Q&A with departing AP CEO Tom Curley

Tom Curley (Credit: Richard Drew)

Associated Press CEO Tom Curley, who recently announced that he’ll be retiring this year, discussed challenges facing news outlets — from revenue streams to increased opinions in many newsrooms — and other media matters in an Q-and-A with Joe Strupp.

The 63-year-old Curley told the former Editor & Publisher reporter — now at Media Matters for America — that he has no set date to leave his post and has no definite plans for his future.

What brought this retirement decision about?
Normal transition. When the odometer hits a certain point, you have to consider it and the time seems right. We’re at a stable place, contract, long term contracts are set, all of our major technology will roll out.

What has been the biggest change in media in during your nine years atop AP?
It’s easy to describe the transition from the old broadcast model of many to one to increasingly personalization of media from one to many to many to one, that is the change that we all have to address, increasing customization.

What has seen the most relevant impact? Internet? Cable? Radio?
Customization affects all media platforms, the digital shift obviously enables that, but even the digital players that don’t allow for customization are losing ground. So it’s about personalization.

How has that been handled by news customers?
In a term, smartphones is really the gating issue.

We are at the early days of the personalization to be sure, but there has been a lot of good innovation on the media part and obviously on the new players, too.

When is your last day?
I have no idea, I really don’t know. It depends on how fast they go and whether they get candidates they want to work with sooner than later.

What is your thought in terms of polarization of news coverage and slanted coverage? Conservative outlets?
The history of content in this country has always involved opinions and those who wish to promulgate certain points of view, it’s nothing new. Their particular strength in the market has waxed and waned over the years. It’s always been part of the content stream. AP has managed to serve people various points of view and in various countries. I don’t see that as anything new.

Do you think more news outlets and more access has been good or bad for the consumer?
The long history of this county has been about more diversity and voices and the Internet has enabled considerably more diversity and voices, and for people to express their opinion. On balance it’s wonderful. There have been times where there have been issues where somebody has picked on a young person, personally, and results in bad outcomes.

What are the news media concerns for the future?
The market for news traditionally defined is growing, it’s stronger than ever, there are more people engaged with news more times a day and in more countries than ever before. The overall market is strong. The challenge is the revenue side and how to raise revenues. There’s obviously a shifting taking place. Some of that shift has involved sending money from traditional media to web players so we all have to figure out what relevance means for the news world.

The Internet has ushered in a world where there is more chaos, but that’s good for us because our values are strong and we have earned a reputation for getting it right.

What comes out of the chaos?
You sometimes get false reports, people run with them.

What comes next for you?
I’m going to take a break and get lost in the North Woods, I am looking forward to a break.

It certainly has been a revolutionary moment. Perhaps the bigger changes are ahead, too. That is what I guess I would say. We are only in the early stages of the change process.

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