Newspapers have long bought stories from newswire agencies to fill their pages, but a new project in the works at Reuters aims to turn that relationship into a mutual exchange that could give traditional media new ways to make money. Dubbed "Project Apollo", the plan involves creating a content network that could be both a resource for newspapers requiring specialised information and a means of syndicating their own stories, said Chris Ahearn, the president of media at Thomson Reuters.
In a nod to the growing importance of social networks in news consumption, Mr Ahearn said: "The media is not a one-way street anymore, so why should professional networks be any different from the way the consumers are consuming news?" The new project, which is expected to be announced in more detail in the second half of this year, aims to bring together lessons from the social networking realm and from Thomson Reuters's primary business, the sale of professional information subscriptions.
In the latter realm, the company has learned that "metadata matters", Mr Ahearn said, referring to the information used to tag and sort media to make it easily searchable. The Apollo project aims to move away from selling clients Thomson Reuters-only products, which "sounds like a very 20th-century model to me", he said. "What sounds far more interesting to us and our clients is how do we move from a single-source provider to thinking about a professional news network that allows you as a journalist, or your institution, to have access not only to Reuters material, but to a variety of other potentially more specialised information about sport or entertainment, or other areas where we are never going to be as good as someone else."
At the same time, he said, this network would allow news organisations "to take content that you already paid to produce once, and you already monetised, and see if there's another market for it in a non-competitive way". "Creating that network is going to be the future for us." Reuters, which as the news gathering arm of Thomson Reuters accounts for only 2 per cent of the company's business, had a tough year last year, along with most of the rest of the media industry. Nevertheless, it expanded rapidly in the Middle East, adding more than 100 jobs in the region.
Mr Ahearn said the company made these investments because last year's doldrums would not last. "Advertising's not dead," he said. "We had a tough year, and advertising was down across the world, but advertising is not going to dry up in the media experience. In some areas of the world, we are going to see growth, like India, China, and despite a bit of a retrenchment here [the Middle East] over the last year, I bet growth comes back."