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New Technologies Drive AP’s Reinvention

As the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism released its annual State of the News Media report last week, documenting once again the woes of many traditional news organizations, a notable example of how one news outlet is trying to overcome those problems can be found in London, where construction crews at the Associated Press’ facility are building a new HD master control room.

Buffeted by a decline in newspaper revenue from $220 million in 2008 to about $140 million in 2010, the AP’s London upgrades are part of a $30 million investment in a new high-definition, digital file-based infrastructure that the news agency hopes will help it thrive in a digital world that has been so hard on traditional news organizations.

“From camera to client, there is no piece of the video infrastructure that will not be impacted,” by the upgrade, notes Lorraine Cichowski, senior VP and chief information officer, technology at the AP.

In London, system integrator ATG is working with AP Technology to design a state-of-the-art HD video infrastructure and new control room that will support an end-to-end file-based work flow. Similar upgrades for AP facilities in New York and Los Angeles are expected to be completed by the end of the year, with Washington, D.C., to follow in 2012.

A number of AP bureaus will also get new master controls, and the agency will upgrade all of its satellite and video fi ber infrastructure to HD.

Meanwhile, the agency is revamping the way it produces news so that it can speed up delivery of content and live breaking news to clients. Many Associated Press crews and bureaus have already been equipped with Panasonic HD cameras, Macintosh laptops and Final Cut Pro editing software to speed up field production, and the company is looking at a variety of new cellular and satellite systems to transmit HD news footage to clients, in some cases directly from cameras to broadcasters.

Equally important, the AP has been working in-house to develop a variety of new systems to manage that content and allow its customers to more easily access it. In December 2009, the company launched Media Port, a file-based video delivery system; this May, it will roll out a revamped system that will make it much easier for clients to access material from AP’s archives.

Over the next year, the agency will also be developing and deploying an entirely new digital video platform for accessing, managing and delivering content to its clients. “It will tie together everything that supports the video network,” notes Cichowski.

When completed in 2012 before the London Summer Olympics, the agency believes these upgrades will allow it to better serve existing broadcast clients and at the same time boost revenue from fast-growing digital outlets. “Technology is the enabler of this transformation, but it is really a complete transformation of our video business,” says Daisy Veerasingham, senior VP at AP, who is heading the transformation of the organization’s video business.

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