April 23rd, 2024

Gannett news chain says it will stop using AP content for first time in a century

By David Bauder, The Associated Press on March 19, 2024.

FILE - Sections of a USA Today newspaper rest together, Aug. 5, 2019, in Norwood, Mass. The media company Gannett, publishers of USA Today and owner of the nation's largest newspaper chain, said Tuesday, March 19, 2024, that it would stop using journalism from The Associated Press later this month, severing a century-old partnership. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

NEW YORK (AP) – The media company Gannett, the nation’s largest newspaper chain and publisher of USA Today, said Tuesday it would stop using journalism from The Associated Press later this month, severing a century-old partnership.

The decision “enables us to invest further in our newsrooms,” Gannett spokeswoman Lark-Marie Anton said. With more than 200 outlets, the chain represents more newspapers than any other company in AP’s U.S. membership.

A memo from Gannett’s chief content officer Kristin Roberts directed the chain’s editors to stop using stories, videos and images provided by AP on March 25. The memo, obtained by The Associated Press, was first reported by The New York Times.

“We are shocked and disappointed to see this memo,” said Lauren Easton, spokeswoman for The Associated Press. “Our conversations with Gannett have been productive and ongoing. We remain hopeful that Gannett will continue to support the AP beyond the end of their membership term at the end of 2024, as they have done for over a century.”

Neither company would discuss how much Gannett has been paying to receive AP content.

In an earlier era, when fees from U.S. newspapers provided AP with virtually all of its revenue, such a decision would have represented a financial earthquake for the news cooperative. But AP has diversified its services with the decline of newspapers and U.S. newspaper fees now constitute just over 10 percent of its annual income.

Gannett said that it has signed an agreement with Reuters to provide news from around the world in multiple formats, including video.

“Key to this initiative is ensuring that we extend the reach of the work we do to more readers, viewers and listeners nationwide,” Roberts said in her memo.

AP’s diversification efforts include offering its journalism directly to consumers through an advertising-supported website. The company also provides production services and software to newsrooms across the world. This week, AP launched an e-commerce site called AP Buyline, run by the company Taboola, that provides product content and reviews for consumers.

Gannett said it would continue paying for two of AP’s most visible services: its extensive election-related polling and vote-counting, and the AP Stylebook that sets guidelines for journalism practices and word usage.

With a contract for AP’s content that lasts to the end of 2024, it was not clear why Gannett is choosing to cut things off next week. While there remains the possibility that it represents a negotiating tactic for AP to lower its fees, Anton said she was not aware of any contract negotiations.

Like most newspaper companies, Gannett has been struggling financially for several years, The workforce shrunk 47% between 2020 and 2023 because of layoffs and attrition, according to the NewsGuild.

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