges are a little tougher --- for instance, how to supply newsrooms with contextual and analytical material.
What CNN lacks in bsic text it can secure in part through its vast international bureaus and partly through several vertical relationships in its parent company's print stable. That stable of sources might be the key to the deal and to the attractiveness of taking CNN Wire over other services.
Even though AP and Reuters have successfully moved into video in the last decade, CNN's roster is pretty much unmatched worldwide. Its commentators are name brands (if syndicated on their own, something CNN will need to repatriate to achieve its best success). But overall, AP has to be taking notice in a hurry.
The planned rate structure for the Associated Press was suspended Thursday. A board meeting has directed a full review of membership policies. And its members will be given full access to AP's feed without additional fees that had been scheduled to take effect in 2009 (forgoing about $7 million in revenue in the process). Cuts are promised of about $9 million, in addition to the $21 million previously announced, and the review will examine a wide range of issues.
In recent weeks some 100 papers, including those in the Tribune chain (the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, among them), had served up two-year departure notices because of the two-tiered rate structure (breaking news in basic, enterprise news in a separate tier) and their ongoing cost pressures.
The decisions Thursday are good news for organizations looking to keep costs controlled as their revenues decline in the U.S. Without those changes, departure from AP was likely for several significant companies, which would have in turn weakened the newsgathering capabilities of the venerable wire service.
The board meeting clearly attempts to mollify the immediate cost challenges and review policies in time to keep the cooperative intact during the notice period.
The mandatory two-year notice of departure served up last week by the Tribune Company on Associated Press was the strongest shot yet across the bow of the wire service. Other organizations have done the same to the venerable AP in recent months, while some are likely contemplating the same in order to deal with their costs, the service itself and their participation in it as content providers who need to find new markets on their own.
AP is introducing a new rate structure that changes the package of material it will supply as part of a basic service. It's a complicated formula, but in general it compels outlets to pay a premium for non-breaking news. The notices (also served up by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Bakersfield Californian, and others) send the signal of discord with the new packaging.
Now, two years is a long time in this business, and there is no shortage of ideas on how AP might refashion itself to keep Tribune (which has such titles as the Sun-Sentinel and Sentinel in Florida, the Baltimore Sun) and others in the fold before they leave contractually. But it's a clear indication that news organizations feel emboldened to look for other suppliers to manage their non-local news costs.
In our case, we left The Canadian Press as a newspaper chain in mid-2007 and strengthened our own Canwest News Service. We contracted to such firms as Reuters, Agence France Presse, Press Association and others to supplement existing suppliers like The Daily Telegraph, Bloomberg and others for non-local content.
The move kept more funds within our company, permitted us to hire a new generation of journalist to help us drive change, gave us a tighter-knit relationship with a domestic service, and also meant we were no longer sharing our journalism with our competitors through a cooperative. It's hard to imagine, one year or so into the experience, how the service could have done any better.
Having worked at CP for 14 years (and run its competitor for about a year), I know how valuable news agencies have been. But in a challenging age of expense management in newsrooms, those agencies have to be nimble, niche-like when it matters, and on the same page about how content is shared. These days they have competitors across any category and there are other places to shop.
AP is a giant, so it can withstand the departure of any single organization without wilting. But if its rates are an issue, and its philosophy of what constitutes basic service and premium services even more of an issue, it is bound to have more notices arriving in the mail.
Today the Associated Press announced that some 500 newsrooms are using its Member Marketplace tool to publish to the Web. In having a look at it online at ReadWriteWeb, I'd agree it looks like an RSS feed that helps a newsroom editor understand what's been aggregated (in this instance, AP content) instead of using a batch of tools to compile and publish.
It's a significant step and I suspect other newsrooms and other tools are en route.
Business Week weighs in with a take on the flap between The Associated Press and the blogosphere with a clearly argued take on how big media might soon expect a chunk of small media if the little guys use the big guys' material.
The presence of software like Attributor (familiar to some of us in newsrooms) makes it rather simple to find out who is squeezing the grape once more on content generated elsewhere.
Is it only a matter of time before transactions occur for the use of content?
Since its earlier warning to Drudge Retort, and since the pushback from the blogging community, little has been heard from The Associated Press about its demands that bloggers not crib its reports for their reports.
The closest anyone seems to be getting to an understanding of the situation in this media blackout is the New York Times, which has interviewed (and been refused interviews by) the interested parties in the dispute.
Essentially it appears The AP wants to protect the headline and first paragraph of its reports (these also being significant traffic drivers because Google and other search engines tend to crawl the headlines and the first words more aggressively). The battle is, it seems, not just about fair use, but about the traffic those words can drive in search.
But it's also clear (in The AP's non-comment) that there is much more to come in this dispute. And, as goes The AP, so could go many other media.