Their moves aren't just part of the Unofficial Publishers' Mandate of 2006, under which both newspaper and magazine executives are pouring resources into really, truly making the most out of the Web; they stem from the particular dynamics of the news contest online. While old-school newspaper wars have withered in most cities, it's clear that their online wars are just beginning. To newspaper editors surveying the Web, too many surfers get their news from sites like Yahoo and AOL. And newspapers' ad sales teams don't appreciate that most online ad spending goes to Yahoo, Google, AOL and MSN.
"In order for these great media brands to get a little bit more of a share, they have to do things like offer the ability to support sponsorships as well as richer and more varied creative," said David Card, VP-senior analyst, Jupiter Research. "Their audiences are already attractive to advertisers, but these are ways to make their platforms more attractive."
Starting this week, NYTimes.com will begin introducing changes like cleaner design, easier navigation, more places for the most prominent ad units and sponsorship opportunities for popular sections like "Most E-Mailed." The home page will also add an embedded video section, where visitors who press play will watch 15-second commercials before Times-created content.
The Journal Online, which relaunched its home page on March 14, has just introduced seamless, automatic and constant updating of its pages-without reloading!
But most intriguingly, both are adding news aggregation services. The Journal Online will soon let people instruct its site to pull in any content available on the RSS feeds blooming online. That means visitors can go to WSJ.com, read content produced by any division of parent company Dow Jones and also read headlines and blurbs from sites like ESPN.com, Gawker.com or even NYTimes.com.
The feeds will show up with links to the sites where they originated, so readers may still wander off into the great wide Web-but they'll have more reasons to stay, too.
"We can't be everywhere all the time," said Bill Grueskin, managing editor, the Journal Online, which attracted 3.9 million unique U.S. visitors during February to its subscription site, according to Nielsen/NetRatings. "We understand some readers want to pull in other sources of news, commentary including blogs and other sites that aren't affiliated with mainstream media. If they want to do that under the rubric of The Wall Street Journal, that's fine, and if we can make that easier, that's something we want to do."
Or as Gail Griffin, the site's general manager, pointed out, people who customize the site already use more content and stay longer. "As you add third-party content to it, they'll be doing more things that they may have done at Yahoo or elsewhere on the Journal site itself," she said.
Aggregation at The Times will take the form of My Times, providing each visitor with a page to host content from elsewhere. "Every time you visit the page you'll have updated news and information from those sources," said Alyson Racer, VP-sales, NYTimes.com, which drew 12.7 million unique U.S. visitors in February.
Both companies, of course, will sell sponsorship of the personalization tools. The Times does not plan to charge users for the new features. The Journal's subscription pricing will remain the same, meaning any subscriber can use its tools.