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Online news organizations are increasingly plying headlines in banner ads to drive traffic to their sites.

At least three major news sites this month have launched campaigns featuring these headline "tickers."

MSNBC on the Internet last week launched "Breaking News Banners," a 200 million-impression campaign on top search engines, chat sites and other Web sites, developed by Quantum Leap, Chicago.

The Web ads are part of a $5 million, six-week integrated campaign with MSNBC Cable, with the tagline, "Leader in cable and Internet news," that includes TV, radio, print, outdoor and Internet buys.

Earlier this month, Pathfinder announced News on the Web, developed by Darwin Digital, the New York-based online ad agency unit of Saatchi & Saatchi.

Pathfinder will use NOW to drive traffic to its news-oriented sites: Time.com, People.com, Money.com, Life.com and Fortune.com.

"For those whose primary product is on the Web, click-through is a priority. That's what drives our business," said Kris Ronningen-Fenrich, director of marketing for MSNBC.

Meanwhile, news aggregator and Web technology developer TotalNews.com has developed and launched a proprietary news ticker that can be customized by sites and viewers.

Two smaller sites, news agreggator 7am.com in New Zealand, and online ad agency DigitalPulp.com, provide similar features.

The technology breaks new ground in interactivity and improves the speed at which content and creative can be changed on previously static banner advertisements.

The Java-enabled tickers, which can be updated in real time by editors, feature scrolling news headlines linking users to a full story on the news site.

"People are not passively using the Web," said Hala Makowska, VP for brand development at Time Inc. New Media in New York. "With this banner technology, you have a chance to do branding and to introduce your product and product benefits."


Pathfinder is running its NOW banners on Lycos and Yahoo!, in addition to its own site, said Ms. Makowska. So far, click-through rates are higher than the average 1% to 2%, she said, but declined to give the rates.

Daniel Resnick, technology chief at Darwin Digital, says NOW has vast implications for the advertising world beyond news tickers, including limited-time offers, last-minute travel prices and breaking sports and financial information.

MSNBC also is planning to use the technology to gather data for and report real-time poll results, part of its Live Vote segment of the MSNBC site.

"The technology puts the power to effect change over the media space into the hands of the marketer who purchased it," Mr. Resnick said.

He said this is a step toward improving advertising on the Web.

"I don't believe the banner is an optimum ad unit. Everyone is trying to think of what would be the best ad unit," Mr. Resnick added.

The technology sets the stage for the next logical step for banner ads: a shift in focus from a branding and traffic-building thrust to a relationship marketing focus, said Ms. Makowska, which will include using audio, video and live chat.


"With this technology, you're improving your relationship with your consumer," she said.

"You provide them with information and you have a chance to find out more about them."

While MSNBC and Time's tickers are simple headlines scrolling across the banner space, TotalNews' product can be customized with "channels" within the banner to market different segments of a business. For instance, a bookseller could have five channels on its ticker, one each for best-sellers, paperbacks, fiction, non-fiction and children's books.

Hot-selling book titles could scroll on each channel, and could be changed instantly by the bookseller.

"New viewers will be much more likely to visit a site because of a strong interest in content," said Floyd Bargy, marketing manager at TotalNews, Scottsdale, Ariz., "not just because of a clever banner."

Martha Stone is a freelance writer based in North Barrington, Ill. She teaches new media and technology at Chicago's Roosevelt University, and can be reached at martstone@aol.com.

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