Can the News Licensing Group save journalism? An interview with AP CEO Tom Curley
Earlier this month, those following journalism news heard that this year global news network the Associated Press would launch a new agency to allow publishers to license digital news content. For many in the publishing industry, it sounded like someone had finally built a lifeboat for the sinking ship of the publishing industry out of digital content. So, how might this work? I took the opportunity to call AP CEO and President Tom Curley (I was able to get him on the phone easily, I think, because he is my father's cousin) for a familial check-in and to find out more about the new venture. In the meantime, I've done some more reading on the new agency—see the ital info between questions for some more fleshed out information on this promising new development for those in the content business.
Does this new agency have a name yet?
The News Licensing Group. There will also be names for products that get created, but that's premature.
Like AP, will this agency also have not for profit status?
No, this is a for-profit endeavor with investors who will seek returns.
I've dealt with these performing rights organizations like SESAC and ASCAP, is this new agency analogs to those or not really?
Well, Its a stretch, there are obviously elements that are similar, but the closest thing is the News Licensing Agency of Great Britain in which publishers have pooled their content and products are created out of the database. The most important aspect here is that we're not trying to be journalism's cop. We are really interested in enabling the content to be used, hopefully in its using to raise some revenue. We're trying to find some funds that will help sustain journalism.
The News Licensing Group will take over AP's News Registry which tracks digital content around the globe, but also license, market, and distribute news content with respect for intellectual property rights.
This is a natural evolution—this is journalism and the newspaper business adapting to the digital revolution. Is it surprising that no one has done this up to now?
I would go beyond that. Having done the scan how this happens in other industries and in other countries, we seem to be remarkably unprotected and a bit stupid about it. It should have been done a long time ago. There is no question about it.
AP is taking the lead on this. Had there been rumbling about this in the industry? Or did AP look at the whole situation and take the lead on it?
We're in an unusual position in that our content is out there in so many outlets. When we looked at what was happening to our content, with RSS taking place, we became concerned. There are a couple questions such as… How do we get our content just to the people who are willing to pay us premiums for it? And how do enable those who are paying us a premium to do their own RSS feed? We had a licensing quandary if you will and I think that provoked us to think about it more. And we've been at this for seven years. Because of who we are and that we do not go direct to consumer, we have been in a position to think about this more, because we've watched how our content has been used on a variety of fronts.
I would say that what you suggest is more recent. By 2008, a lot publishers were starting to pound the table and sound off about what was happening to their content, and how it was being taken away. I would say the aspect that has been most recent is the growing understanding of the data analytics and what it means if you do not have access to the data. Those are the three phases of it.
Who is this going to benefit? Does it benefit local news organizations, established daily papers who are looking to generate income from their content they are creating? Who is likely to benefit from this?
Hopefully this will be a game changer. Consumers will see new products being created. And the people who are participating in that creation, should get appropriate compensation. That's not just newspapers, that would be broadcasters as well. That's not just local, that could be anybody who creates content.
When launched this summer, the new agency will support content from AP and a thousand-plus publications. It will move beyond text to photos and video. International expansion is in the works, too.
My next question, could this be empowering to an individual who's writing, their stories or blog posts have a good following?
Yes, absolutely. In fact, AOL uses the News Registry already, they are heavily trying to create the new content model. That gives you an indication of where this can go.