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Founded in 1846, the AP is one of the largest newsgathering organizations in the world, with about 2,400 journalists. Its primary news operation is its wire service, though it also operates a radio network as well. It has won 49 Pulitzer Prizes, including 30 for its photography.
Content on the AP’s national and international wires is overwhelmingly supplied by AP staffers, while the state wire stories are produced by the AP and its members. With more than 200 news bureaus, it is among the American media’s leading producers of international news.
The AP’s profits and revenue have fallen sharply in recent years, and it nearly lost money in 2009. About a quarter of the AP’s revenue comes from domestic newspapers, about 17 percent from online customers, and slightly less from U.S. broadcasters. Other revenue sources include international clients and photography.
Since the late 1990s, the AP has allowed its news to be posted on Yahoo, and after a brief hiatus in late 2009 and early 2010, its stories are posted on Google News as well. Those licensing agreements have been a driving factor in the AP’s increase in revenue over the past decade. The AP has also floated the idea of offering news slightly earlier to some aggregators for a fee.
Though AP executives have talked in the past about the need to allow content to flow freely online, they have often spoken out against aggregators and other online news sources for misappropriating its content, suing organizations that reproduce their material without permission.
It proposed, but ultimately decided against, charging its members to post content online in 2005, and in 2008, it attempted to impose guidelines on how much of its stories bloggers could quote. In early 2009, it announced it would more closely track its own online content as well as that of its members against copyright violation, creating an AP News Registry that went live in summer 2010. The AP is also a minority shareholder in NewsRight, which helps news organizations license their content to aggregators.
In 2012, it sued Meltwater News Service, a news-clipping service that, according to the AP, charged for access to a database of AP news articles for which it had not paid license fees.
In its negotiations with aggregators, it has emphasized its desire for them to prioritize the creator of news over those who repeat it elsewhere.
Its vocal stance on that issue has drawn fire from critics, who have called it anti-Internet or argued that it is unnecessary in the age of the web. Others have countered that the AP is going after those who steal its content, not simply link to or quote from it.
A group of newspaper executives expressed concerns about the AP in 2008, criticizing it for being too expensive and neglecting the basic news coverage for which it’s relied on. In 2009, the AP scrapped its plan to reorganize its member rates, leading about 50 of the 180 news organizations that had intended to cancel their memberships to reconsider.
In recent years several news organizations have developed content-sharing partnerships apart from the AP. CNN has created its own competing wire service and has experimented with going without AP content on its own site, using its own wires for breaking news.
WDCPIX is a political photo wire intended to compete with the AP, and in May 2010, the news sharing site Publish2 announced its plans to “Craigslist the AP” through a new free, open news exchange. In their announcement of the exchange, Publish2 executives described the AP as inefficient, expensive and slow. The AP allows content-sharing arrangements and searchable content databases through its Member Marketplace service.
The AP was the first large organization to implement Mozilla’s Do-Not-Track feature.
The AP has expanded its use of multimedia and social media in recent years in order to increase the social engagement and mobile accessibility of its news. It launched a video news service in 2006, and more recently it has developed a mobile division called AP Gateway, and developed a for-pay service for the iPad. It also plans to negotiate mobile content deals for its entire membership.
It also launched a social media hub called the AP Nerve Center and has experimented with crowdsourcing news coverage via Twitter. It created a social media and user-generated content editor position in 2012. However, in a 2011 update to its social media guidelines, it advised its journalists not to retweet opinions without clearly labeling them as such, and it has also instructed its journalists not to tweet breaking news before the AP sends it out on the wire and assured its members it won’t scoop the wire with social media.
The AP has outlined plans to create landing pages to compete with Wikipedia in aggregating information about breaking news, as well as plans to keep some of its unique content in one place on the web, rather than allowing its members to distribute it online.
In summer 2009, the AP launched a project to distribute stories by nonprofit news outlets. In 2011 they retooled and expanded the project with partnerships from ProPublica, the Center for Public Integrity and The Investigative Reporting Workshop.
The Zonie Report was a local online news site that covered the state of Arizona. The Report ran from 2006 to March 2010, when its founder and editor, Adam Klawonn, shut it down to focus on his work at Phoenix magazine and a mobile light-rail publication called CityCircles. The Report lost money and had a…