Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

The AP Tries a “Truthiness” Approach: “We’re Not Talking to Google” Means “We’re Talking to Google”

For a company that delivers information for a living, the Associated Press might want to work on getting its story straight. Earlier this year, AP chair Dean Singleton baffled the Web by channeling Howard Beale. This week, AP CEO Tom Curley told a group of journalists that his company wasn’t talking to Google about renewing its licensing deal. But they have been talking for months and continue to do so.

In fact, reps from Google and the AP linked up in Manhattan on Wednesday to discuss the deal, which expires at the end of this year, people familiar with the meeting tell me. This timing makes sense since Google (GOOG) had flown in many of its top brass to New York for a series of internal meetings this week.

But that would come as a surprise to anyone who took Curley’s words, delivered after a speech in Hong Kong on Tuesday, at face value.

Here are Curley’s comments, recorded by an attendee at the Hong Kong meeting and transcribed by Zachary Seward at Nieman Journalism Lab:

Someone asked Curley if Microsoft was willing to accept the AP’s demands. “They have said very strongly that they would,” Curley responded. A bit earlier, he said of Microsoft, “They know how to have a conversation.” And what about Google? “I’m not talking about Google,” he said. “We haven’t talked. We haven’t talked. We haven’t talked with them in any serious way.”

AP spokesman Paul Colford says he has nothing to add to Curley’s comments. But I’ll try to make a case on his behalf: Maybe this is one of those “depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is” situations whereby Curley doesn’t consider the talks the two sides have been having to be “talks.” Alternate proposal: Maybe Curley is going for “truthiness” instead of “truth.”

I guess that’s possible. The recurring story I’ve heard from sources on both sides of the negotiations, which have been going on for months, is that they’re not moving very far.

The problem: The AP has a list of demands, which start with more money and move on from there, including assurances that its copy will receive better treatment than secondary outlets. And Google hasn’t expressed much interest in changing the existing agreement. The company is “quite happy” with the deal it has now, Google CEO Eric Schmidt told reporters on Wednesday.

I understand why Curley would want to play up his talks with other portals, as well as the notion that he’s willing to pull his cooperative out of the world’s biggest traffic generator. Per above, I don’t think those are particularly effective tactics, but I understand them. But that’s different from creating an alternative reality altogether.

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Nobody was excited about paying top dollar for a movie about WikiLeaks. A film about the origins of would have done better.

— Gitesh Pandya of comments on the dreadful opening weekend box office numbers for “The Fifth Estate.”