AP Moves On Upfront

Tom Curley of AP In an effort to drum up more lucrative online ad deals, The Associated Press hosted something like an upfront for members of the media and agency world on Thursday. "We want to connect directly with you," Jane Seagrave, SVP of global product development at AP, told a packed room on the fifteenth floor of AP headquarters in New York. "What ways can we help you improve your relationships with your audience?"

But, while similar to an upfront -- showcasing new AP products and content offerings, along with star reporters in the marketable areas of entertainment and sports news -- Seagrave positioned the event more as an open invitation to agencies and marketers.

"There are buys to be made now, particularly around our mobile products, but today is more about spurring potential conversations," Seagrave told Online Media Daily.

The overture is part of the not-for-profit news cooperative's broader attempts to adapt to a shifting media landscape, and offset dwindling revenue from ailing newspapers and broadcasters.

The industry, said Jim Kennedy, VP of strategic planning at AP, "is in the middle of a total disruption of business."

Indeed, this week -- just months after lowering its fees for U.S. newspapers by $30 million -- the AP said it would reduce fees by a total of $45 million for newspapers and broadcasters next year.

"We decided we had to make a base case," AP CEO Tom Curley said of the rationale behind reaching out to Madison Avenue directly.

Response from agency and media executives, none of whom wished to be quoted for this story, was mixed. "It's food for thought," said one attendee. Said another: "I don't quite know what to make of it, but it's clearly a first attempt."

During a panel discussion, John Montgomery, chief operating officer of GroupM Interaction, suggested that innovation, with regard to industry relevance, needs to be continuously nurtured. "Just because there's mobile on your schedule doesn't mean you've checked your innovation box," he said.

Asked how to most effectively sell to media planners, Montgomery replied: "Understand what the brand needs."

Meanwhile, the AP's licensing contracts with Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and AOL remain a top priority for the organization. Its contract with Google -- which took years to achieve -- is set to expire at the end of this year.

At the same time, the AP is presently developing a new system of bundling top stories related to particular topics to compete with the news sections run by the top portals.

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