AP president: Enforcement method needed to curb Web use of stories, plans to name offenders

By Erik Schelzig, AP
Friday, September 24, 2010

AP president: Need to curb unlicensed use of news

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — An enforcement mechanism needs to be created to help curb unlicensed use of news on the Internet, Associated Press President and CEO Tom Curley said Thursday.

Curley said an effort is under way to track websites engaged in content “scraping,” and planned to name 18 of them at an industry meeting on Friday — including one with revenues approaching $100 million. He declined to name any of the sites in his speech to a training program run by Associated Press Managing Editors.

“Not until the time is right,” he said.

Curley also said 900 newspapers have signed up for the news cooperative’s voluntary digital registry, and that 700 are receiving real-time tracking data. The AP believes the service can help it and newspapers find new moneymaking opportunities from online licensing and advertising. Curley said the registry “is a start — we need to kick it up.”

“It doesn’t do any of the work — there’s a lot of that going on,” Curley said at Vanderbilt University. “That’s where we have a lot of work to do, and that’s part of us taking control.”

When sites post newspaper and AP content without permission, it deprives managers of key information on how their stories are being eyed by customers, Curley said.

“We let others walk off with the customer data, and the business that goes with that,” he said. “That’s one of the things we have to stand up and fight on.”

Newspapers are facing sharp declines in print subscriptions and the advertising sales that account for most of their revenue. All are looking for ways to make money.

Curley said one way to control who uses content is to create a universal sign-on, citing AP’s Top 25 college football website as an example.

Understanding news consumption allows managers to best allocate staff and resources, Curley said.

“You have to define the most important stories in your market and you have to be great on those stories,” he said.

Curley said key news coverage areas the AP is focusing on include terrorism, the drug war along the Mexican border, elections, freedom of information and state legislative coverage.

“That’s the base,” he said. “I think you really have to go in and say, ‘These are the areas that are important.’”

Data should help drive decisions on how to “cover the rest of the waterfront,” Curley said.

“That’s where we really have to be smart about understanding the customer and quickly jumping on things that make sense for our communities,” he said.

The Associated Press is a not-for-profit cooperative owned by its member newspapers and broadcasters, a global network providing coverage of news, sports, business, entertainment, politics and technology in all media formats.

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