Last week, the Associated Press’ (AP) commercial photography arm, AP Images, launched a new service and a new revenue stream. The new Editorial Assignment Service offers other news organisations the chance to hire out its photojournalists to cover events for their reporting.
Twenty-five AP photographers are available via the assignment service and the images on display on the marketing site are great quality. For the AP it’s a new source of revenue and use of existing resources to create a money-making service; for other news organisations – as far as the agency is hoping – it could be a labour-saving device, allowing them to outsource work on far-flung or one-off assignments.
I’m thinking in particular of local media and newspapers here. Many of whom are already AP members in the US – some of whom have left the agency as a results of increased membership fees. Much is made of multimedia and the potential of online publishing platforms to mix words with rich images and more. But where do images from the field stand on a local or regional newsroom’s budget at a time of cuts/limited financial resources?
Some such news organisations are turning photo departments into visual departments – adding video to images – and creating their own money-making products by putting these desks at the heart of the newsroom. US newspaper the Star-Ledger and its website NJ.com is now generating revenue from specialist coverage of local events, in particular high-school sports, and as such video and images remains high on the agenda.
While outsourcing could bring a greater range of images to some news sites and free organisations from the labour of obtaining them, the local knowledge and understanding of an audience can’t be outsourced or replaced by the AP. Local media outlets wanting stronger visuals would do well to develop their own rather than outsource and build products for both a multimedia and potentially commercial end.