We're stocking up on bottled water and canned goods around Defamer HQ today, where even our shameless pop-culture pathologies can't process devastating reports that the venerable Associated Press is launching a standalone entertainment news organization. The equally tormented Nikki Finke, whose giddiness at yesterday's fall of PageSix.com was mitigated only slightly by the firings it would require, crashed back to Earth today with an internal memo clearly foreshadowing — via a Q&A with new "Director of Entertainment Content" Daniel Becker — the violent demise of newsgathering as we know it:
Q: Why an entertainment vertical?
A: There is overwhelming demand from customers and members for coverage of celebrity, movies and music. According to PQ Media, the market for outsourced entertainment news content is set to rise by 77% by 2011 to $960 million. So, increasing our entertainment coverage provides an opportunity to give them more of the content they want and to increase revenue at the same time.
SHUDDER. Beyond asking the simple question of how the downturn in ad revenue across media — and thus the resultant belt-tightening, downsizing and shuttering among AP subscribers — squares up with that 77% boost for outsourcers like AP, we'd also like to know: Why a separate organization altogether? Becker notes it's all about the flexibility to "fine-tune" its service, but he sneaks in a bit about a discrete "management structure and P&L" as well. In other words: We're red-headed stepchildren, but at least we're not union stepchildren.
There are some epistemological crises in there, too:
Q: There is a fear that this will take AP closer to tabloid journalism. How will AP ensure it maintains its journalistic standards?
A: The entertainment vertical is not about gossip, unnamed sources and innuendo or about "peephole" journalism with AP photographers becoming paparazzi. It's about recognizing an opportunity to use our journalistic talent and unmatched network of resources to produce high quality, multimedia coverage in an area of growing interest.
Translation: "Did you see South Park the other night? We're going to be just like the photographers outside Britney Spears hospital room, except our captions will I.D. both Stan and Kyle by name. You know — for old times' sake!" Excuse us, we need rush off to stockpile gasoline.