Would the AP be better off owned by Google or another web company?

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The newspaper business is slowly fading away and out of relevancy.  By the time a story gets printed, it’s already broken in the online world.  Newspapers are facing dwindling subscriber bases, and slashed advertising spending, and drastic changes are being made.  My hometown paper, the Plain Dealer, recently announced that they’ll begin cutting 35 pages per week out of their printed newspapers, cutting jobs, and refocusing a lot of their efforts to the online portion of the business.  This is not a trend unique to Cleveland, and it’s happening all over the country.

For the past 162 years, the Associated Press (AP) has been providing content to newspapers and broadcasters for a fee.  The non-profit group is cooperatively owned by 1,500 daily newspapers throughout the United States, but with the newspaper industry slowly dying, one can’t help but wonder what will happen when much of the AP’s subscriber base dies off as well.  A whole 45% of APs total sales comes from these two troubled industries (newspapers and broadcasters).

Wired.com has an interesting proposition to salvage the AP from the impending crisis: sell themselves to a web company.  Why?  Because many sites that carry news, such as AOL, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Google, all already get huge amounts of traffic from AP stories. As Wired puts it:

Conceptually, it would be a lateral rather than a forward “Hail Mary” pass since they’d be replacing one consortium that was once the center of the news universe — newspapers — with the current publishing leaders.

Would that really change anything though?  The newspapers would likely still subscribe because with budget and staff cuts, they’ve come to rely on the AP more and more to fulfill their content needs.  Web properties will continue to subscribe to AP news because it makes their life easier, and draws in a lot of traffic.  Would having it in the hands of forward-looking web companies really change it all that much, or offset the damage that the newspaper crisis could potentially cause?

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