Review-Journal looks to sever Associated Press tie

Soon you’ll have to actually read the Review-Journal to read the Review-Journal.

Newspaper executives said Tuesday that they are weighing changes in the way articles are distributed, including dropping the paper’s longtime Associated Press membership.

Now, AP transmits R-J stories, including exclusive news and in-depth investigative pieces, to local broadcasters and other newspapers that can use them with credit to AP. Under the new arrangement, AP will be able to pick up the newspaper’s content for use by thousands of members around the globe, but Las Vegas media outlets will not be able to use it.

AP executives said they are notifying local media about the change, which could take place in a couple of weeks.

Review-Journal Editor Mike Hengel said the practice protects a paper’s work and is common in other markets.

“The content we produce is very valuable, and it’s very expensive to produce,” Hengel said. “Right now, anyone has access to it. From now on, anybody who competes for our readers has to generate their own content.”

The paper also is evaluating whether to continue as an AP member after its current content-sharing contract expires on Dec. 31, 2014.

Review-Journal Publisher Bob Brown said AP membership hurts the paper.

“The AP sells our content to Google and Yahoo. They compete against us in our market. They run ads for their digital app,” Brown said. “That’s not a healthy relationship. As more papers drop the AP, the writing’s on the wall.”

Kevin Walsh, director of the AP’s West region, said the AP “looks forward to working through these issues” with the paper. He added that the AP aggregates “just a sliver” of its content, most of it produced by the service rather than member newspapers.

AP spokesman Paul Colford said it’s not unusual for publications to file cancellation notices two years before their contracts expire. Of the cooperative’s 1,400 daily newspaper members, a small number have notices filed at a given time “to start the clock” and allow them to explore alternatives.

“At the end of the day, a good number of papers that file cancellation notices do rescind them,” Colford said. “We would hope in working with your company that that might be the case.”

The R-J wouldn’t be the first paper to drop AP. Seven newspapers of The Tribune Co., including the Chicago Tribune and the Baltimore Sun, this month replaced AP with wire copy from Reuters America, a for-profit company that produces news content but does not distribute material from clients.

Four daily newspapers owned by Stephens Media, the Review-Journal’s corporate parent, have already dropped AP.

Rick Edmonds, a media business analyst with The Poynter Institute, a Florida-based media think tank, said increasing numbers of newspapers are frustrated with the AP’s sale of their stories to aggregators such as Google and Yahoo, which steal readers from newspapers’ own websites, and to media-clipping services, which make money selling stories. Plus, many editors balk at AP’s rates, which can be a burden in tight times.

Still, cutting off the AP is “threatened more frequently than it’s actually happened,” Edmonds said, and some papers suggest ending an agreement in negotiating better terms.

But both Hengel and Brown said odds are strong that the R-J will sever ties with AP. The R-J is seeking alternatives for some AP content, such as sports box scores, Brown said.

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