Newspaper and TV Web sites aren't getting a free ride just so they can enhance the primary medium's clout. Advertising is a key concern; some news operations are treating their Web sites as added value for advertisers, while others run the Web site as a separate, free-standing ad medium. Some have even gone beyond banner ads and dabbled with content sponsorship.
Joe Stella, VP-director of new media for the New York Daily News, says the same kind of perception that sends people to newspapers will also drive them to papers' Web sites. "People often think of a newspaper site before they think of a TV site," he says.
A lot of people are thinking of a TV station Web site first in Raleigh, N.C. WRAL.com, run by the market's CBS affiliate, attracted as many adults as The News & Observer's Web site in a 2000 survey by Media Audit (see chart at right). In fact, Media Audit has rated WRAL.com the top local TV station Web site in the U.S.
"We have a really good synergy between the news and the Web site and promotion," says Julie Moos, executive producer of WRAL.com. "We are always looking out for each other, not only by what can we do to get breaking news on the site, but also by what can we do to get people to tune in to the station."
The home page directs viewers daily to Capitol Broadcasting Co.-owned WRAL-TV by identifying what's coming up on the evening and nightly news, in addition to posting a daily schedule. Likewise, on-air, viewers are advised to watch for updates on the Web while they're at work. The overall goal for the site is to add value to what's provided on the air.
SITE WITH DEPTH
"We do think of The News & Observer Web site as a competitor," Ms. Moos says, "not just because they have a site with a lot of depth, but also because our primary TV competitor did not have a site until recently."
The newspaper site's "strengths are different than ours are," the WRAL.com executive says. "Our emphasis is breaking news and weather. They have entertainment, leisure and what to do on the weekends."
Ms. Moos attributes WRAL.com's success to three factors. She says the site has had the support of TV station management since its inception; WRAL is a powerful brand in the market and the site has lived up to that; and she believes it's important that WRAL.com has been live for six years. "We were there first and we were there strong," she says.
Regardless of whether a Web site is spawned from a TV station or newspaper, the online operation is expected to be profitable. Many companies are revising online business plans in their quest for profitability, says Adam Gerber, VP-director of media strategy for New York-based Digital Edge, a division of the WPP Group's Media Edge. "The ones that are succeeding are figuring out how to integrate their Web property with their offline property effectively."
In Raleigh, The News & Observer has a separate, 19-person editorial, technical and sales staff for newsobserver.com. The focus is to create two separate but complementary strategies for the paper and its Web site. "Our primary goal has been to build an unduplicated audience," says Mark Choate, director of new media at the paper. "One of the fundamental things the site needs to do is to reach people who aren't readers of the paper."
WRAL.com also has a separate online staff. In addition, the site is one of the Web Channels of New York-based Internet Broadcasting Systems (ibsys.com), a national network of local TV Web sites. IBS sells national and local advertising for its Web Channels and provides other services, including crafting e-commerce deals for the sites.
Such partnerships are increasingly popular for local Web sites because they open new doors to tech expertise, ad revenue and content. WorldNow, New York, a network of online local news and information providers, offers technology, consulting and revenue programs.
Chuck Cordray, VP for e-marketing at Meredith Corp., says WorldNow has added national content-such as news, movie listings and horoscopes-to the Web sites of Meredith's 12 TV stations. WorldNow's editing functions are simpler to use than what Meredith had created, Mr. Cordray says, so "far more people in the newsroom can contribute" to the site.
Other news organizations are creating in-house groups, rather than outsourcing. In Atlanta, Cox Interactive Media operates sites for both the Cox Enterprises-owned Journal-Constitution and WSB-TV as part of AccessAtlanta.com, one of Cox's 22 city sites nationwide.
Cox Interactive Media treats the Internet as a separate entity, with a different set of revenue and ad models, says George de Golin, regional general manager. "The Internet is not a value add; its value is separate." A dedicated sales staff sells the Internet product locally, nationally or to multimarkets. In addition, the sites cross-promote each other. "We elevate each other rather than everyone doing it by themselves," Mr. de Golin says.
When a company like Cox owns both print and broadcast properties in the same market, the strategy can shift from competing to complementing Web sites. Tribune Co. in its hometown operates the Chicago Tribune, WGN-TV, WGN-AM and cable news channel CLTV. Tribune Interactive runs chicagotribune. com, wgntv.com, cltv.com ChicagoSports.com and Metromix.
"In Chicago, we want consumers to turn on the TV and look at WGN-TV morning news, listen to WGN radio in the car to work and in the office read the Chicago Tribune," says Dana Hayes, VP-sales and e-commerce at Tribune Interactive. "Throughout the day we want them opting for the Tribune site, and then we want them making dinner reservations on metromix.com. After dinner we want them watching WGN-TV evening news."
The Media Audit data show much more activity at the Chicago Tribune site than at its TV siblings, but in markets where Tribune Co. has both print and electronic properties, the station's Web site tries to direct visitors to the newspaper site, Mr. Hayes says. This allows Tribune Interactive to leverage content creation, cross-promotion and relationships with advertisers.
According to the New York Daily News' Mr. Stella, "The best customer is an existing customer." Therefore, much of the advertising on nydailynews.com comes from the print product's pool of advertisers, while there are some companies that advertise solely online.
"This is a pivotal time in local media's embrace of the Web," says Mark Zagorski, exec VP of WorldNow. "More and more traffic is being sent to the Web by people looking for local news. This is an opportunity for local media to own this space and leverage their brand."