Reuters America, the new U.S.-focused wire service developed by Thomson Reuters, is claiming the Tribune newspapers as its first clients. As a result, the massive (and struggling) newspaper chain will downgrade its Associated Press subscription. That, in part, is the goal of the new Reuters service: to take on ground that has long been dominated by the expensive AP wire. While it would be difficult to cover the American territory as deeply as the AP does, the Reuters product will incorporate coverage from other sources like TheWrap.com and Examiner.com. Also, it will offer something else unique: Newspaper companies will be allowed to package and resell its content. For example, the Tribune Co. currently produces a compilation page of national wired news that it shares among many of its newspapers. With the Reuters deal, they could sell this page to other papers for a profit — something not allowed by AP’s rules.
This is sort of the opposite of what Clay Shirky predicted would happen to syndication this year in a thoughtful essay for the Neiman Journalism Lab yesterday. “Syndication makes little sense in a world with URLs,” he writes. “When news outlets were segmented by geography, having live human beings sitting around in ten thousand separate markets deciding which stories to pull off the wire was a service. Now it’s just a cost.” Thomson Reuters seems to be gambling on the fact that making that cost lower will be enough to make this work.