By: M.L. Stein
Associated Press chief exec announces details on speeding up
slowspeed news wire and introduction of high-tech ad delivery sp.
HIGH-SPEED TECHNOLOGY FOR news and advertising are in store for Associated Press members, AP president and CEO Louis Boccardi prom-ised in a San Francisco speech.
Addressing the AP’s annual business meeting, held in conjunction with the Newspaper Association of America’s annual convention this week, Boccardi announced that the service will speed up its slowspeed news wire to 150 times its old rate of 66 words a minute. The slowspeed wire is used by smaller daily newspapers and college papers. Installation will begin in a few weeks and will be activated in January, he added.
The upgraded system will be available to any member who wants it at a surcharge based on circulation, Boccardi said. For half of the 412 members (and another 80 college papers) currently on slowspeed, the additional cost will be $4.10 a week, he calculated. If the additional cost is more than that amount, it will be phased in during three years.
The content and volume of the new service will remain generally the same but will be delivered “enormously faster” and more completely, the AP chief said.
The new service, AP Basic, may not be for all papers, Boccardi pointed out. Some members, he explained, have said the slowspeed ? IB Combo ? suits them just fine because it gives them a choice of copy without overwhelming small-staffed newsrooms.
“They want the news to be there when they need it, so that’s what we designed,” Boccardi said.
Also slated for an unveiling is a digital advertising delivery service, he continued.
To be called AP AdSEND, it will offer newspaper advertisers better quality, lower costs, greater convenience, more speed, increased flexibility and extra reliability, Boccardi said.
Newspapers will benefit through convenience, savings and quality, he added.
“Even more importantly, the benefits to your advertisers . . . give newspapers a potent defense to the charge that they haven’t done much to make life easier for advertisers,” Boccardi pointed out.
AdSEND will have a desktop computer with interface at both ends. Boccardi said the system is based on commonplace, off-the-shelf PC technology and is simple to operate and easy to connect to computers because of its open-platform facility.
Ads, he continued, will be collected by telecommunications from anywhere and sent to a central AP uplink for high-speed distribution to one newspaper or 1,500 ? much the same as the AP’s DataFeature and PhotoExpress.
Boccardi said advertisers will be charged a price competitive with other delivery systems.
“And, of course, AdSEND will be independent of all AP news and photo operations,” he said.
Boccardi also reported that the AP finally has the filmless, digital camera it has wanted. The new camera previously was showcased in New York (E&P, March 5, p. 12P).
He recalled that digital cameras tried out first by the AP produced good images on deadline but always at some sacrifice of quality or flexibility.
“What was sought,” Boccardi said, “was a camera designed for AP ? compact, portable and usable in varied and unpredictable conditions.”
The search led the AP to Kodak, already a leader in digital cameras, and AP News Camera 2000, which has a Nikon mount, was born.
“As far as technically possible today, it satisfied our news requirements,” Boccardi told members.
He said the camera is designed to work with the AP’s PhotoLynx port-able editor and transmitter as well as with the Macintosh computers that have become standard for photo and graphics work at many newspapers.
The new camera, he said, offers the economic advantages of digital photography: no film, no film costs, no developing and no chemical costs.
So far, Boccardi said, the camera, put in use in January, has been tested at the Super Bowl, the Olympics, the Oscar and Grammy awards ceremonies, and presidential news conferences.
An AP photographer demonstrated the camera at the meeting, shooting a photo of four seated members, which was flashed 30 seconds later on a big screen. It was a sharp photo.
Year in review
Reviewing the past year at the AP, Boccardi said 97% of the members gave the service a “good report card,” saying they were totally or somewhat satisfied with the service.
“Responsiveness got high marks and where you said we weren’t being responsive, your comments led to quick remedial action,” the AP president noted.
Among the areas improved in response to membership desires, Boccardi said, were state enterprise reporting, more staffing in domestic bureaus, delivery of stock reports to Macintoshes and a model fax-on-demand system now being tested.
Boccardi also announced that in September, the AP will launch a weekly project aimed at improving reading and comprehension skills of children.
The joint effort with the Newspaper Association of America Foundation will be called “Read All About It,” he said, and will be composed by a reading specialist who works with seventh- and eighth-graders. The feature will be part of the regular news report.
Also on tap this fall is an expanded and improved election coverage as the result of the AP’s charter membership in a new national election pool known as Voter News Service, Boccardi said.
On the financial side, the AP realized $355.4 million in revenue in 1993, with 1,555 domestic newspaper members and 5,100 in radio and television.
AP into TV
In his address to the membership, AP chairman Frank Daniels Jr. said the agency’s board has approved the AP’s entry into the international video news business. The London-based service, called APTV, already is hiring a staff of experienced television journalists led by Stephen Claypole, formerly of Reuters Television, Daniels said.
Daniels, who is president and publisher of News and Observer Publishing Co., Raleigh, predicted that APTV will extend the AP’s reach as a gatherer and supplier of news by putting more reporters at the service of all members. It will create a new source of still photos and copy from the video news-gathering efforts, he said.
“A video service is essential to us,” Daniels declared. “Many newspaper members are themselves experimenting with electronic newspapers, and many feel video will one day be a part of them. We would not go into this if we did not believe that we could make international video profitable for the cooperative.”
APTV’s customers, he said, primarily will be TV stations and networks outside the United States. The start-up investment, he added, will be funded by borrowing but revenue from the project is expected in a short time.
Daniels praised the worldwide AP staff as representing the AP’s strength. He also lauded Boccardi, AP president for nine years, as having done a “superb job” of leading the agency and strengthening its staff.
“Lou is a newsman at heart, but he has become one of our industry’s leading CEOs,” Daniels said.
?(Photo by Scott Bryant) [Caption]
?(Louis Boccardi) [Photo]