Streaming audio, video and ads back publishers' online presence

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Online newspapers are rolling out the multimedia guns in their war to win users and local advertising.

New York Times Digital's New York Today site introduced New York Today Radio earlier in May, a customized tuner application that uses Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Media Player to stream audio news and entertainment.

The streaming-content service and ad delivery is provided by everstream, a Solon, Ohio, start-up that serves content and ads for more than 170 sites.

Specializing in newspapers that have online sites, the company offers an automated system that streams digitized audio and video content along with local banner ads sold by the publisher. (While none of the affiliates currently streams video, more are expected to do so when a new version of the software is released in July.)

Everstream also Webcasts 18 music channels that it programs. The Everstream Media Network is supported by 12, 30-second radio spots, which are played each hour, synchronized with corresponding banner ads. Everstream also sells national advertiser slots on the everstream tuner, which include Microsoft Corp. and Netpliance. Local affiliates can also place national ads.

GOING WHERE THE MONEY IS

The decision to focus on newspaper sites was purely a financial one.

"Publishers have been losing readership in their hard copies," said Stephen McHale, president-CEO of everstream. "And they've poured millions into their Web sites."

Weekday newspaper circulation has slipped by more than 5% during the past five years, according to the Newspaper Association of America.

In contrast to local radio and TV sites, newspaper sites have more traffic and large local ad sales staffs, Mr. McHale said. "The majority of all ad dollars are spent in the local market."

The service is free to newspapers; everstream shares in ad and e-commerce revenue generated from the sites. It charges for additional services such as creating content for a particular site's customized music and content channel.

PUBLISHERS SIGN UP

Other publishers that have signed up for the service include Central Newspapers, E.W. Scripps Co., Knight Ridder and BCI Communications. Sites that already use everstream include the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Denver's Rocky Mountain News site.

This summer Mr. McHale said everstream plans a promotional blitz with newspaper partners to distribute ad-sponsored CD-ROMs with a new version of the its tuner that can be launched from a user's desktop. An estimated 7 million to 10 million CD-ROMs could be shipped out to newspaper subscribers, depending on which newspapers participate in the program, Mr. McHale said.

While Bernie Milan, product development manager at New York Today, said there are no concrete plans to participate in the promotion, all opportunities to promote the player would be evaluated. New York Today is about to launch a banner campaign, created in-house, to promote the radio player.

LONGER SOJOURNS

"A lot of times people don't spend enough time on Web sites," Mr. Milan said. "They check the news and then leave."

With New York Today Radio, people can stay tuned in to the site, even though they're off surfing somewhere else. "It's extending the [site's] reach."

Everstream plans to take its service global. Mr. McHale said it's in negotiations with the The Times of India, Jerusalem Post and one of the largest publishers in Japan. Arras Group, Cleveland, created everstream's modest trade campaign.

Web-streaming services are a crowded space. RealNetworks recently announced a service to insert ads into local broadcast content when it's played online. It already has such a service for radio programming.

Copyright May 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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