Why The Gazette is right to leave the AP collective

So The Gazette is planning to live with the Associated Press. A difficult decision, I’m sure, but one I fully support.

My suspicions were aroused when Steve Buttry tweeted about a meeting with the AP bureau chief and the regional vice-president. And this evening, Mr. Buttry moved this on the Twitter wire:

My letter notifying AP that The Gazette is planning to leave: http://is.gd/3xid Column explaining it to our readers should post shortly.

In that letter, dated Sept. 18, Mr. Buttry wrote:

Perhaps the moves you have made to sell AP content widely across the Internet were necessary decisions as you seek to adapt and prosper in the digital age. But those moves certainly have contributed to devaluing your content to members.

Yes, yes, yes. By selling its content to Google and Yahoo and others who take but don’t contribute stories, the AP has made the stories it provides to the wire service’s owners (it is a newspaper collective owned by its newspaper subscribers, after all) more or less useless. Every AP story run in the dead-tree edition has already been available for hours when it arrives on the reader’s front step (or drive way, or bushes, or roof). And it isn’t cheap, either, costing hundreds of thousands or millions, depending on a paper’s circulation.

The Gazette is just one of the papers that have threatened to leave (the AP requires two years’ notice to stop service, a requirement one paper has challenged). But local news is what will keep newspapers afloat, not wire content and certainly not stories readily available from Google or Yahoo.

I’m not saying everyone should be or is getting her news online, but newspapers can’t compete in the long run if they pay more for less valuable content. By raising its rates, AP is pricing itself out of a lot of paper’s future plans. Local reporting is what the AP cannot do to any large degree and it’s what newspapers need more of to save themselves.

Update: In Mr. Buttry’s Sunday column, he gives three main reasons for the decision, similar to what other papers have said:

  • The availability of the AP’s national and international news online lessens the value of the that news to the paper.
  • The selection of state and sports news has declined.
  • The AP has increased rates (6 percent to 10 percent for The Gazette) and decreased the service options.