I didn't realize how fast the Austin media were moving online until I took my kids to see the movie "Volcano" recently. "Surf Austin," urged a large sign posted on the inside of the ticket booth, "citysearch.com."
CitySearch's poster campaign is the most visible eruption of Austin's super-heated online media marketing war. Turn on the TV, tune in the radio, open the paper, and out jump URLs.
"Our readers include a big community of geeks and freaks," said Laxman Gani, Webmaster of alternative weekly newspaper Austin Chronicle. "They told us that we should get a Web site, and we did."
The Chronicle promotes its Web site with ads in the paper and some limited radio advertising. It really doesn't need much more. Heavy on the content, light on the graphics, the Chronicle page delivers what fans expect.
`GOAL IS TO EXIST'
I regularly use the site for club listings and to find old articles, which are easy to retrieve.
"Our goal is to exist," said Mr. Gani, who stores his server under his office desk. "We are just starting to sell ads now, but in terms of our expectations, we are already a big success."
The Chronicle has partnered with the folks at Yahoo! to create an online city site, Yahoo! Austin. Like the Chronicle site, Yahoo! Austin emphasizes content with a minimum of bells and whistles.
To increase local visibility, the Yahoo! site works in partnership with CBS affiliate KEYE-TV, which created Austin's first TV Web site in summer 1995.
FOCUS ON AUSTIN 360
Austin's daily newspaper, the Austin American-Statesman, is owned by Cox Enterprises. But instead of launching a site branded after the paper, Cox maintains Austin 360, a city magazine.
"The Statesman is the only paper in town," said Pete Hayes, VP-general manager of interactive services for high-tech agency Sicola Martin, Austin. "They missed a huge opportunity by not leveraging their brand identity. There's very little connecting tissue back from the online site to the paper."
Heavily promoted on radio and in the paper, Austin 360 is a good city Web site, with excellent movie listings and a great music calendar, which I check regularly.
Outdoor boards, taxi posters, T-shirts, radio spots, window stickers and print ads have given CitySearch the highest visibility of any local online media in Austin.
The site is as strong as its marketing. In addition to comprehensive shopping, hotel, restaurant and service listings, CitySearch offers a daily feature reflecting the in-your-face attitude of online journalism.
CitySearch has been successful in attracting advertisers. The site has offered to create Web sites at rock-bottom prices, trading initial profitability for market share.
While Austin's online media are using radio heavily to promote themselves, local radio's voice on the Web is rather weak.
KLBJ-FM is the best of the bunch, offering live video coverage and links to upcoming online music events.
Texas Monthly, Austin's premier print magazine, is an interesting online media success story.
The magazine promotes its site in its pages and on search engine banners. The site has sold out its advertising banner inventory to clients like Ford Motor Co., Visa International and Southwestern Bell.
"All this marketing is definitely pulling people in Austin onto the Web," explained Paul Pugh, Texas Monthly's multimedia director. "When I look out my window, I see a billboard for CitySearch. It's great."
The marketing hoopla has helped convince me to use Austin's online media. I don't have to fight with the kids over the radio or TV. And unlike all the local publications that come into the house, the computer never gets buried in the recycling bin.
Copyright May 1997, Crain Communications Inc.