AP Opens New Products Gateway; Unit Includes AP Mobile, OVN

The Associated Press is forming a new business unit called AP Gateway focused on creating products for new platforms — and more revenue for its members. More than that, to the folks inside AP it’s a move from preparing for the future to acknowledging it as the present. Or, as CEO Tom Curley is telling the Colorado Press Association today, according to a prepared text, “a new phase of digital publishing has arrived” that is “likely the defining moment” for publishers. The claim: “At last, we truly will be able to deliver the right content to the right people at the right time to the right device.” [The full text is here.]

He might well have added “for the right price.” AP Gateway includes some existing businesses that already fit that description, among them AP Mobile and the Online Video Network. Part of the task is to figure out when and how to charge consumers. For instance, the AP Mobile app, with 3.5 million downloads and counting, is free, but what would it take to make an iPad version worth a fee? That’s not a hypothetical; AP is already working on a paid iPad app. It will be Gateway’s first product.

For New Chief Revenue Officer Jane Seagrave, AP Gateway is “the capping event of a series of pieces we’ve been putting into place pretty methodically over the past four-five years. … More to the point, we think this is where the future of revenue for the cooperative is.” Seagrave estimates the news co-op has invested roughly $60 million in the technology and building out the core infrastructure. (AP is bringing someone in to head the unit but Seagrave said the name can’t be released yet. [Update: AP later confirmed a report from SAI that Nick Ascheim is joining as GM from the New York Times. PaidContent has learned that Jeff LItvack, who started AP Mobile, will lead product development.]

More than 1,500 members have signed on to the Digital Collaborative, which includes use of AP’s eAP database platform for multimedia content and its metadata system. The last piece of that puzzle was the News Registry to track and protect content, which drew controversy when it was announced last July. The News Registry, say Curley and Seagrave, is what will enable AP to create many of the products it has in mind.

For instance, a publisher like MediaNews, headed by AP Chairman William Dean Singleton, could use the News Registry and the other data to make sure the right content shows up as free or paid online in its trial with Journalism Online’s Press +. “There’s no conflict at all,” says Seagrave.

Hybrids on way: Seagrave told me she expects a hybrid approach from here out. “We’re trying to make that a more interesting, deeper experience. It will take some time but we’re headed to a place where we