L'Agence France-Presse (AFP) has announced it plans to offer readers direct access to AFP content on digital devices rather than just a "Business to Business" model. AFP is the third largest news agency in the world, tailing the Associated Press and Reuters, and is undoubtedly an influential force in the print industry, providing articles to about 5,000 newspapers in six different languages. Yet Emmanuel Hoog, CEO of AFP, admits that the company is behind the digital trends. Hoog commented to Le Monde "It's absurd that the third largest news provider does not have an application for the iPad, the smartphone, or the internet...How have the AP and Reuters launched mobile apps in French and not AFP?"
Along with much of the print world, AFP has felt the ramifications of a changing industry. Several newspapers have decided to stop using content from AFP, which has affected the news company's primary source of revenue. While Hoog believes the majority of newspapers will continue their contracts with AFP, Hoog asserts his company is in the position to offer content directly over the Internet and mobile devices.
Hoog is implementing his strategy to get AFP in the digital game. Yesterday he appointed a director of social media who will manage the company's Facebook and Twitter accounts. He is planning other multimedia projects such as developing apps for mobile devices and smartphones, improving video content, and digitalizing their archives. Hoog estimates the electronic endeavor will cost AFP 125 million euros. When asked whether he would charge for online content, Hoog responded that ideally that a partial paywall would be implemented although "all the possibilities remain open."
AFP has had a strict policy of selling content directly to newspapers, so the announcement comes as a shock to some clients of AFP. A press release from AFP noted that many of its board members opposed the shift, as there is clearly a difference between AFP acting as a news provider for both newspapers and consumers.
Like AFP, the AP do not have its own destination website for consumers, yet AP news can be accessed on mobile devices via specific apps. It seems as though technology is not only blending roles of different media sources, but also changing traditional roles of news providers and outlets. Print no longer acts as the critical method for circulation, making it easier for companies such as AFP to target consumers online. As these major news agencies begin to strike out on their own, how will this affect the role of newspapers?