AP Develops NICC Advertising System

By: Kevin McGill, Associated Press Writer

(AP) The Associated Press is developing a service that will enable newspapers and their advertising customers to do business more quickly and efficiently via the Internet, Louis D. Boccardi, AP’s president and chief executive officer, told the news cooperative’s members Monday.

Publishers, editors, and other executives representing the cooperative’s 1,525 member newspapers attended the AP’s annual meeting, which included Boccardi’s report on the state of the AP and a panel discussion on war, terrorism, and religion. Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge also was to address the meeting at the AP annual luncheon.

The speeches and panel discussion were the major events of the first full day of activities of the Newspaper Association of America’s convention.

AP Chairman Donald E. Newhouse called the meeting to order and announced results of voting for the board of directors. Newhouse is stepping down after five years as chairman and will be succeeded by Burl Osborne, publisher emeritus of The Dallas Morning News.

Newhouse paid tribute to the AP staff for its handling of the events of Sept. 11 and their aftermath, which he said “eclipsed all other news in my five years as chairman.”

“Few stories in AP’s 153-year history have more severely tested the skill, courage, ingenuity, and resilience of our cooperative,” Newhouse said. “The result has been a news report in words, images, sound, and video in the highest tradition of AP excellence.”

Boccardi said AP’s response to the attacks demonstrated the cooperative’s success in maintaining the quality of its news report despite having to cut costs during the recession. “That we have grown leaner without cutting muscle or bone was, I hope, proven by the way we covered the September events,” he said.

Boccardi also said the AP has paid off $100 million in debt acquired as the cooperative built up business in the 1990s, and is now in position to seek new business opportunities, strengthen the cooperative, and keep rate increases at a restrained level.

The chief new opportunity he cited is AP’s acquisition last fall of NICC, an advertising processing business founded by NAA and now renamed AP AdVantage.

“We expect AP AdVantage to assist in the placement of nearly $400 million worth of advertising in newspapers this year, its first, and we’re on track through the first quarter to do that,” Boccardi said.

Boccardi said the AP is developing a new automated ad placement system to increase the speed, convenience, and efficiency of the advertising service. By later this year, he said, regional and national advertisers will be able to use a secure AP AdVantage Internet site to place ads in multiple newspapers. The system will replace the current system of phones and faxes.

“The system will be very easy to use, and with our backup safeguards, advertisers will have much greater assurance than ever before that their ads will be on the right pages in the right papers on the right days and that they’ll be billed the appropriate amounts,” Boccardi said.

Boccardi also said the AP’s business and financial report had been bolstered in recent months by a new arrangement between the AP and Dow Jones, making a larger volume of Dow Jones business stories, as many as 50 a day, available to AP members at no extra cost.

Innovations for AP members with online editions include an automated online state news service. It now delivers AP state news to members in 40 states, with more to be added this summer. Boccardi said other new products include AP CustomWIRE, which will let each member newspaper adjust the look of AP’s online multimedia content, “so your readers can move from your local news to world and national news pages without any sense that they’re leaving your site.”

Boccardi also moderated a panel discussion with AP staffers on war, terrorism and religion. Participants were Ron Fournier, White House correspondent; Suzanne Plunkett, a New York-based photographer recently returned from assignment in Afghanistan; Nick Tatro, deputy international editor; John Solomon, assistant bureau chief and head of the investigative team in Washington; and Richard N. Ostling, AP’s senior religion writer just back from covering the meetings of U.S. cardinals at the Vatican. Joining the discussion by satellite from Kabul and Jerusalem respectively were Kathy Gannon, bureau chief for Pakistan and Afghanistan; and Greg Myre, a correspondent covering Israel and the Palestinian territories.

In voting for the AP board of directors, four incumbents and three new members were chosen.

Elected to new three-year terms in all-mail balloting were Joe Hladky, president and publisher of the Gazette Co., The Gazette of Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Osborne, publisher emeritus of The Dallas Morning News and a director of the Belo Corp.; William Dean Singleton, vice chairman and CEO of MediaNews, The Denver Post; and H. Graham Woodlief, president of the publishing division and vice president of Media General, The News & Advance of Lynchburg, Va.

New members are David R. Lord, president of Pioneer Newspapers Inc., The Havre (Mont.) Daily News; Michael E. Reed, president and CEO of Community Newspaper Holdings Inc., Niagara (N.Y.) Gazette; and Robert C. Woodworth, president and CEO of Pulitzer Inc., St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Woodworth will serve the year remaining in the term of Newhouse, who is retiring from the board. Lord was elected to represent a city of less than 50,000 population.

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