Details of Associated Press search landing pages

A new interview with Associated Press VP Jim Kennedy adds greater clarity to AP’s industrywide content-protection initiative. Among the things he discussed were search landing pages.

[The idea] is to start creating pages of aggregated content based around news stories and topics, which would allow readers to find the most authoritative local sources for the news they are searching for. The pages will contain some content and links to other stories from both the AP and its member newspapers, and although it will not actually be a ‘wiki,’ (a source of information that can be updated by users), Kennedy explained that Wikipedia’s design is a “rough model for it,” with pages driven by topics or keywords. Such a page will be a “map for the user to access other links,” commented Kennedy.

He emphasised that the plan is all about giving the user “an improved news experience,” as the AP believes that currently, the mechanisms provided to consumers for news searching are inadequate. Kennedy asserted that “people are using search as a remote control for news and it’s not working,” as it is like a device with only “a couple of buttons; it’s a remote with directional arrows and no channels.” If a user does not find the information they want on their first search, they usually reach a dead end and just go back to the search homepage and try again. Also, he asserted, search engines “point people indiscriminately” towards sources, rather than towards the news’ local paper which should have the most authoritative article. The AP hopes instead to offer more of a guide to a topic, with sources that are more intelligently chosen.

Pages will be largely automatically produced, a necessary tactic as the organisation plans to have hundreds, even thousands of them, but there will be a certain degree of human editing for big stories. They will have URLs so that they can be ‘tweeted’ or linked to on social networking sites but they will not be a destination in themselves: “This is a distribution strategy, not a destination strategy,” Kennedy confirmed.