Can a newspaper exist without publishing syndicated news content? Early this month, The Star-Ledger of Newark, New Jersey, put this question to the test with a one-day boycott of The Associated Press news. The print issue relied primarily on stories by staff members, as well as Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, McClatchy-Tribune News Service and several smaller Advance Publication papers in New Jersey. After the one-day experiment, The Star-Ledger was back to publishing AP news. While the boycott may have been inspired by a need to prove independence from the world's largest news-gathering source, it also may have been fueled by the rate increase the AP is implementing in January 2009. Currently, AP policy allows each newspaper to buy a package of general AP news based on that paper's location and circulation. The package usually includes breaking news, sports, business, national, international and regional news relevant to the client's market, including its state AP wire. Come January, AP member newspapers will continue to receive all breaking news worldwide (including items from other state wires), as well as breaking sports, business and entertainment stories, but a package of premium content -- made up of five types of non-breaking stories, including sports, entertainment, business, lifestyle and analysis -- will be available at an additional cost. Following the initial announcement in 2007, many newspapers voiced their complaints and concerns. Two groups of editors even wrote angry letters to the AP. In recent months, several newspapers have announced plans to drop the AP, with at least one of them -- The Spokesman-Review of Spokane, Washington -- challenging AP's two-year notice requirement. Other newspapers that have already given notice to the AP are The Bakersfield Californian, The Star Tribune of Minneapolis, The Post Register of Idaho Falls, The Yakima Herald-Republic and Wenatchee World

Surviving the Odds

Due to the ongoing struggle for print newspapers to stay alive and a need to actively support their online counterparts, rate change is the last thing newspapers need. Getting back to our initial inquiry: Can a newspaper survive without the Associate Press? To help us better understand the implications that such an undertaking would afford, we turn to Mochila, the largest online media marketplace. At Mochila, members can enjoy the best of news, video and photos from BBC, Reuters, The Guardian, Belo, Clickability, including the AP. Publishers can pick and choose what they want without having to worry about rate increases. Keith McAllister, CEO of Mochila offered the following insight: CMSWire: Can a newspaper, online or print, survive without using syndicated content? KM: Publishers, including newspapers, have to be able to offer their users/readers more content than that publication can generate on its own. Consumers have now DNA-level expectations that they'll be able to drill down into compelling topics anywhere, anytime and on any platform. The question isn't whether a newspaper should feature outside content, the question is what content, what methodology and at what price. And to the point of price, revenue sharing must largely replace cash licensing. CMSWire: Do you think that The Star-Ledger, in its one-day boycott of AP content made an impact? If so, how? KM: It's unclear what impact the boycott made, except showing a trend of growing away from the legacy model of content acquisition. All the players involved -- publishers and news agencies -- understand the trend and are working on solutions. CMSWire: What can Mochila do for newspapers that are struggling with rate increases and the growing demands of news publishing? KM: Mochila is re-inventing the content supply chain by making all the world's great high-quality content available for free in an ad-supported model. With 360 of the world's great media brands supplying content to Mochila, including all the top news and photos agencies and many leading online, newspaper, magazine and TV brands. Mochila offers newspapers a new model for growing their brands. Bottom line: Mochila offers a solution right now to traditional media companies looking to deepen their content offerings and cut costs at the same time. CMSWire: How do you see the role of syndicated content in the future of web publishing? KM: Syndicated content is important, because web publishers are increasingly trying to create unique and compelling environments for their users. Relevant, compelling content is what engages users and drives key publisher metrics: time spent, bounce rate, page views, inventory and, of course, revenue. Syndicated content is a key part of how great web publishers curate collections of engaging content that drive their businesses.

Innovation is Key

As we've said before, there isn't just one way to solve the news industry's publishing problems -- if there was, it would be fixed by now. But there is more than one way to innovate and to evolve with the growing trend. Defy the AP or don't, but one thing is clear: not doing anything will make you obsolete. So, to answer our own question: Yes, newspapers can survive without the AP; but they won't last long, if they don't have a strategy.