AAP subscribers in discussions over partnership as they plan for future

Australian Associated Press subscribers are holding discussions about pooling resources and forming journalism partnerships that could replace the newswire when it closes in June.

AAP clients, which include Daily Mail Australia, Guardian Australia and Verizon Media, have started looking at how to fill gaps in their existing editorial teams that will be caused by the closure of AAP, according to sources familiar with discussions who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

AAP chief executive Bruce Davidson has also confirmed he will be part of a new private business that will include AAP's fact-checking division and parts of its editorial services arm Pagemasters.

AAP chairman Campbell Reid (left) and chief executive Bruce Davidson briefing staff of the closure last Tuesday.

Mr Davidson and AAP chairman Campbell Reid, a senior News Corp executive, informed staff last Tuesday that the 85-year-old newswire would shut its doors in June in a decision that sent shockwaves through the local media industry.

Major shareholders Nine Entertainment Co, owner of this masthead, and News Corp severed their longstanding partnership with AAP because the business was no longer financially viable. The decision affects about 600 staff, including 200 journalists, and was made after a number of key AAP clients, including global news giant Guardian, either stopped using AAP or reduced their financial contribution.

As a result, Daily Mail Australia, Australian Community Media, Guardian Australia and Verizon Media, which runs sites Yahoo and HuffPost, as well as minority shareholders Seven West Media face gaps in their editorial departments in areas such as photography and court reporting.

Discussions are now underway about whether a co-operative that involves the remaining publishers sharing resources would work. By combining the fees previously paid to AAP, publishers could work together in areas such as photography. However, sources familiar with negotiations stressed no formal decisions had been made and the discussions were in early stages.

Nine and News Corp contributed more than $10 million combined each year to AAP as part of their shareholders' agreement, while ACM and Seven West Media both contribute more than $1 million a year. Publishers such as Daily Mail Australia and Verizon Media contributed in the "low hundreds of thousands of dollars", according to sources familiar with AAP's financial position. The Australian reported last week that the Guardian had cut its annual contribution by 40 per cent to $75,000 annually from about $120,000. On Twitter editor Lenore Taylor wrote that the company was offered a reduction by AAP because it was using fewer services after expanding its own editorial teams.

For some of the entities, the loss of AAP content and resources could have a financial impact. With smaller editorial staff, budgets and teams restricted to certain parts of Australia, the absence of a newswire creates gaps that urgently need to be filled for the benefit of readers. But any co-operative, should it be formalised, would not run like AAP's existing newswire, according to those involved in discussions.

News Corp and Nine are considering developing their own breaking news services.

AAP's decision will also affect the Australian Press Council, an industry-backed organisation that receives a fee from AAP as well as other members, including Nine and News Corp. "The closure of AAP will have financial implications for APC and we are currently working through these with AAP.”

Based on the APC's last publicly available financial report from 2018, AAP contributed between one to 10 per cent to the Press Council's annual funding of $2.1 million. Meanwhile, AAP's photo and text archive – which has decades worth of imagery – will remain the property of the shareholders. AAP's media analysis agency Mediaverse and media intelligence solutions business Medianet will be sold.

Mr Davidson will launch a new private enterprise that will include a fact-checking operation and some of Pagemasters' existing services. The business is expected to be formed in the coming months.

"Fact checking will continue under a new private enterprise that will also provide some of the current Pagemasters services such as TV guides and racing form guides," Mr Davidson told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

Stockbroker John Murray has been working with Mr Davidson and other investors about potential deals to salvage parts of the business. "We have been in discussions with Bruce for a long time and are willing to back any plans that he has for parts of the business," Mr Murray said last week.

Discussions about AAP's future had been under way for six months and doubts around its future were first revealed by The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald last week. Announcing the news, Mr Davidson said the media industry had been torn apart in the digital age.

"This is an unfortunate reality of media disruption. We’re not the first media company to be shut down and we won’t be the last," Mr Davidson said at the time.

AAP produces a broad range of news content that is syndicated by international and local media, with strong demand for its on-the-ground breaking news reporting and photography.

Staff will receive their redundancy entitlements upon closure.

Source: Read Full Article