AP Chairman, CEO, Vow to Confront Challenges

By: Greg Mitchell

Addressing the Associated Press’ annual meeting this morning at the Fairmont hotel in Chicago, Chairman Burl Osborne and President and CEO Tom Curley both highlighted challenges to the AP and the industry, and vowed to fight back with increased vigor.

Osborne called 2005 a “relatively” good year for AP, as it “continued to improve services,” introduced Web-based video and made special products for younger readers. He called AP’s financial performance strong, but said “all activities not central to our core mission will be reviewed — and will go away.” The 2007 assessment on members will grow very little if at all, he promised.

However, he also pointed to “a very large elephant in the room.” He said he could not remember when there was “so much dumping” on the newspaper industry, “without any basis in fact.” In reality, newspapers have profit margins to die for and are still seen as the most “credible” news sources and have the best relationships with local advertisers.

With this mind, and “in the face of naysaying, we need to shift from defense to offense” to change public perceptions.

Curley then discussed the growing need to protect AP’s content and intellectual property, especially with new challenges from such emerging media as search engines and RSS and mobile devices borrowing AP material. Curley said AP was meeting these challenges “head-on. … Last year we strengthened the legal and technical safeguards designed to prevent misappropriation of AP news.”

Like Osborne, he cited the new material provided by AP, especially its online video network, and the youth-oriented “asap.” To expand sports coverage, AP acquired (with News Corp.) half interest in STATS, and new financial offerings will help more papers drop or adjust their stock listings pages.

Also like Osborne, Curley noted the growing dangers in war zones for journalists. He said 25 AP staffers had been detained in nine countries, and others were injured or harassed.

All in all, Curley added, as AP celebrates its 160th year in 2006, “everyone at AP is excited about tomorrow.”

The balance of the program focused on energy issues around the globe — also the main topic of Sen. Barack Obama’s speech to the AP luncheon.

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