Newspapers Seek New Business Plan

by Mark Hengel  on Monday, Nov. 24, 2008 12:00 am  

Tom Larimer, executive director of the Arkansas Press Association, says community newspapers can create new revenue by publishing a wider variety of products.

It's not that Hussman hates the Internet; he just hasn't found a model for monetizing the medium as effectively as a print product, he said.

An advertiser wanting space in a Wehco paper might pay between $20 and $40 per 1,000 copies, depending on the ad, Hussman said. A comparable banner or pop-up ad on the Internet generates less than $1 per 1,000 page views, Hussman said.

"The problem is not traffic. You get millions of people who go to look at newspaper Web sites every day," Hussman said. "The problem is the fact that you can't get $1 a thousand for it because there are millions of people out there selling that advertising. So there's an oversupply of sellers, which drives down the price, and it's not effective, so people don't want to pay for it."

Many Arkansas newspapers, including the Democrat-Gazette, continue to develop their Web site in hopes that the Internet one day will produce revenue comparable to their print products. That day is a long way off; even profitable doesn't make enough money to be a stand-alone business plan, Hankins said.

The Batesville Daily Guard recently unveiled an Internet feature that allows residents to follow the local high school's football team in real time, providing scores, possession and updates after plays.

"This is just a way for anyone to go to our Web site on Friday night and then read about it in the print publication for the scrapbooks and such," said Pat Jones, the Daily Guard's general manager and co-owner. Jones said the feature has already attracted a few advertisers.

The print publication remains Jones' focus, though. Likewise, Hussman has made clear that his company's focus remains on the print publication.

Hussman is not going to give up completely on newspaper Web sites, though.

"We are going to continue to really develop our Web site, because we hope there is going to be a business model there with that much traffic," Hussman said.

The Internet Model

Elizabeth Bowles, president of Aristotle Inc. of Little Rock, thinks newspapers have not grasped the Internet's advertising model. Aristotle is a full-service marketing firm.

Internet advertising works best when an advertiser pays per lead or sale generated by an ad, Bowles said. Instead, newspaper Web sites have tried to use the same advertising model developed by print editions, which stresses display advertisements. Print publications provide advertisers with an audience of a certain size, of which a percentage is likely to view an ad.



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