INTERACTIVE: 'HOUSTON CHRONICLE' SITE BEEFS UP ITS SALES FORCE

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Hearst newspapers' Houston Chronicle has made itself a Web site to watch in 1997 because of the unique sales force the company has lined up dedicated to marketing the site's distinctly local news product.

Eighty percent of the site's advertising comes from local advertisers-strong evidence that the paper is serving its community well.

The two-year-old site (www.

chron.com) in March launched its own small business and services area called Directory Center. The directory has 200 advertisers, the majority of which are paying $325 a month.

The site also has 24 Web-dedicated sales staffers, something unusual when Web ad buys are more often than not just extensions of print buys. Although earnings are undisclosed, executives at the Chronicle expect the site to be profitable by yearend.

LEVERAGING BRAND EQUITY

Kathleen McQueary, sales and marketing manager for the site, said the Houston Chronicle Interactive will continue to leverage its print brand equity by blending online and offline editorial and ad content across both properties.

For instance, when the site began selling restaurant classifieds online, it extended the buys to the print edition, instantly creating a new classified ad category. The site also sends out a weekly e-mail newsletter to 65,000 registrants.

"The newspaper sites that are best are the ones created with resources for business information," said Peter Krasilovsky, senior analyst at Arlen Communications. "These tend to cost a lot of money, but they are the services that will compete against the Digital Cities and Sidewalks in the new-media

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