Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Questioning the AP's Future

Right now, the biggest thing you're fighting is the overall sense of impending doom.

- Bernie Lunzer, president of the Newspaper Guild

In Erik Sass, "Ripple Effect: Newspaper Cuts Hit AP, Newspaper Guild," Mediapost Daily News, November 23, 2008

Newspapers around the United States are suffering from the convergence of a secular trend and cyclical phenomenon. The secular (longterm) trend is the decline in readership of print papers over the decades and the rise of the web for estwhile newspaper specialities such as classified, auto, and movie advertising. Although the growth of advertising on newspaper websites has been strong, the revenues lost by print editions to the have not been anything near those gained. The "cyclical" phenomenon is the current fiscal crisis which has led to a business recession and so a further decline in the revenues papers bring in from their printed editions. Important newspapers such as the Chicago Tribune lie at the edge of bankrupcy, and hundreds of their workers have been let go.

"The Newspaper Guild said it has seen membership rolls shrink by about 2,000 over the last year, reflecting the sweeping push by newspaper publishers to reduce their workforces through buyouts, attrition, and layoffs over the last couple of years. That equals about $200,000 of membership dues." This "collapse" of the newspaper industry is also affecting the Associated Press and the Newspaper Guild, which are both highly dependent on the health of the industry . Beyond the AP’s high cost in the terrible newspaper economy, part of the problem newspapers have with the AP is that because readers can read its stories throughout the web, papers no longer really have a monopoly of AP news in their areas. Because of that and the AP’s supposed increased concentration on feature stories have convinced publishers it doesn’t pay to keep it.

Newspapers' bad relations with the AP might end before they give up their connections. Papers must give two years' notice, and the AP could still convince them to stay. But the fact that newspapers did give notice is one example of the broad changes coursing through the news industry.

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