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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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