Associated Press: Go Social or Go Away?

On the heels of the heavy-handed announcement by the Associated Press to strictly enforce copyright guidelines on bloggers, Jim Kennedy, vice president and strategy director of The A.P., decided he and his group would "rethink" their policies toward bloggers, this according to the New York Times.

Kennedy was quoted in the Times article, "We don’t want to cast a pall over the blogosphere by being heavy-handed, so we have to figure out a better and more positive way to do this," Mr. Kennedy said.

So, here we are in the midst of a crisis for newspapers and a crossroads for journalists and The A.P. shows they've made real progress in adapting to a changing mediascape, right? Obviously, not the case. Not only did they take a bad approach, they showed they're just now thinking about how to approach the "blogosphere".

The A.P. relies solely on journalists to feed their massive news engine. As a local reporter, you receive compensation for every article that is picked-up. I've received a few of these checks in my time and from my experience, it's nothing to count on as real income if you're a local journalist.

Scott Karp at Publishing 2.0 makes a great point:

Take the story of flooding in Iowa, for example. The AP is covering this story extensively, as you can see in this Google News search result. But local news media in Iowa is also covering the story extensively, as you can see in this search limited to Iowa sources — the story is happening in their own backyard, giving these local sources a unique perspective and knowledge.

So if a blogger wanted to discuss the Iowa floods and needed a source to cite, they can easily find an original local source instead of the AP story. And they can think of the link and the traffic they send as a contribution to the local news outlet’s original reporting, particularly the local newspapers struggling with new economic realities.


The backlash is only just brewing and the boycotting has already begun. If I were in Mr. Kennedy's office, here's what I'd offer up:

The A.P. Goes Social
With the right mindset (and some creative hiring/consulting) I believe The A.P. could adapt and capitalize on their product by incorporating and engaging in social media. Here's a few topics of discussion for those BIG board meetings coming up at The Associated Press.

Step 1
The Associated Press becomes a resource for news organizations as a whole.
Media has relied on The A.P. since the beginning of time (almost), so why not remain a resource? Not by simply providing content, but by providing solutions. As it sits now, journalists are not going to be the ones to reshape the news business. Corporate news organizations big and small will have to take steps to make it happen. There is no better organization than The A.P. to become a hero and remain an effective resource for media. I've blogged previously about how newspapers could integrate community and social media in general into their business models and actually make money. While I'm not the expert, I can tell you that the response to that article has been stellar and examples of Wired Journalists and Exploding Newsrooms are cropping up everywhere. If The A.P. can't lead the charge, maybe these progressive journalists are the answer? Or maybe Community Funded Reporting will replace The A.P. entirely one day?

Step 2
The "Sociated Press" seeks news from everywhere. The A.P could become the syndicate for community reporters- people, not journalists, who opt to send their photos, video and news directly to The A.P. instead of posting it on YouTube, Flickr and the like. Editors would spend their time verifying the source, but users who provide breaking content would be compensated just as journalists are today. If Tech Geek Blogger Robert Scoble can beat CNN to the China Earthquake story by a full hour, there's something to be said for these guys in the "blogosphere" - as Kennedy puts it.

Step 3
Didn't anyone teach you to share? The irony of this is that journalists aren't suffering because a blogger is referencing their story, in fact, I'm guessing many journalists would prefer the news is spread and discussed just as they intended when they wrote it. So why not share it? Why not become the resource for all these news websites and blogs by offering up your own widgets -sponsored by advertising- and designed to spread your resource to the masses. News organizations can still "pay to play" and The A.P. could foster a new relationship with readers, not just media outlets. Require bloggers to link back to The A.P., but don't forbid the inclusion of A.P. content generated by someone who doesn't stand to lose a thing.

I don't like to criticize things unless I have some alternatives or solutions. I am however, a huge proponent for embracing social media and running with it. I can see the promise for journalists and news organizations and am hopeful for the future of mainstream media.

If you're reading this, you too understand that the time is now for stepping up the game. So, engage in the conversations happening online and spend your energy on ideas because that's what we're good at.

Original post on PitchEngine | The Social Media PR Revolution

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