Associated Press CEO Tom Curley is on a mission to save the traditional news business. And good for him. Too many traditional news CEOs have their heads in the sand. Alas, Curley’s much-publicized fix, a new content control and distribution strategy, is yet another attempt to stuff an old media peg in a new media hole.
After bemoaning the state of the news business in a speech last month (we annotate it here), Curley now offers specific remedies. These include:
- Noting that reporting is expensive, dangerous, and valuable [no argument here].
- Arguing that the breaking news business is a premium business [some argument here]
- Suggesting that those who re-run the first paragraph or photo from an AP story are worse than thieves, because people die for those photos [big argument here.]
- Demanding that AP always be paid for the news it breaks [good luck].
- Arguing that the Internet is the “mother of all opportunities” for AP [Unlikely, and certainly not if Curley keeps looking at the world this way]
An attempt to summarize several related Curley arguments (culled from an NYT piece, this paidcontent interview and an 11/29 Curley speech) might be this…AP’s intellectual property is not words or pixels but NEWS. AP spends money and lives gathering this news, so AP should get paid for it, and others shouldn’t be able to re-report it for free.
That’s a defensible idea in theory, but in practice, it’s ludicrous. Even if everyone suddenly agreed that reproducing so much as a single sentence from an AP story was copyright infringement, nothing could or would stop other news organisations from summarizing what AP says in their own words–everywhere, comprehensively, within minutes of AP’s reporting it. Trying to control the flow of news is like trying to control the flow of rumours. Not going to happen. Ever.
Photos are different, and AP might (might) be able to control the distribution of its photos, but photos usually have a lot less news value than the news itself. Trying to control the flow of news itself is the worst kind of old-media thinking. The sooner Curley and AP accept this, the better.
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