Web proves medium of the moment

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Amid death and destruction, the $450 million New Orleans media market struggled last week to remain in contact with audiences and advertisers. In Gulf States paralyzed by Hurricane Katrina, there was confusion over which outlets were posting, publishing or broadcasting.

Patrick McNew, exec VP of PHD Local Media, was finally able to establish contact with a New Orleans radio station equipped with one working fax machine and powered by a back-up generator.

"Best we can tell, WWLAM radio is on air and [CBS-affiliate] WWLTV is posting news to its Web site," he said. "In most cases they are not carrying ads, except for insurance and financial, if people need to know where to go [for help]."

"Right now, it's really horrific and there's a lot of emotional anguish," said Sue Johenning, exec VP-director of local broadcast at Initiative.

In the chaos, local advertisers pulled or postponed campaigns that suddenly seemed inappropriate or out of place. "Mercedes requested to stay off [in local markets] for the remainder of the year," said Mr. McNew. Dodge, he said, was taking a wait-and-see approach on whether to go ahead with a planned mid-September campaign.

FIRST TO RETURN

Hotels, food retailers, home-improvement stores and financial-services companies are expected to be among the first categories to return to the air. Hotel chain Best Western was advertising on WWLTV's Web site Sept. 2.

Advance Publications' Times Picayune, the largest newspaper in New Orleans with a 269,000 daily circulation, resumed print publication Sept. 2. Since the hurricane struck Sept. 29, the paper published three electronic-only editions on its affiliated Nola.com Web site, hosted in New Jersey. Peter Weinberger, president of Advance Internet, said the site saw astounding increases: 22 million page views in one day, Aug. 30, compared to an average of 26 million page views per month.

The biggest cable operator in the area, Cox Communications, took part in a 50-company conference call Sept. 1 to coordinate relief efforts of the cable industry. Neither of Tribune Broadcasting's two local TV stations, WGNO and WNOL, were on the air late last week and a Tribune Corp. spokesman said the company has no idea when they will resume broadcasting.

The U.S. Postal Service, meanwhile, temporarily refused to accept periodical mail addressed to many affected areas, leading magazine publishers to put holds on those subscriptions. The impact on national publications didn't appear to be immediately significant. Time Inc., for example, said only 25,000 copies of Sports Illustrated's 3.2 million circulation would miss delivery.

Retooling

National advertisers also began postponing and retooling campaigns as the news grew grimmer each day. The newly combined Sprint Nextel scrambled to reschedule local buys for its $500 million campaign.

Concerning broadcast networks, national media buyers didn't anticipate any major difficulties as a result of preempted campaigns since the broadcast market is still relatively soft and ad inventory is available.

The Internet once again proved the medium of the moment. CNN reported that it gained 15.7 million video views combined on Aug. 29 and 30, some 4 million more than after the London terrorist bombing.

contributing: kris oser, ira teinowitz

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