Posted by Brad @ 3:47 pm on October 28th 2008

Associated Press Death Watch

As I’ve discussed here and elsewhere, the Associated Press has been on something of a steep decline lately. Part of that is simply market realities, much of it is based on editorial and marketing direction. Regardless, many newspapers are signing off from the wire service. The latest:

Top executives and editors from several major dailies in the Northeast, dissatisfied with The Associated Press, met recently to discuss the formation of a content-sharing agreement that in several cases would serve in place of their AP agreements, E&P has learned from top executives at three of the papers.

A “Northeast Consortium” of newspapers, which will include New York’s Daily News and — at least at the present time — is said to include Newsday, The Buffalo News, the Times-Union of Albany, N.Y., and the Star Ledger of Newark, N.J., among others, is weeks away from announcing a content-sharing arrangement that will include both stories and photos […]

One executive who spoke on condition of anonymity and who attended the “summit” of New York-area papers, held in Manhattan within the past two weeks, cited cost savings, more timely exchange of content, and what that executive called “a new spirit of cooperation” as the primary motivations for such an undertaking. This source referred to the “Draconian terms” of the AP, which last Thursday responded to newspapers’ concerns by announcing further rate cuts and restructuring.


  1. I don’t know the specifics of this case but regarding profitability of newspapers, I’ve read that papers are still profitable, in spite of all the changes, only that margins are 1/2 or 1/3 of what they used to be. This may have changed (I read this a year or so ago, and it may have been David Simon talking, so I can’t be 100% sure of the fact). If true, it’s sad to see the the 4th estate becoming a victim to our modern fascination with profitability as the only metric that matters.

    Comment by Jerrod — 10/28/2008 @ 5:45 pm

  2. I don’t know that it’s quite that simple. If the old model has been the basis on which they’ve built their business systems, a suddenly re-shuffling of valuation is bound to fuck them up pretty good.

    To put that another way, if your profitability being reduced 2/3s means you can no longer pay workers, rent, maintenance on machines, or printing costs, it’s just just a matter of being greedy. Most papers are losing money hand over fist, net.

    Comment by Brad — 10/28/2008 @ 5:47 pm

  3. The argument that I remember was that papers were still profitable, as in NOT losing money, but they weren’t making as much money as before. As a result, ROI was much lower and thus investors/owners were dissatified. The papers are seen as a money-making tool first and foremost.

    Of course that doesn’t mean that all papers are profitable and of course there are institutions that are losing money.

    I can sense myself close to veering into a rant about problems associated with the business mindset behind media consolidation which I will refrain from, for now. As a society, though, weakening and degredation of the 4th estate and its essential role in the proper functioning of a liberal democracy is not a sign of progress.

    Comment by Jerrod — 10/28/2008 @ 9:16 pm

  4. Odd reading your post title, I was sure you were rigting a Prof Brad DeLong style “death spiral” post, random example:
    But no, you are literal.

    Comment by Jack — 10/28/2008 @ 10:50 pm

  5. *writing. scotch. big suprise.

    Comment by Jack — 10/28/2008 @ 10:50 pm

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