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Making News Sites Stickier With Apps That Summon the Web

Overlays on Editorial Photos Bring Up Related Twitter Feeds, Google Searches and Ads

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Websites from Fox Sports, the New York Daily News, the San Antonio Express-News, the Houston Chronicle, the San Francisco Chronicle and others are trying a new system to fight, or rather accommodate, web surfers' fleeting attention spans.

The sites are using a platform from Brand Affinity Technologies called NetBat, which overlays editorial photos of celebrities and athletes with apps that summon content from Twitter, Google, YouTube and other parts of the web without making users leave the site. Many sites have already incorporated modules that bring up tweets about the subject at hand, but this platform seems to offer more options at once.

When users hover over the Associated Press photo of LeBron James in this Daily News article, for example, NetBat apps will offer the latest headlines about him from NetBat.com and around the web; his latest tweets and the ability to post to Twitter; YouTube videos of him; search Yahoo for information on him and more images; and more. All those elements display within the frame of the photo on the sites' editorial page.

Users will also see ad messages from AT&T, the initial sponsor for the product. NetBat shares ad revenue with participating sites.

"The more useful things you can put up under one umbrella, the better you serve your user," said Tom Morgan, VP-advertising at North Jersey Media, whose NorthJersey.com is the online edition of The Record and The Herald News newspapers. "The better you serve your users, the more they'll come to your site. That's good news for advertisers because you'll get multiple clicks, the time spent will grow and the likelihood they'll see your ad increases."

"What you're after is greater allegiance to your site," Mr. Morgan added. "It's wonderful to grow and grow but you want to grow in allegiance. You want people to come back to you, and that's tough in this space unless you're Google."

Drafting editorial images into an ad play is something to pay attention to but not an insurmountable obstacle, according to Mr. Morgan. "You're always going to have to be cautious," he said, "but I think online users see it differently than newspaper readers."

The system recognizes the celebrities in the editorial after the fact, so participating doesn't mean publishers alter their editorial judgment at all, said Ryan Steelberg, president-CEO of Brand Affinity Technologies. "We sit behind the scenes," he said. "Publishers have control and don't change what historically they've been doing. They still choose their editorial imagery."

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