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

From Karen Howe’s dining table: Creativity, COVID and Cannes

ICYMI, The Township's founder gathers the best of the best campaigns and trends so far.

Cannes Base Camp

By Karen Howe

I’m attending Cannes from the glory of my dining room table. There’s not a palm tree in sight, yet inspiration and intel are present in abundance.

Cannes Lions is a global cultural pulse check. The social course correction in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and BLM has delivered far greater diversity in the judging panels as well as the work. And we are all better for it.

I’m proud to say that creativity defeated COVID, which speaks to its power. Great work and big ideas flourished, despite unimaginable odds.

The work from the past two years spans a vast emotional range. From the profundity of Dove’s “Courage is Beautiful” to the hyper exuberance of Burberry’s “Festive,” they are opposite ends of the spectrum, but each answered a need in us.

Take note, the ascendency of gaming cannot be understated. Smart brands have embraced the channel. It makes sense, because gamers participate to meet others around the world, not just to play. And they represent a huge and powerful community. That’s why QSR Wendy’s gamified their iconic gal in RPG’s Feast of Legends.

Burger King sponsored the unknown Stevenage Football Club, transforming the team into online heroes and vaulting BK into the fray at the same time. Once again, the brand embedded itself in culture.

The birth of gaming tourism arrived when Xbox snuggled up to travel guides and created a brilliant baby: a travel guide for gaming worlds. It, too, embedded itself in culture.

From the standpoint of social good, Reporter Without Borders showed how it worked with Mindcraft for its “Uncensored Library” to bypass press censorship, with Minecraft providing a loophole to a space where young people could be educated. It provided youth with a powerful tool to fight oppression: truth.

COVID changed us in unexpected ways. We learned how to pay attention again and there was a notable lack of 30-second commercials. Instead, longer format content thrived. Apple’s WFH was seven minutes long. Entertainment reigned king, so we find ourselves returning to our advertising roots.

Seeing competitive brands form partnerships was one of this year’s other great surprises. The brilliantly simple “Beer Cap Project” by Aguila to reduce binge-drinking saw the brand reach out to competitive beers to join in. Aguila put incentivizing (keyword: free) reminders to drink water, eat food and get home safely on its bottle caps from all sorts of fast food chains, ride-share co’s and H2O brands.

On a personal level, I’m so proud of Canada again this year. Given that it was two years of work from all over the world being judged, even making the Cannes shortlist was an accomplishment. Canada is herding in the Lions in tremendous numbers – and it’s not even over. Fingers are crossed.

KAREN-HOWE-PIC-higher-rez-300x263Karen Howe is a Canadian Cannes Advisory Board Member and founder of The Township Group