Mr. Beck is not a newspaper man. Instead, his company owns TV stations.
And TV stations are just as eager to tap online users and the budding ad market as the newspapers are.
"We want to be the online alternative to local newspapers," said Mr. Beck, president of Granite Broadcasting Corp., which owns stations in nine mid- and small-size markets such as Kalamazoo, Mich., and Buffalo, N.Y.
"There is a fierce local-market fight over news in most markets," he said, pointing out that younger news viewers and readers are especially attractive to advertisers. "We feel we can get those younger people in cyberspace."
Mr. Beck has been aggressive in landing content deals with ad components.
One deal, with Yahoo! (http://www.yahoo.com), will give his station sites local search engines related to news items; another deal with Tripod, a Web site targeting recent college grads (http://www.tripod.com), is designed to develop online advice for that audience.
For both deals Granite will sell ad space and split the revenue with the content providers.
"We've hired account executives at each of our stations whose sole responsibility is Internet accounts," Mr. Beck said.
execs handle content
The account executives will be responsible for both content and ad sales, he added.
Thus far, some of Granite's stations have had successes with big advertisers. For example, its Buffalo station, WKBW-TV (http://www.wkbw.com), has deals with NYNEX and Goya Foods to sponsor a homework helper page and a recipes area, respectively.
"TV stations are definitely out to get local print budgets," said Jim Moloshok, senior VP-marketing & advertising at Warner Bros. and the executive in charge of Warner Bros. Online.
In the interim, stations are coming up with various schemes to entice users-and advertisers-to their Web sites.
In Little Rock, Ark., Fox affiliate KLRT-TV and UPN affiliate KASN-TV co-present a site detailing Arkansas' most wanted criminals. KLRT (http://
www.klrt.com) airs "America's Most Wanted," and KASN (http://
www.kasn.com) broadcasts "America's Most Wanted: Final Judgment."
One executive familar with the stations said they hope to sell a sponsorship of the page to a local gun shop.