The Tribune's newspaper chain will go AP-free as of next week in an experiment to see if it can manage without the news feed and eventually cut back on the cost of subscribing to it altogether.
The trial period is expected to start next week (Nov 8), just over a year since Tribune Co. gave AP the required two year notice of cancellation.
The Chicago Tribune reported on one of its blogs that Tribune Co. newspapers would see if they could survive without the Associated Press news feed, utilizing as little content as practical during the week, instead trying to replace it with stories selected from other sources such as Reuters, The Washington Post, CNN, The New York Times and GlobalPost. Not all the sources are normally available to Tribune papers, the AP reported.
Despite the suspension, the company isn't cutting AP out of its news diet completely. Tribune papers will continue to print AP sports statistics and if AP breaks news that Tribune papers can't find elsewhere, they can pick up the story. Tribune TV stations will also continue to use AP as usual and will not undertake the experiement.
Tribune Co. owns nine daily papers including the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and The Sun Sentinel and the aim of the trial is to see if these papers can survive on alternatives to the costly news wire.
Editor of the Sun Sentinel, Earl Maucker said in October last year that many editors were concerned about the financial rate model AP had introduced. At the time, Maucker said it was natural to consider alternatives.
Another reason could be that many publications have decided that the nature of online news renders the Associated Press less relevent, as shared wire content is available to readers from many other outlets.
Paul Emerson, Lewison Tribune managing editor has also previously raised questions over the worth of the service: "I think the AP regional report has fallen off in quantity, and in some ways, quality."
"AP appreciates and understands that newspapers are looking for ways to confront challenging economic times and one way might be considering how they use content from the AP and other sources," said AP spokesman Paul Colford in an AP article. "At the same time, we continue to work with our member newspapers to make sure the AP, which is the gold standard of breaking news, remains a vital interest to newspapers, their publishers and their readers."
Tribune Co. newspapers are not the first to consider splitting from the organisation amidst tough financial times. Papers including The Post Register, The Star Tribune, Washington's Yakima Herald-Republic and The Wenatchee World also submitted two-year cancellation notices of their contracts in October last year. The AP reported that at its last annual meeting in April, it was established that 180 newspapers, or 14% of the AP's U.S. newspaper membership, had threatened to drop the service. The AP announced $35million in rate reductions for member newspapers, presumably in an attempt to make its content more affordable for its financially-challenged members.
New Jersey daily, The Star-Ledger also trialled its own AP suspension, though only for a day.
If the experiment proves to be successful the company could formallly break from the AP on October 15, 2010.