AP DIGITAL ORGANIZES ONLINE EFFORTS

By: Jason Williams

Division To Sell Content To Web Sites

from this week’s Editor & Publisher magazine:



The Associated Press is finally putting all its online eggs in one
basket. AP will announce this week the formation of a new Internet
unit, called AP Digital, that will handle all content development and
sales of national and international news to online distributors.



Thomas Slaughter, vice president/director of strategic planning, has
been named director of AP Digital. ‘[AP Digital] will position AP to be
able to fully capture the opportunity to sell content to the online
space,’ Slaughter says. AP’s online operation had been scattered among
departments, such as multimedia and information services, often slowing
down online operations.



The new division will add new-media specialists to existing AP staff
working on multimedia and online services. The entire staff, including
technical, sales, and marketing personnel, will total 150 people by the
end of this year.



Initially, AP Digital intends to focus mainly on business, health,
technology, and entertainment and celebrities, Slaughter says.



AP Digital will develop new content for online distributors, deliver
content with Extensible Markup Language (XML) tags, and allow users to
get feeds from AP that are more finely categorized and more
appropriately fit their sites, Slaughter says. AP Digital also will
improve the process of linking certain media types, such as photos and
text, on a consumer’s Web site.



The synergy of online services should be good news for commercial
sites, such as Capitol Hill Blue (http://politicslive.com), which has
endured some communication problems with AP in the past and now gets AP
content through a third-party syndicator. ‘Their pricing structure was
really geared to newspapers,’ says Doug Thompson, publisher of Capitol
Hill Blue. ‘If they are doing something that gets their act together
for online services, I hope it will do so, but I hope it will also keep
the content affordable.’



Slaughter says that AP Digital will benefit cooperative member and
nonmember Web sites by providing better, more workable content that
will be segmented into specific areas. Many online newspapers are
satisfied with the existing AP Wires and wouldn’t be interested in
enriched national and international multimedia, preferring to devote
resources to local online content.



‘I think there’s still going to be a market for newspapers who don’t
have television stations,’ says Kris Hey, senior producer of
orlandosentinel.com. ‘If we didn’t have our own, we’d probably be using
[AP Multimedia].’ In addition, some newspapers prefer to develop local
online content rather than national or international content.



‘We’re a heavily Maine-focused site, and we really don’t put a whole
lot of resources into developing what I would call more generic news,
national and global news,’ says Joe Michaud, president of
MaineToday.com and online editor for the Portland Press-Herald
(http://www.portland.com).



The AP announcement comes a month after rival Reuters announced it was
moving its core business to the Web in an effort to broaden its
customer base and launched an $22-million ad campaign. Reuters also
joined with Microsoft Corp. in initiatives to provide real-time
financial news via a personal Internet portal.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Jason Williams (jwilliams@editorandpublisher.com) is the new-media
reporter for Editor & Publisher magazine.









(c) Copyright 2000, Editor & Publisher

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