As anxiety over impending layoffs grows, the AP brass plans to address staffers at a town hall meeting next month.
These meetings, held live from New York, are not unusual — but this time, expect a round of questions directed toward CEO Tom Curley about what everyone REALLY cares about: Keeping their jobs.
As one longtime reporter told us, “Everybody is on edge. The higher-ups aren’t saying anything. … Nobody knows if they’ll have a job by the holidays.”
Here’s the memo explaining the Town Hall:
Tom Curley and the AP Management Committee will talk about the initiatives that will drive AP’s agenda going forward, at the next staff meeting, Nov. 12 at 11:30 a.m. Eastern time. Learn more on the town hall page. The initiatives derive from the recent strategic retreat, in late September in upstate New York, and cover everything from new storytelling techniques to new licensing and product strategies. It’s an aggressive agenda you’ll want to hear about. Details on the meeting will follow soon.
In the meantime, Jim Kennedy, vice president for strategic planning, provides more information about the initiatives in this Q&A.
Q. What were the main goals of the 2009 meeting?
A. We tackle the “Lake Placid process” every two years to revisit the corporate strategy and drive innovation across the company. The process takes its name from the place we go for a meeting at the end, but the work begins early in the year, as key projects are identified and teams are selected to pursue them.
We’ve done this four times in the last six years, and each time, the teams never fail to produce real breakthroughs. The granddaddy of them all came with the first Lake Placid in 2003, when we decided to shift our technology from telegraph-style wires to a multimedia database. That fundamental change has driven our strategy ever since, enabling our journalists to work across media type and our customers to access the entire breadth and depth of our content in one place.
The transformation continues today, and LP 2009 provided exciting new breakthroughs in our journalism and how we take our report to market. As most know, we’ve been pushing a “3P” agenda this year, underscoring the need to protect our content online, point more consumers to it and get paid appropriately. That agenda fed the Lake Placid process as well.
Our principal goal was, metaphorically, to get “all the way across the digital bridge.” By that, we mean completing our transition to a truly digital media company. And, in so doing, we aim to extend our global leadership in breaking news.
Q. What key initiatives or breakthroughs came out of this year’s summit?
A. As you can imagine, based on such an ambitious goal, the projects were wide ranging, covering everything from news coverage to products, sales and operational improvements. As usual, the teams produced significant breakthroughs in all areas. You’ll be hearing more about those results in the upcoming Town Hall on Nov. 12. There were more than a dozen initiatives presented. Key among the innovations proposed were new social-media and storytelling techniques for news, a framework for licensing that captures more value for digital uses of our content and a roadmap for new product development. Studies also revealed fresh insights into how our content is being used and pointed to places to scale our resources up or down based on that usage. Rounding out the work were plans to improve the information and guidance that operating departments and divisions receive to help them compete and succeed.
We have now put the proposals into three main “buckets” to develop plans on how to execute on the proposals, and have named APMC members to lead each of the three over-arching initiatives. They are: Social media and Storytelling, led by Kathleen Carroll, Ellen Hale and Jim Kennedy; the AP Digital Business Model, led by Lorraine Cichowski, Sue Cross, Sri Kasi and Jane Seagrave; and, Managing the Business, led by Tom Brettingen, Jessica Bruce and Ken Dale.
In the coming weeks, the APMC members will be building teams and drawing on staffers throughout the organisation to help.
Q. At June’s Town Hall, you discussed the need for an intensive look at content and product development. What is happening there?
A. The most critical focus of the work – heading into and coming out of – Lake Placid revolves around new products and how to take them to market. The old wires – Datastream, Photostream and AP Online – were designed for an “all-you-can-eat” buffet, and our customers today have a variety of tastes. Well ahead of Lake Placid, we surveyed our customers to better understand their needs. That information helped the product and sales teams imagine new ways to “layer” our products from basic to premium and charge accordingly. Those ideas will continue to take shape as we go through the rest of 2009 and into 2010.
Q. You also discussed transforming AP’s business model beyond traditional subscription licensing of wire feeds. Any major changes?
A. With our products better defined and shaped to customer needs, we can be much more specific in matching content to customers and capturing true value for the sale. The new licensing framework introduced at Lake Placid proposed a formula that would take into account not only the content being licensed, but also the intended uses. So, with apologies for returning to the buffet metaphor, you can eat a meal in the restaurant at a certain price, but if you want to take the food and start your own restaurant, the price will be different. In the age of search and RSS feeds, this is a very important distinction to make. Customers that want to display AP versus distribute AP (via RSS, mobile, etc.) must be treated differently; otherwise, the value of our content for all uses will sink over time.
Q. Who participated at Lake Placid?
A. Over the past nine months, about 150 people worked on the 10 projects that were presented at Lake Placid. Each team sent their leaders to Lake Placid to handle the final presentations and discussions.
Q. What will be discussed at the upcoming Town Hall?
A. The communication process from Lake Placid will start with a Town Hall and continue with departments and operating groups over the next several weeks. In the Town Hall, we’ll lay out the main conclusions and provide some highlights from the presentations that tell the story.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.