NCN trying new Web model

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Consortium offers local papers online `travel pass'

The New Century Network is working to provide broader reach for local newspapers on the Web.

The network, a nine-company consortium founded last year to help local newspapers go online, is creating a centralized Web site that will promote specialty content from various papers.

The site will also help papers collaborate to create themed Web sites.

GETTING USERS TO REGISTER

Key to NCN's model is the assumption that local papers will be able to get users to register for a "travel pass" to the NCN travel page Web site, which goes live on Jan. 1.

NCN will sell ads on the home page; it will also sell spots on specialty content pages.

Getting into the content business wasn't NCN's intention when it was founded a year ago by Advance Publications, Cox Newspapers, Gannett Co., Hearst Corp., Knight-Ridder, Times Mirror Co., Tribune Co., Washington Post Co. and The New York Times Co.

Each company invested $1 million in the enterprise.

NCN "evolved into an Internet content development and distribution company. That was not what it was intended to do," said NCN's Interim CEO Peter Winter.

"We developed business models and decided the only way we could truly advance local newspapers was to help them build and promote content."

Local papers benefit from affiliation in two ways: by having their content syndicated on the NCN site and by collaborating with other NCN affiliate papers on sites.

Mr. Winter admitted newspapers had been skeptical of NCN's initiatives to date. But he's hoping the marketing opportunities and increased traffic to newspaper Web sites that the NCN site will generate will change their minds.

50 PAPERS IN TEST

Fifty newspapers are testing and developing local-content models based on NCN's prototype site.

"This is an affiliate model," Mr. Winter said. "What we have now is a clumsy and tentative first step."

NCN last week named Lee deBoer CEO, succeeding Mr. Winter, VP-market development at Cox Newspapers. Mr. deBoer had been president of New York consultancy Media Futures.

Copyright April 1996 Crain Communications Inc.

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