AP Board Announces Initiative to Protect Content

NEW YORK — The Associated Press Board of Directors today announced it would launch an industry initiative to protect news content from misappropriation online.

AP Chairman Dean Singleton said the news cooperative would work with portals and other partners who properly license content – and would pursue legal and legislative actions against those who don‘t.

“We can no longer stand by and watch others walk off with our work under misguided legal theories,“ Singleton said at the AP annual meeting, in San Diego.

As part of the initiative, AP will develop a system to track content distributed online to determine if it is being legally used. AP President Tom Curley said the initiative would also include the development of new search pages that point users to the latest and most authoritative sources of breaking news.

In addition, further significant rate reductions and new content options for member newspapers were announced Monday at The Associated Press annual meeting, in San Diego.

The pricing changes will bring a further $35 million in rate assessment reductions for 2010, while providing the option of a “Limited“ service for newspapers with minimal world and national coverage needs. AP will continue to provide Member Choice Complete service for newspapers that want full access to AP‘s worldwide reporting. The changes are a direct result of member input and are being instituted through revisions to Member Choice, AP‘s text news pricing and product plan.

Also as a result of member feedback, AP has introduced an option, effective from Jan. 1, 2010, for members to elect to cancel their membership on one-year notice. Those who elect to continue under the long-standing two-year notice requirement will receive an additional discount on their assessment. The not-for-profit cooperative has already introduced flexible new licensing that allows its members to develop new revenue by using AP content in local niche publications, weeklies, online products and other special products.

“We‘ve listened to the needs of our members, and come up with a revised plan that is clear, simple and flexible, and that also provides them with significant rate relief to help during these tough economic times,“ said Singleton, chairman of the AP Board and vice chairman and CEO of MediaNews Group Inc. “We feel it is critical to help our members during these extremely difficult times, and these numbers show our deep commitment to doing that.“

On Saturday, at its quarterly meeting, the AP Board of Directors also discussed the need for rate, term and product changes for segments of the local broadcast market. AP is preparing broadcast plans, to be addressed in July at the board‘s next meeting.

The cuts announced Monday come on top of $30 million in rate reductions that were instituted last year for 2009. With this year‘s revised plan, AP estimates an additional $35 million in rate discounts to members in 2010. Overall, AP estimates that these reductions will reduce its revenues from U.S. newspaper members by approximately one-third between 2008 and 2010. The total assessment decreases for newspapers are expected to average just under 20 percent, although they may vary widely depending on the levels of text and other services that each newspaper selects.

The revised Member Choice plan is designed to provide flexibility and customization that will allow AP member newspapers to choose the level of content that best serves their needs, while also enabling them to control their costs. Under the plan, two services will be offered. “AP Member Choice Complete“ will provide full access to all of AP‘s English-language text reporting. “AP Member Choice Limited“ will provide a reduced AP text news report for newspapers that need less national and world coverage. Each of these services can be customized by adding or removing various categories of news. Members will also be able to choose from supplemental services, including Photostream, video and multimedia produced services.

The revised Member Choice plan has been reviewed in hundreds of meetings with newspaper editors and publishers and was explored in detail with a focus group of 23 industry representatives in February.

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