AP, Meet AC. And, BTW, News is Not Really 'Monetizable,' on the Web.

The Associated Press was created in 1846 as a news cooperative. The idea was to allow member newspapers (and later, radio and TV stations) to combine costs in covering, reporting on and distributing news of import to its members.

The Associated Press was created in 1846 as a news cooperative. The idea was to allow member newspapers (and later, radio and TV stations) to combine costs in covering, reporting on and distributing news of import to its members.

Its 21st Century counterpart, Associated Content, goes it one better. It pays anyone to create content. The contributor does not have to be a professional . And the person only gets paid if the content gets read. Oh, and by the way, news is not something that really registers at Associated Content.

You can find lots of Father’s Day articles, from AC. But don’t expect a lot of coverage of the L.A. Lakers’ recent championship in basketball.

“Yeah, you can do a search on Associated Content and find news content,’’ says AC chief executive Patrick Keane, formerly of CBS Interactive (owners of ZDNet, BNET and CNet) and Google. “But we typically don’t pay upfront for that. It’s not something we would encourage over time because news content, while, it generates a lot of traffic and user interest, it is very difficult to monetize.”

How’s that?

“There are not a lot of advertisers that want to associate with swine flu and floods in Iowa, even though there are a lot of people who are talking about it and reading about it and understanding it,’’ Keane (at right) told Between The Lines Wednesday. “It ‘s just hard to sell ads against that stuff.”

What works on the Web is what Wired editor Chris Anderson gave a sexy name to: Long tail content.

Translate to 20th Century English and you’d call it stuff with a long shelf life.

How-to stories. Advice. Narrow, unique articles based on accomplishing tasks. Like making clothes you might wear once a year. But every year you do it.

“The problem with news content is its shelf-life is limited and user interest is sort of ephemeral to whatever that is, for a short period of time,’’ said Keane. “But if someone writes a great piece of content on home-made Halloween costumes, that could be written in 2005 and be as relevant this October as it was the day it was written.”

Not that AC throws around big dough, even for the long-shelf-life aka long-tail stuff. An upfront payment only ranges from $2 to $50. Each thousand page views only generates $1.50 additional. So, if you got $25 upfront for that Halloween piece and you got 50,000 views, you’ll get $75 on top of that. Or, $100, all told. Maybe enough to buy one costume, instead of make it from scratch.

Keane says Associated Content now has 2 million pieces of content, from 250,000 contributors; and that 90% of the content gets viewed at least once a month. But even if AC has 22 million unique visitors a month (as Keane asserts), and each visits twice and each visit generates 2.5 page views, the payout to contributors is not that great. Perhaps $200,000 a month ($165,000 on 110 million page views at $1.5 per thousand; then adding in upfront fees).

But at least it’s “monetizable.” The company has raised $21 million in financing since launching four years ago, picking up a fresh $6 million in April.

Meanwhile, newspapers are upset with the Associated Press, for selling its content to Web sites they compete with. And the cable TV news service, CNN, is even trying to figure out how to become an alternative.

It’s getting harder and harder to make money when your product more or less vanishes overnight, involves more than a modicum of murder, mayhem and negativity -- and has to be replenished from scratch, every morning.

That, in essence, is what Associated Content is trying to avoid.

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