The setting was a super session on the future of news with Tom Curley, president and CEO of AP, and Marissa Mayer, VP-search products and user experience, of Google among the panelists. Curley was asked by moderator John Siegenthaler, the NBC/MSNBC anchor, if AP would consider going directly to consumers . Curley emphatically replied, “No. We’re a business-to-business model and we’re going to stay there. I have $700 million in revenue and an organization/staff set up to take care of that $700 million and to try to switch to another model doesn’t make any sense. I think the last thing the world needs is someone else out there trying to create another destination site. One of our competitors famously tried that about 18 months ago. … ” Siegenthaler then asked if AP is fairly compensated when its work “gets out there” in aggregators like Google. Curley: “Let’s see if Marissa can answer that.”
Mayer’s answer: “Most sources, they really like to be included because we ultimately drive them traffic.” Users tend to read more news and to go back to those sources, she explained, adding that it’s “a little bit different model” for AP. Curley stepped in again: “Let me say more clearly: we’re not suing them.”
When I pressed him on the subject during an interview after the session (more from that interview later this week), Curley said of online IP issues, “One of the areas I spent the most time on was getting consensus. The industry is at a very different place. Some people are ready to love the search engines and some are ready to hate them. For us, it’s trying to work through that and come up with a smart business response which protects out intellectual property.”
For instance, AP has a limited text/video deal with Yahoo. Curley said, “They have been good citizens at every step of the way, let’s say that first of all.” Yahoo approached AP for a contract and checks with AP whenever something comes up that might diverge from the contract. What he didn’t have to point out was the contrast between that and Google, which has a “do it first, deal with complaints later” approach that has caused some problems with content creators and providers in news, video and books.
But AP also has to be flexible and efficient enough, Curley said, “to enable what Marissa talked about, which is this innovation, content, distribution and production play.” Part of that is helping members who want the traffic. “A lot of them have their own deals and some of them don’t; some of them say ‘a pox on that house.'” For those who do have deals, he said, “from our standpoint it’s trying to restrict what they get and trying to work with those who want to be in the open.” As part of that, AP has implemented a digital re-use agreement that carefully delineates its rights. Republishing material beyond the news organization’s own site via RSS or some other means requires additional compensation.
So where do things stand with Google? “We’re under a non-disclosure.” Is it a non-disclosure for discussions or a non-disclosure because there’s actually an agreement? “Non-disclosure.”
The NAB coverage is sponsored by Javien.