AP Strikes Celeb Deal With Social Network WhoSay

Can starlets' tweets and AP content get along?

The Associated Press announced today an agreement with an unlikely partner: WhoSay, the celebrity-only social media platform you may not have heard of yet but have likely encountered.

That’s because whenever you click on a photo link from the Twitter account of a famous name like Lindsay Lohan or Jimmy Fallon—WhoSay boasts more than 900 celebrity members—you’re redirected to that person’s WhoSay page, which aggregates content from all of his or her social media accounts. The point of the service, whose investors include CAA, Amazon, and Greylock Partners, is to help public figures (and their publicists) control their online lives.

One of the most important aspects of that control is that the content posted to WhoSay is copyrighted to the celebrity—as opposed to when they use an outside service like TwitPic to share a photo, in which case that picture becomes the property of TwitPic. But until now, there was no official way for celebrities to easily license their WhoSay pictures and videos.

Enter the AP, which has struck a partnership with WhoSay to provide the social platform's celebrity users with a way to license that media. Now, whenever a celebrity posts a photo or video to WhoSay, they will have the option to provide that content to APImages.com, which, in turn, will be able to license it to media outlets.

“Our clients are producing a lot of content,” WhoSay CEO Steve Ellis said in a phone interview from London, “and it was a fairly logical step to give them the option to distribute this content through an established channel like the AP to the publications around the world that are interested in our clients.”

The AP also hopes that this partnership will prove an effective revenue source, said managing editor Lou Ferrara, who leads the AP’s social media efforts. “We’re really looking at this as, ‘Is there an opportunity here where there is revenue to be made, and how will that work?’”

Separate from the photo licensing agreement, AP journalists will be allowed to use WhoSay to manage their own social media accounts and post personal photos and videos.

“We saw two clear tracks,” said Ferrara of the partnership. “The commercial opportunities around photography . . . and then the opportunity of looking at how we could use WhoSay with our journalists, and see if that could work in the media landscape before us.”

Of course, an agreement between a traditional news source like the AP and a social platform formed to help the famous control their media image could get messy. But Ferrara said there wouldn't be any conflicts between the celebrities' interests and journalistic integrity, nor will celebrities' personal photos take precedence over those shot by AP photographers.

“We’re steering clear of a situation where we do have conflict, and we want everybody to understand that we’re still going to cover the news and entertainment news that we cover. It doesn’t change that at all.” he said. “And if a celebrity ends up in trouble and does something wrong, we’re still reporting it and covering it.”

The new platform also won’t replace the AP newswire for its journalists, who will mainly be using WhoSay for “personal and cutting-room floor” content, Ferrara said. Staff-generated breaking news photos will still go directly to the AP's editors, not to a social network. And unlike celebrities who use WhoSay, the AP reporters won’t own their own content. The news service will.

Beginning today, around 20 AP reporters (including Ferrara) will start actively using WhoSay. “Both WhoSay and the AP want to see how this will work with journalists, and if there’s a model here that can be built out and would work for journalists moving forward,” Ferrara said. If the partnership brings positive results, he said, “we would certainly want to expand it and consider other ways we can use it.”

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