The Associated Press and the Internet at large have had something or a rocky relationship through the years. The organization has not taken kindly to the direction web news has gone in...essentially since the rise of blogs. In 2009, AP President Tom Curley talked about how "even minimal use" of its articles online required licensing agreements, according to the New York Times. WebProNews covered this at the time as The AP’s Desperate Attempt To Outlaw Search Engine Links.
The AP basically just wanted to be paid for any use of their content, even if that means linking. Besides search engines, Drudge Report was specifically named in a NYT piece on the topic. All that site does is link. Not even with snippets.
With that in mind, it seems the AP would not be too keen on a blog or other news publication referencing an AP story on a topic, even with a link. But then you see the AP putting out something like this. I'd like to screen cap it, but I don't want the AP to be able to say I'm reproducing their article. You can click the link and look at it if you want, but I'll describe it.
It's a six-sentence-long article about a man suing the maker of Assassin's Creed. It's based on a report from The Carlisle Sentinel (which is much longer). It mentions the publication, and includes the URL in parentheses. It has little to no added value compared to the original piece. It seems like the kind of thing, that if the AP's and Carlisle Sentinel's roles were reversed, the AP wouldn't be very happy with.
A few interesting points about the AP's linking strategy here:
1. Why put the URL in parentheses rather than just link some anchor text like the rest fo the web does?
2. The URL isn't even a clickable link. The user would have to copy and paste it into their address bar.
3. The URL is a bit.ly URL, so you can't even see the site's domain it is pointing to.
At least when a blogger links to an AP story, it can potentially drive referrals to the original piece.
Update: The AP points out that they do provide links in the stories on their own site. "Of course, the AP puts links in copy. They work on some downstream sites, not others, and they work on our own sites," Paul Colford, the AP's Director of Media Relations, tells WebProNews. He points to the referenced article on the AP's site.
Fair enough, though perhaps a policy requiring these downstream sites to link would be beneficial.
Colford also makes a point to note that the "AP's unique pedigree as a cooperative, owned by its 1,500 or so member newspapers, some of whose stories we rewrite for our state wires (and a tiny fraction of these, such as big exclusives, also end up in the online feed licensed by our commercial customers, including the portals)."
The Sentinel's piece has 0 comments. 0 tweets. 0 Facebook recommendations. The Yahoo News page featuring the AP's version has 192 comments alone.
We contacted the AP about its policy on linking. We asked: If a blog wrote an article, which was six sentences long, and one of those sentences was referencing an AP report (with a link), would this be acceptable to the AP?
The AP's Gloria Sullivan responded, "This is what I know...no wording can be changed in any AP article, no article can be summarized or altered in any way...but you can link to an AP article (say if you are referencing or referring to something)."
"Of course, this is not encouraged," she added.
To clarify, we asked: Linking to an AP article when referencing or referring to something is not encouraged?
"In all honesty, we don’t earn revenue when someone links to an AP article, so I don’t really go around posting a billboard for people to do it (if you get my drift)," she said. "But you have permission."
There you have it. The AP gives you permission to link.