Final Part of Trilogy Examines Newspaper PFP

Early next week, we will publish the third and final installment of our newspaper White Paper series. It picks up where we left off in the second part by examining the performance- based advertising models that can apply to newspapers, both online and off.

This concluding installment also takes a prescriptive tack, in bringing together the analysis of previous sections and in recommending action items for newspaper publishers. It also looks at models that have been tried, those that have shown success and those that haven't.

Newspapers have many opportunities and challenges to leverage existing strengths in the online arena and to protect core revenues in retail and classified advertising. Opportunities to converge online classifieds and Yellow Pages content also largely exist and are beginning to be seen.

The industry is in a period of rapid development that deserves close and constant examination. Important deals made this week (including that analyzed in Peter’s previous post), for example, have fallen outside the White Paper editorial cycle, as the document is in late production stages.

But that’s the mark of a dynamic industry and representative of the challenge in covering it; it’s a moving target. The bad news is that there is so much going on. But the good news is that there is so much going on.

The Times Sets an Example
Also this week, The New York Times announced the beta launch of its "My Times" personalized news reader that blends Times content with that of other news sources from around the Web via RSS feed. It’s a personalized, customizable page that will serve as a model for the direction newspapers could go online. This of course requires that newspapers aggregate the content of other sources (including their competitors), which they have mostly been loathe to do. However, this is the only way to create comprehensive online news gathering experiences that can rival those provided by major portals.

Aggregation is the answer. This allows newspapers to approach the level of comprehensiveness of Google as a source of local and national news, while they can surpass Google in other important areas (local trust, editorial assets, sales force, etc.). The Times is one of the first online newspapers to do this and we applaud it. The next step is to allow users to set up any RSS feed, so that it can become a more comprehensive local destination for all things — news, weather, local classifieds, local sports, etc. (My Yahoo! is an example we cite in the White Paper). Like My Yahoo! these can be set up by the user or perhaps localized by The Times in the form of ZIP code-specific aggregation sites a la Topix.net. Something like this likely won’t happen for a while (if at all), but it brings up intriguing possibilities.

This would bring together the national cache of The New York Times with the relevance and utility of a local paper. The Times aside, the opportunity also exists for national, regional, metro or local papers to combine unique local assets with the search and aggregation capabilities of a technology partner to create robust and trusted online portals in their markets (and beyond, in some cases). This can’t really happen in print, but there exists a unique opportunity to do it online if newspapers can get over the aversion to aggregation and syndication. Add in good search technology to return blended results from all of the above categories (and of the broader Web), and you’ve created an attractive local destination.

There is of course a lot more to it, and a lot more to talk about, so stay tuned for more (cue newspaper White Paper).

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