Colorado Springs still lacks Web ad revenue

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One of the best local sites in Colorado Springs, Colo., isn't from a newspaper or TV station, but a Web site operated by the Pikes Peak Library District.

The library embarked online in 1980 with Maggie's Place, named for a retired librarian. Initially, the service offered dial-in access to the library's card catalog, periodicals database and other resources.

The district took the position of having the widest range of computer applications of any library in the U.S. It became so popular, library officials say, that actor/director Leonard Nimoy signed up for his own library card just to gain access.

In 1997, the library district launched on the Web. It's not a fancy site by today's standards, but it's easy to search the Community Events Calendar while I'm online.

EASY RESEARCHING

Here, I can find local events by date, keyword and event organizer. Other than the event calendar, I can access my favorite library tools, such as the card catalog and magazine index, through a Telnet application.

Beyond the library district, both non-profit and commercial sites compete as local city guides, including the City of Colorado Springs Electronic Community Access (www.colorado-springs.com).

The site contains information on local government, parks and recreation, public safety, transportation, employment and education.

REAL-TIME FLIGHT INFORMATION

The Colorado Springs Municipal Airport section offers a moderately useful list of airport-related services and real-time flight schedules (updated every 60 seconds) that load very slowly.

Colorado Springs Online, run by the Colorado Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau lists accommodations, attractions, restaurants, shopping areas, and other facts and figures.

A calendar of local events, however, lacks basic information, making it pale compared to the library district's offering.

ALL THAT'S FIT TO POST

In the online newspaper category, Freedom Communications' The Gazette (www.gazette.com) has a nice design and mostly repurposed content from its print edition including weather, movie listings, comics and an automotive guide.

Meanwhile, it owns and operates a host of other sites: Colorado Online with statewide information; Coloradosprings.com with city information; and Peak Computing, a local computer magazine.

Pretty much anything you want to know about local businesses and lifestyles can be found at one of these sites.

The Gazette's closest print competitor, The Independent, does not yet have a Web presence.

After visiting classic rock station KKFM, oldies station KSPZ, light rock station KKLI and rock station KILO, I concluded the color black is required for all local radio Web sites.

Aside from design issues, most local radio stations would have little to offer were it not for RealAudio simulcasting of their on-air broadcasts. Clearly, KILO isn't interested in generating online revenue, as indicated by its non-functional Rock Mall that doesn't accept credit cards.

Unsatisfied, I looked at local TV sites. There are three functional TV Web sites for Colorado Springs stations: CBS affiliate KKTV, NBC affiliate KOAA and Fox affiliate KXRM.

A fourth station, ABC affiliate KRDO, registered its domain with InterNIC in 1997, but has yet to develop a site.

TV SITES LACK WEB ADS

Compared with the radio sites, all three TV stations are more skilled at site design, but still not much better at Web advertising sales. Content includes variations on news, weather, sports and on-air scheduling with a strong network affiliate bent.

KKTV has Pikes Peakcam, which offers an up-to-the minute view of the 14,000-foot Pikes Peak, but it was raining on their digital parade with no one to wipe the drops off the lens, so I couldn't see the mountain.

With few exceptions, local TV site content resembles recycled copy that reads like on-air sound bytes or includes links to network news stories and summaries.

KOAA offers a link to coupons through an affiliate station program called NBC Interactive Neighborhood, a network of NBC-owned and affiliated sites that launched in October 1997. The sites feature local news and information from partnerships with various Web sites.

Local sites are quick to provide reciprocal links to other Web resources, but usually fall short of assigning anyone the maintenance role of Linkmaster.

SHORTAGE OF ORIGINAL CONTENT

For the local online equivalent of news, The Gazette is the only real choice. Compared to local print media, none of the Colorado Springs-based Web sites are very savvy at generating ad revenue or stimulating commerce.

And local broadcasters offer too little original Web content and too many outside links, handicapping any chance to attract residents and loyal advertisers.

Kim Bayne is a free-lance writer who's based in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Copyright July 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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