01/01/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

CNN Wire Service Takes On AP, Luring AP's Disgruntled Newspaper Customers

CNN, in the afterglow of an election season of record ratings for cable news, is elbowing in on a new line of business: catering to financially strained newspapers looking for an alternative to The Associated Press.

For nearly a month, a trial version of CNN's wire service has been on display in some newspapers. But this week editors from about 30 papers will visit Atlanta to hear CNN's plans to broaden a service to provide coverage of big national and international events -- and maybe local ones -- on a smaller scale and at a lower cost than The A.P.

"The reality is we don't have a lot of relationships with newspapers," said Jim Walton, president of CNN Worldwide. "We have relationships with TV stations around the world." Mr. Walton said the meeting this week, which CNN has billed the "CNN Newspaper Summit," is "kind of a get-to-know-you."

On Nov. 20, Tom Curley, the president and chief executive of The A.P., spoke to employees in New York City and by Webcast to groups around the world -- a recording of which was heard by The New York Times -- about the state of its business. He outlined three main challenges: the economic downturn, the financial problems of newspapers, and what he described as customers becoming competitors, specifically CNN.

Of those three challenges, he said he was most worried about the last one.

...[in] his conference with employees, Mr. Curley suggested that the CNN wire service needed major improvement before it could play at The A.P.'s level.

"The current CNN wire, if you look at it truly is still, and remarkably, abysmally written," he said. "However, they're interviewing A.P. people, we know, and that can be transformed. And if you have enough money and you have enough ego and enough desire, you can fix that in a hurry."

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