AP Launches ‘asap’ Monday for Younger Readers

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By: Jennifer Saba

Newspapers looking for content aimed at readers under 35 got some help Monday when the Associated Press officially kicked off its youth-oriented service called asap.

About 10 staffers gathered around the desk of Ted Anthony, who heads up the editorial side of asap, to watch as the site went live. As the site loaded onto Anthony’s computer, cheers interrupted the unusually quiet AP newsroom.

Several of asap’s staffers had worked through the weekend –Anthony, for example, had been at AP headquarters in New York since 10:00 a.m. Sunday morning.

Chelsea Carter, who is headed to Los Angeles to work on asap, brushed back tears as the site went live. ?I grew up in this company professionally speaking,? she said, noting that she has been working on project since its inception last year. ?[asap] is one of the greatest things I’ve been involved in. There was no balking when people were told they would have to come in during the weekend. People are excited.?

The service — which utilizes blogs, diaries, audio and video, and photos — represents a drastic departure from traditional AP fare. The aim is to give AP members a premium service that will appeal to the sensibilities of younger readers.

Though there are about 20 staffers working on asap, the service draws on all of AP’s resources. ?There are more than 2,000 AP reporters,? Anthony said. ?We want to see the world through their eyes.?

The site looks and feels like a separate online publication, something akin to Slate or Salon. The content is divided into sections — news, entertainment, lifestyle, sports, money and gadgets, and dispatches. The main story today features U.S. Marine Capt. Rory Quinn as he documents his experience in Iraq for the next seven months with videos and diary entries.

Other packages include asap’s Ryan Pearson’s behind-the-scenes look at the Emmy Awards captured in a blog-like format, a traditional news story on the failures of Internet phones during emergencies, and a photo slide show of different signs posted by those affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Though there is more gravitas in the news stories, asap allows writers to develop their voice and deviate beyond the traditional AP story structure. Derrik J. Lang, a writer at asap, said he is allowed a lot of room to write. ?I spent a day at US Weekly and [asap] has the same voice and creativity but with AP’s girth of knowledge and history.?

So far about 200 papers have signed up for the premium service. Papers that subscribe can pull content from asap in a variety of ways for print or online versions and they can host the site in its entirety.

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