EXCLUSIVE: Newspapers in Northeast Pursue a Content-Sharing 'Consortium'

Article excerpt

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.

The Daily News refused comment to E&P.

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.

During the New York "summit" meeting, there was a desire to make the proposed content-sharing arrangement happen "very quickly," the source added.

"It's fair to say that newspapers across America are upset with the treatment they get from the AP," the executive said. "Newspapers are now taking the view that they want to take events into their own hands. The truth of it is, there is a real desire to get better content, shared among people in non-competitive markets."

The concept is similar to a content-sharing arrangement currently in place among seven top newspapers in Ohio, including The Plain Dealer of Cleveland and the Akron Beacon Journal, in which the papers trade stories and photographs. That agreement was forged out of editors' frustrations with AP's rates and news practices.

The full details of the arrangement are still being finalized. Another executive commented that each of the participating newspapers "needs to define what the value would be for us."

Once the Northeast Consortium's content-sharing deal is finalized, one of the executives added, "Quite frankly, AP is eventually not going to be the only game in town. …