The Associated Press will have a news application on the iPad when Apple begins delivering the new tablet device next month, according to James Kennedy, the news cooperative's vice president of strategy. "It will be on it when it comes out," Kennedy disclosured during a talk to about 40 people convened by the University of Missouri's Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute.

Kennedy's comments were part of a 45-minute tallk opening a two-day symposium, (Twitter hashtag #rjimediachaos)  "Business, Technology and the Media: Charting a Course Through Chaos," organized by the interdisciplinary Center for the Digital Globe at the university. During the talk, Kennedy made these points about The AP's plans for evolving in the new news ecosystem:

  • The AP is in the syndication business, which is now "in the tank" so it has to create new products. The service will look at opportunities "where the collective of The AP can take something to market."  The AP is a New York-chartered cooperative owned by its U.S. daily newspaper members.
  • The AP's contract with Google Inc., which permits Google to cache and display AP content in Google News and elsewhere without violating copyright, has not yet been renewed, Kennedy said, although The AP has concluded new contracts with Yahoo and other portals. "Our contract  is kind of in extension mode with them right now," Kennedy said of Google.  He said The AP has told Google its story about the future of news, as it has told others in public forums.
  • Surveys show that roughly 20 percent of web users will pay for content. The AP intends to focus on delivering services to technology early adopters who will be the leading edge of that 20 percent and seek to "give them an experience that is so valuable that they will pay for it."
  • Portable personal devices like tablet computers with have touch-based rather than point-and-click based interface will "revolutionize this (news) space," Kennedy said, and "put the power of consumption back into your hands with hand gestures."  Forrester Research estimates 10 million such devices will be sold in 2010, Kennedy said. "The power users are going to pay, and they are going to be in social networks and they are going to have these devices  . . . a new age of really intelligently packaged material that people are willing to pay for. I really believe it is coming, right around the corner . . . 30 to 40 million people in the United States are looking for the next great thing from us.

In his Sunday post-dinner talk to CDiG participants, Kennedy sketched The AP's view on the future of news. He said two ethnographic studies of news consumers showed they perceive news as four elements: facts, updates, back story and spinoffs. He said survey respondents are looking for more breadth and depth in news, they are fatigued by a barage of news snippets, and the notion of a front page for news hardly exists anymore because "the content is getting ripped out of the package."

How do you put together a package in that context which addresses peoples' daily-live needs, not merely their desire for news, asked Kennedy?  By serving the early-adopters, and doing so across social networks and portable, personal devices, said Kennedy.  A key challenge, he said:  How to make the news that a user wants follow that user throughout the day across multiple platforms.

To do that, the AP has developed an AP Exchange content database which includes stories not only from The AP's own writers and producers but also from its 1,200 member newspapers. In the future, said Kennedy, The AP might also seek to partner with weekly newspaper for their stories, too.  The AP has "tagged" those stories with key words which identify the content.  In a next phase, Kennedy said, The "AP Registry" will add additional HTML codes to those stories so that, according to Kennedy, their usage can be tracked across the Internet and other platforms, so that The AP can understand how its report is being used and modulate its editorial judgements accordingly.

Finally, he said, The AP envisions a scenario in which the information user will have registered somewhere and provided information preferences that work across multiple platforms.   "The news can go across site and across platform . . . and your social network is involved, and the news is involved with you in your life," said Kennedy.  In such a scenario, he said, the information provider "is gonna make sure the news follows you."

"Ultimately, we think this is going to resolve itself as some hub on the web," said Kennedy. " . . .  We don't know what that looks like."

Bill Densmore  
 
Residential fellow



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