Content is Becoming More Important than Its ‘Container,’ Says AP’s Curley

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By: Jesse Oxfeld

The 5th Annual Online News Association Conference opened Friday morning in Hollywood, Calif., with a keynote address from Associated Press President and CEO Tom Curley.

“The Internet has become our new business environment, not just another medium for distribution,” Curley said, according to a transcript of his remarks. “The ubiquity of the Internet now affects a media enterprise’s entire business, not just an ‘online market’ segment.”

Rapidly increasing broadband penetration is accelerating the pace of change in the media business, he said, as new technologies allow news consumers to get the information they wish when they wish in the forms they wish. “Content will be more important than its container in this next phase,” Curley said. “The franchise is not the newspaper; it’s not the broadcast; it’s not even the Web site. The franchise is the content itself.”

He imagined a hypothetical “My Personalized News” of the future, which might include: the latest headlines and photos delivered, delivered to his computer by the AP; video news and ESPN highlights delivered to his set-top box; a list of upcoming earnings reports delivered by The Wall Street Journal to his PDA; and a BusinessWeek analysis delivered as a PDF to his printer. The challenge is therefore, he said, to first “get comfortable with this ice-cold shower of ‘disintermediation'” and then for companies to begin “tagging our news for delivery in discrete pieces” while keeping control of their intellectual property and earning money to support their businesses.

“We believe that world needs AP’s primary content more than ever,” Curley said, “that authoritative voice that we — and you — provide, precisely because there are so many new voices and free-flowing content ‘atoms’ out there.”

There were also a series of breakout panels held during the day Friday, and the “Master of the Web Universe” challenge will take place later this afternoon, before a networking cocktail party. Saturday’s agenda includes more panels and discussions, a keynote luncheon speech by Wonkette editor Ana Marie Cox, a keynote panel on “The Internet as Campaign Aid,” and, finally, the Online News Association Awards Banquet.

Participants are blogging about the conference — which is being held at the Hollywood Renaissance Hotel — at ONA Web site.

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