AP Archive Set To Fly p.38

By: GEORGE GARNEAU THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, a pioneer in telegraphy and photo transmission, is on the verge of opening its rich photo library for members to search and electronically download images over phone lines.
In a breakfast meeting at this year's Nexpo conference and exposition in Las Vegas, executives said the news service's archive, already used in-house at AP headquarters in New York, is being tested by three newspapers. Plans call for testing to expand before the service opens to all members and commercial users by year's end.
The new searching and retrieval technology, using software from Personal Library Services and Netscape, will cut the cost of archival photos in half, from the $75 now charged for making prints from negatives, according to Hal Buell, assistant to the president.
More important, users can do the searching themselves and can receive a picture file in five to seven minutes. Now, it takes about 36 hours just to make a print, not counting delivery.
AP owns 20 million to 30 million historical images, which are being scanned and digitized at the rate of 150 a day. Of the 800 or so pictures PhotoStream moves daily, all will be saved for eight months, and about 200 will survive in the archive. New images can be accessed for free for two weeks, as they are now.
Curley said if newspapers "can't sell advertising based on those one-sided numbers, then there is something wrong with us."
He said the computer ad category numbers don't look as impressive, but he pointed out that although 46% look at newspapers first, only 21% look at magazines first, and magazines were second.
"That's still a lead of two to one," he pointed out.
Curley, in closing, stressed newspapers' need to continue to be quality conscious.
"Production quality must be consistently good," he said. "If the photos with the stories and in the ads are a bit out of register, it affects our ability to sell national advertisers on the concept that we can make a positive difference in their sales campaigns.
"You don't see ads on TV that are a little bit out of register. We can't do it either. And let's get rid of the roller marks and all those little things that contribute to a feeling that quality falls a little bit short."
AP receives, from members and commercial users, as many as 70,000 requests a year for archival images, as part of an overall historical news photo business worth an estimated $20 million a year.
The AP Archive, now up to about 165,000 digital images, is testing at the Buffalo News, St. Petersburg Times and New London, Conn., Day.
AP plans to put three commercial picture users online within weeks and to double the number of test sites in July. By the end of the year, all members will have access through a Macintosh computer linked to regular phone lines, ISDN, or the Internet.
Photo Stream files contain 8 megabytes to 11 megabytes, compressed to 600 kilobytes and producing 200 dpi resolution. Files of historical images have 18 megabytes, 1 megabyte compressed, and produce resolution of 300 dpi.
Accessible on a dial-up system, images are searched using plain language. Pictures are downloaded in two to three minutes by modem, slightly over one minute by ISDN or under a minute by Photo Stream.
But the digital image archive is just one step of the technological evolution AP put on display at Nexpo.
Its multimedia news service, The Wire, for newspaper Web sites, is planned for release later this year. It will carry news in the form of text, pictures, graphics and video, all generated by AP staffers.
The cost to members is free this year. Thereafter, temporary circulation-based prices, from $60 to $395 a week, apply.
In alpha testing at the Dallas Morning News and Newhouse Newspapers in New Jersey, it includes space for local ads.
When questioned, editor Ruth Gersh said AP will offer The Wire to TV and radio stations members at the same price the newspaper in the market pays.
Ten years of AP archives will be available for Internet products, but for a price, Gersh said.
Digital photography has left the experimental stage and is quickly expanding as a news-gathering tool. Over 500 AP digital cameras are in use across the nation, said business development chief Tom Brettingen, who said one paper recouped the cost of the camera in a year in savings on photo chemicals and film.
AP's AdSend ad transmission service is generating a lot of money and is scheduled to add color capacity in the third quarter of this year, he said.
The AP Preserver photo archive is installed at 45 papers and is adding text capacity through an agreement with Data Times and its EyeQ Publisher text archive system. The combined systems can be used on a newspaper's intranet or to build a Web archive.
"In the past, editors used two different terminals in different parts of the newsroom to conduct separate photo and text searches. Now, it's all on one desktop with an easy to use browser," said Brettingen.
Through a new contract with AT&T, AP members may be entitled to discounted phone service.
Reviewing AP's technology moves, vice president John Reed referred to a "holistic" approach to information distribution and multipurpose technology, such as the AP Server, testing in Europe and Asia.
Asked about the availability of the server, a PC-based multimedia receiver, Reed said AP had no immediate plans to install them as replacements for the AP/Leaf picture desk. But he said servers would replace the proprietary systems "eventually." Meanwhile, the server will go on sale for $12,000, beginning in October.
Acknowledging that the graphics delivery system, an aging satellite network, was next on the upgrade list, he said AP was considering plans to distribute graphics on the Internet or on the AdSend server, which would require a software fire wall between the ad database.
John Cranfill of the Dallas Morning News said the inability to take PDF files from AdSend and put them into Quark files for output was an "enormous problem" and requested a "trade-in" so the Morning News could recoup some of its investment in three Leaf desks.
To see John Reed's discussion about AP's technological strategy, visit Editor & Publisher Interactive (http://www.mediainfo.com).
# Editor & Publisher n June 22, 1996


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