Future’s bright for online newspapers

This much we know - the Internet holds as many challenges as it does opportunities. It's a game with few rules and tough choices, and it's one many online newspapers have decided they're willing to play. The stakes are high. A...

This much we know – the Internet holds as many challenges as it does opportunities. It’s a game with few rules and tough choices, and it’s one many online newspapers have decided they’re willing to play.

The stakes are high. A lot of money is being invested with the expectation that there’s at least twice as much to be made. The good news is that the potential for payback increases as more Canadians get online. According to the Retail Council of Canada, fully half of Canadian households have at least one member who surfs the Net, while another 40% can gain access from another location.

Newspapers remain cautiously optimistic about cashing in on this new medium. In fact, recent industry reports suggest news sites are already turning a profit, with claims that more than one-third of the e-papers surveyed have made money, or planned to within the year. But that doesn’t mean it’s been easy.

‘Certainly there are many hurdles we’ve had to overcome,’ says Martin Byrne, director of National Post Online. ‘Among them was the fear that offering online content could steal readers away from the existing paper. But we see the Internet as a great opportunity to complement, rather than compete, with our existing products.’

If a recent book by interactive news consultant Peter Zollman is to be believed, Byrne is right. Interactive News Report cites studies showing that the most loyal online readers still rely heavily on traditional newspapers, television and radio. It seems the issue is less one of declining offline readership than it is improving the offering for online readers.

A Millennium Survey conducted by Deloitte & Touche claims ‘electronic delivery will be the key source of business news for most executives in 2005. Specifically, 91% will turn to Internet informational services.’

The existence of an online alternative will be enough to interest a good number of readers. The challenge, however, will be to increase this traffic and keep them coming back for more.

Easier said than done? Perhaps, but a 1999 Ernst & Young Internet Shopping Study offers some suggestions. According to the report, successful sites have a few things in common. For one, their business strategy is likely to be driven by their Internet strategy. Secondly, great sites place a lot of importance on branding, they’re current, educational, easy to surf, and customizable.

Some say there’s another secret, and that’s spreading the risk by establishing business alliances. ‘We’re all new to this business, even if we have been in it since the beginning,’ said Byrne. ‘Developing alliances is the best way to grow together and succeed.’

Zollman supports this notion. ‘Alliances make sense, and they spread the risk,’ he writes. ‘Times are changing. If your thought process isn’t changing with them, you’ll find yourself staring at stronger and bigger competitors, rather than creating them.’

In the end, the winners in the online news game will be those who can learn constantly from this new medium and implement this knowledge to effect real change in their online offerings. According to Byrne, ‘success ultimately relies on being able to think outside the box. And if you ask me, the future is very bright.’

Marcie Sayiner is a freelance writer in Oakville, Ont., who has consulted on numerous Internet-related studies. For more information on the Peter Zollman and Deloitte & Touche reports mentioned in the article, visit www.about.com.

Also in this special report:

- It’s a whole new ball game: As consumers become more comfortable doing business online, marketers must come to grips with the new challenges that are now facing them p.D17

- Without infrastructure, you’re courting disaster

- Integration can break online shopping barrier p.D20

- Solutions offer Web marketers customer data boost p.D25

Corner Officer Shifts: Martin Fecko leaves Tangerine

Plus, PointsBet Canada and Thinkific name new marketing leaders as Lole gets a new ecommerce VP.
Corner Office

Martin Fecko departs Tangerine 

After roughly two years of serving as Tangerine’s chief marketing officer, Martin Fecko has a new gig. And this time, the financial services vet will apply his marketing leadership to a new sector, having been named CMO of Dentalcorp.

Fecko will lead the dental network’s end-to-end patient journey, support its overall growth, and work to maximize patient experiences across every touchpoint, the company said in a release.

“Martin’s in-depth expertise in engaging and retaining customers through a digitally enabled experience will be valuable in realizing our vision to be Canada’s most trusted healthcare network,” said Dentalcorp president Guy Amini.

Prior to joining Scotiabank’s digital-only banking brand in late-2019, Fecko was country manager for Intuit Canada and spent 10 years at American Express in consumer and digital marketing.

PointsBet Canada nabs former Bell marketer as it pursues expansion

Dave Rivers has joined PointsBet, an online gaming and sports betting operator, as Canadian VP of marketing.

Rivers joins from Bell, where he was most recently director of brand marketing and sponsorship, responsible for driving the company’s national sponsorship strategy and portfolio. He will report to PointsBet Canada chief commercial officer Nic Sulsky.

According to Sulsky, Rivers will “play a key role as we prepare to launch a business that is unique to our roots here in Canada.”

PointsBet has a significant presence in Australia, where it was founded, and in the U.S. In July, it named Scott Vanderwel, a former SVP at Rogers, as CEO of its Canadian subsidiary, one of several hires aimed at establishing the company’s presence locally.

Thinkific names first CMO among other executive appointments

Vancouver’s Thinkific, a platform for creating, marketing and selling online courses, has appointed Henk Campher as its first chief marketing officer as it invests in marketing to support its growth plans. It has also upped Chris McGuire to the role of chief technology officer and moved former CTO and co-founder Matt Payne into the new role of SVP of innovation.

Co-founder and CEO Greg Smith said Campher and McGuire “will play key roles building high-functioning teams around them and optimizing investment as we continue to carve out an increasingly prominent and differentiated position in the global market.”

Campher joins from Hootsuite, where he was VP of corporate marketing. Before that, he was VP of brand and communications at CRM giant Salesforce.

Lolë names new VP of digital omni-commerce as parent company exits bankruptcy protection

The Montreal-based athletic apparel and accessories retailer has appointed Rob French as VP of digital omni-commerce.

French will lead Lolë’s efforts in consumer insights, supply chain-to-consumer models and online customer journeys. In what is a new role for the company, he will also work to grow the company’s retail brand. He arrives with sixteen years experience in ecommerce, having spent the last few years as chief digital commerce officer at sporting goods retailer Decathlon.

In May 2020, Lolë parent Coalision Inc. filed for bankruptcy protection, citing several years of losses as a result of a downturn in the retail clothing market, increased competition and excess inventory – problems exacerbated by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time of the filing, Coalision was seeking an investor or purchaser of its assets.

It successfully exited bankruptcy protection last year and is currently rebuilding its executive team, according to a spokesperson.