Bait and Switch

APB's secret weapon: access to computerized crime data. In the last few years, the Department of Justice has given millions of dollars to law enforcement agencies in several cities, encouraging them to standardize methods of data collection. In the wake of this computer revolution, Levins says, "the ability to grind different kinds of data through algorithms is more sophisticated than ever before." Also, he notes, the computerized data is available much faster than the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports.

Sometimes the authorities cough up data on request, but if not, APB turns to its attorneys and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). "Right now we have 2400 FOIA requests pending through various federal agencies. We FOIA their logs and once we get the logs, we know what documents there are." Cooperation from metropolitan police departments has been mixed. For example, he says, the New York Police Department has been alternately "cranky" and "cooperative."

Whether or not there's a big market for this stuff, APB has found people who share the vision. In addition to advertising and book sales, the company is collecting revenues from the sale of content to newspapers through the Universal Press Syndicate and by providing news feeds to Yahoo! and Snap.com. In July, APB formed a partnership with MSNBC. "These are not just links," says Levins. "They are running our news stories and we are running theirs." Also in July, APB investors launched their second round of financing, which raised $20 million— enough to start looking at the inevitable IPO.


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As Vanity Fair admits, September cover girl Carolyn Bessette Kennedy "never quite achieved" the status of Jackie Onassis— indeed, she barely spoke a public word in her life. Sure, Carolyn achieved minor fame by marrying a celebrity scion, but VF's posthumous attempt to crown her a "princess" only shows how quickly the media will invade someone's privacy if they think it will sell magazines. E Remember how Walter Kirn made the news a few weeks ago, canceling his contract with Talk because they asked him to write too many celebrity profiles? Kirn must have had a change of heart, because on the verge of signing a contract with Vanity Fair and GQ, he wrote a Spotlight for this month's VF on Milla Jovovich, whom he calls a "cat-eyed, pillow-lipped, neo-pagan beauty" with an "aura of near divinity." E As part of his ongoing Don Imus watch, Philip Nobile reports that on August 6, Imus's movie reviewer Beau Dietl casually spoke the word Sambo, as in, "So it's better when some Sambo blows somebody's head off?" The remark aired on the Imus radio broadcast in New York, but on MSNBC, the word Sambo was shushed out. An MSNBC spokesperson says the network has used a delay since it started running the Imus show, for reasons unrelated to content. E Some winced when they heard that ABC's consumer advocate John Stossel had narrated a "Consumer Privacy Training Video," which the American Banking Association is selling for $35 a pop. (Stossel has been criticized in the past for championing big business and for accepting corporate lecture fees upward of $20,000.) Not to worry, says an ABC spokesperson: Stossel donated his fee to charity, and his participation in the ABA project was not a violation of network policy. E Kudos to Village Voice writer William Bastone, whose August 5 scoop on the allegedly coke-dealing wife of a U.S. officer in Colombia got picked up overnight by the Associated Press, the New York Post, CNN, and National Public Radio, before landing on the front page of The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times a day later. E PS to Condé Nast gals: if you were hoping to meet a well-paid lawyer in the gym at 4 Times Square, scratch that plan. Of course, Si Newhouse was amenable to sharing facilities in his new headquarters with soon-to-be co-tenants Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. But the possibility of gym-sharing fizzled in discussions with Skadden pooh-bahs, who want a health club where partners can talk shop on the treadmill without fear of eavesdropping Mata Haris. Or could it be they don't want to get in a cutie contest?
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