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

The latest in tech: Why it matters and how you can use it

With the pandemic continuing to keep in-person events off the table, innovation isn’t just a bonus – it’s an imperative. ...

With the pandemic continuing to keep in-person events off the table, innovation isn’t just a bonus – it’s an imperative. Companies need creative tech to engage with consumers, whether that’s live-streaming, gaming or data-driven personalization. This is the year that remote comes first, making it an opportune time to experiment with format, devices and tools.

Tags:


,