Rob Runnett, editor of the NNA's New Media Federation Digital Edge Web site spends all day every day talking about the Internet with newspapers big and small across America. So, instead of doing all that research ourselves, we simply invited him out for a big pancake breakfast and sucked his brains dry on your behalf. Enjoy!
Q: How are newspapers driving traffic to their sites?
A: Word of mouth is number one. Referring to the site in the text of print articles is number two. For example, one paper covering the NCAA Tournament added "make sure to get your NCAA scores during the work day at www…" to all relevant articles. The third most effective method is through guerilla marketing.
Phili.com is a great example, they flashed their sponsorship ad on the Jumbotron at Phili Flyers games; had their logo digitally superimposed across the batter box at televised baseball games; got all the sports arena hot dog stands to hand out napkins with the Phili.com logo; and even arranged for a slip promoting Phili.com to pop out of local ATMs along with your money. You can't just do one thing though, you need the mix.
If all you use is your print publication to market your site, forget about it. If you want to make this real, you've got to reach out to other people -- people who don't get your print pub.
Q: How have for-fee content sales worked out?
A: Everyone's tried it but there's not a huge percentage of the Internet audience who will pay for old articles even at $1.50-$2 per each. In fact many readers get upset to be charged for content. The most popular stuff is court listings, weddings and engagements and obits. They are huge traffic drivers for people who've left town who you can sell $20 year online-only subscriptions to.
Q: What about content syndication sales?
A: People are working a bit with Screaming Media and iSyndicate.com but mostly they want to maintain brand ownership, keep things close to home. Knight Ridder did a big deal with Digital Cities last year where they provide them four items per day per city, plus two story summaries with links back to the papers' sites. It's a content for traffic deal.
Q: We've noticed many traditional publishers are still pretty leery of doing the partnership deals with each other, while Web companies will hop into bed with anyone. What's the partnership scene on the newspaper front?
A: Regional newspapers were getting their butts kicked by national players and portal sites, "I owned brand in this town and now it's gone!" So now they're getting religion and are partnering with anyone they can find compatibility with, including arch enemies, to be able to compete online. The Ft Worth Star Telegram and the Dallas Morning News partnered to create www.dfw.com. Hearst and Belo got together to make MySanAntonio.com. Lots of regional papers are doing deals with local radio and TV stations to get audio and video combined with their content. So you have people, who used to be arch rivals for news, now getting in bed together.
Q: What's going in the wireless arena?
A: This is like the Second Coming. Everyone's trying to do something. They don't know what the content will look like or where it will come from or what the relationships will look like, but they know they have to get there.
The San Jose Mercury News, New York Times and Seattle Post Intelligencer have signed deals with Avant Go to recraft their content for Palm Pilots and the Sacramento Bee has an agreement with AirTouch to send local news over their wireless phones. The Bee gets a small fee for every phone or pager subscriber getting this content. It's like the old AOL back when they paid for content to appeal to users. The business model will probably reverse in the long run just like AOL, unless you can come up with killer app content they can't live without.
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