This diary is posted in honor of the departed droogie6655321. With permission.
I was inspired by Granny Doc's excellent diary "Taking down the AP" this morning to tell you all something that you might not know about the Associated Press.
As a news consumer, your reasons for disliking the AP are many: slanted reporting, incomplete coverage, sloppy fact-checking, lack of original work, Rupert Murdoch's involvement, etc.
But what you might not be aware of is this: Many newspapers dislike the AP as much as you do, but for different reasons.
The AP, to begin with, has a truly odd (and, I believe, outdated) business model. The AP gets more than
75 percent (45%, according to unnamed AP source--also see footnote) of its news stories from newspapers, with the rest coming from broadcast, online news sources and elsewhere.
Newspapers provide the AP with the vast majority of its content while using a relatively small amount of it in their own product. However, the AP's gets most of its customers by far from TV and radio -- by nearly a 5-to-1 margin.
What does that tell you? It means that newspapers are having their product taken from them and given away to their competitors.
If I write an original story and scoop the competition doing so, the competition can then turn around and grab my story off the AP and run it the same day that my paper runs it -- and I don't even get a byline most of the time.
Can you think of any other business that gives away its unique product in this fashion?
Of course, the AP makes only $18 million in profits a year, so they're not exactly "giving" anything away.
On the contrary. Newspapers pay an exorbitant amount of money (millions, not thousands) to subscribe to the AP's wire service, and it's all-or-nothing. There's no "cafeteria plan." You either subscribe or you don't, and you wind up paying for a lot of services that you might never use.
The price tag for this service is a significant budget item for many newspaper publishers and can even rival the money spent on payroll and newsprint (the former is not rising, sadly, but the latter certainly is).
Not only that, but newspapers are giving a large amount of money away for a service that they try to use as little as possible.
Most major daily newspapers try to keep their usage of AP stories to a minimum because they know that customers prefer newspapers to carry original, local content that they can't get anywhere else. Some papers have a quota, and try to keep their usage of AP material below a certain percentage.
Of course, due to Internet-based news and other market factors, this is a difficult time for the print media as well as the AP. Both are suffering together. But maybe you can see why the AP needs newspapers a lot more than newspapers need the AP.
If you were a newspaper publisher and you were examining your budget, looking for a place to trim the fat, wouldn't it make sense to cancel a service that costs you a large amount of money, that you don't use that often, and which strengthens your competition by hurting the only thing that makes you special -- your original reporting?
Here is where you come in.
Whether it might seem this way or not, take it from a reporter -- newspapers care about what you think. Your feedback is considered carefully by the management of your hometown paper now more than ever.
Newspapers are beginning to realize that part of the reason why they are in such a troubling state right now is because they were unresponsive to changes in the marketplace -- changes that were driven by you, the consumer. It's the consumer who will make or break newspapers in the next 50 years, and they know this.
So if you don't like the AP for whatever reason, please realize that many newspapers don't like them either. Write a letter or make a call to the editor in chief or the publisher of your local paper and encourage them to cancel their membership with the Associated Press.
All the usual letter-writing disclaimer applies here. Be polite. Don't scream at them. Just tell them what you think would be best for their product.
If enough newspapers do this, it will put the hurt on the AP while strengthening the newspapers that break the news you need to stay informed.
The publisher of the newspaper I work for has expressed an interest in canceling his AP subscription, and has talked to other publishers he knows about doing the same. Your feedback could help guide them to make this editorial decision.
In Ohio, a group of newspapers has banded together to create a story-sharing cooperative called the Ohio News Organization (or, funnily enough, OHNO). The plan is to sidestep the AP by sharing stories in a way that is more beneficial and cost-effective for Ohio papers. According to the Wall Street Journal, editors in Texas, Pennsylvania and Indiana have quietly inquired about how the Ohio cooperative works.
If you ask me, the AP is a parasite that has outlived its usefulness to the American discourse. They add nothing and take away quite a bit. While the print media are my first loves, I think we'd be better off without the Associated Press.
Grannie Doc Action Item--
When you sign on to your favorite news feed, chose any Traditional Media source but the Associated Press.
I use Yahoo. At the top of each grouping of stories I have a series of sources presenting the stories of the moment.
I choose to read McClatchy, Bloomberg, CQ, Live Science, Space, Reuters, ANYONE BUT AP. Given the complete duplication of topics, nothing is lost.
I will no longer link to AP stories, read AP stories, or even load them into the list of feeds.
**FOOTNOTE**--With a tip of the hat to Uncle Moji, I give you this snippet from Louis Hau, Forbes Magazine
U.S. newspapers paid about $215 million in annual content fees to AP last year, even as they provided up to 30% of the reporting that composes AP's daily state news coverage. AP's fees currently average around $143,000 per paper, but the actual amount a newspaper pays per year varies greatly from paper to paper, with the largest dailies paying well in excess of $1 million a year.
P.S. The AP has a Ron Fournier problem.