Founded in 1848, The Associated Press has long been considered a venerable news institution with considerable authority, clout, and expertise. With its announcement of Electronic AP (eAP) last October, add cutting-edge to the list.
After 150 years, the AP has amassed quite a collection of content, but often content filed using one tool could not be accessed from another, and the entire system lacked a sense of overall organization. It became difficult to locate appropriate and relevant content for use by the 10,000 media outlets worldwide that are customers of the Associated Press. With the creation of eAP, "all AP content is available in one database, linked and packaged for ease of use," explains John Reid, SVP, services & technology for The Associated Press. eAP "provides the on-demand, ‘how I want it, when I want it, what I want' needs of AP's customers." A major element of eAP is sheer functionality; there would be no reason to create eAP without making it intuitive; the impetus for the entire initiative was simply, "to make content easier to use," according to Reid.
After looking at different search providers, about a year ago, AP settled on Convera's RetrievalWare to provide the search, classification, and categorization for eAP. As Jay Mulford, managing director, engineering services for Convera, sees it, "Over time, AP has adapted in order to deliver new and improved services, and the resultant architecture is a little bit specific to certain information types. The challenge," he says, "has been to find a way to integrate the systems." Convera's technology works behind the scenes to read each story and suggest metadata about the stories. Convera is also set up to determine which users may be interested in particular stories and push the content out to them.
eAP is comprised of smaller, more specific components: eCentral—the central repository housing all AP stories, images, clips, and other supporting content; eCategorize—where Convera really comes into play, this is where keywords are attached to content in an effort to facilitate more effective and efficient searching; ePackage—bundles stories with corresponding files, such as video clips, photographs, or graphics; eDistribute—eAP users can create detailed search profiles that enable them to search the archives or be alerted via email when content is filed that meets their criteria; eAssign—in effect, an enormous scheduling tool where users can see who is covering what story, in what medium, and when it will be or was filed; and eSolutions—various consulting services that the AP plans to offer customers, though the news organization must reportedly have a CMS that is compatible with the AP's in order to take advantage of all available features.
Although announced over a year ago, an air of mystery still shrouds the eAP initiative, and many details of the project and it components have yet to be revealed. What is known is that "eAP is a multifaceted project," says Reid. "Parts of it have already been launched—an elections service, photos system, desktop access of content for our corporate customers—and other phases will continue to roll out over the next two years."
Even with the smattering of offerings currently available, organizing all AP content into an enormous CMS and distribution environment with collaborative elements could impact news organizations all the way down to the smallest of local operations. Mulford sees eAP as a public service that just may provide an opportunity to, "exploit and leverage content, make things more collaborative, [and enable news organizations to] stand on each other's shoulders more."
"Making news easier to access is great for journalism in general and AP specifically," says Reid. "And better search capability means that we can provide content that previously hasn't been available because there was no economical way to do so." So eAP may be more than an interesting initiative, it could bring together news organizations in an unprecedented manner since, Mulford says, "as a standard-setting body they may be able to serve as a catalyst to an industry that is resistant to change."