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

Google launches a campaign about news connections

The search engine is using archival footage to convey what Canadians are interested in.

Google Canada and agency Church + State have produced a new spot informed by research from the search giant that suggests it is a primary connector for Canadians to the news that matters to them – a direct shot across the bow of the legislators presently considering Bill C-18.

In a spot titled “Connecting you to all that’s news,” the search giant harnesses archival footage reflective of many of the issues Canadians care about deeply, including the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, truth and reconciliation and the war in Ukraine, to demonstrate the point that many Canadians turn to Google as a gateway to the information and news they’re seeking.

“From St. John’s to Victoria and everywhere in between, when Canadians want to understand or get updated on the most pressing topics, Google connects them to the news sources that provide it,” says Laura Pearce, head of marketing for Google Canada. “All of us at Google are proud to be that consistent and reliable connection for Canadians to the news they’re searching for.”

In some ways, the goal of the campaign was to tap into the varied emotional responses that single news stories can have with different audiences across the country.

“News may be factual, but how people respond to it can be very emotional,” explains Ron Tite, founder and CCO at Church + State. “Importantly, those emotions aren’t universal. One news story can create completely different reactions from different people in different places. Because of that, we simply wanted to let connecting to news be the focus of this campaign. We worked diligently to license a wide variety of actual news footage that we felt would resonate with Canadians.”

The campaign can be seen as a statement by the search provider on Bill C-18 – the Online News Act – that is currently being deliberated by a parliamentary committee. That legislation seeks to force online platforms such as Meta’s Facebook and Alphabet’s Google to pay news publishers for their content, echoing a similar law passed in Australia in 2021. The Act has drawn sharp rebukes from both companies, with Facebook threatening to ban news sharing on its platform.

Google Canada is not commenting on whether this new campaign is a response to C-18, but it has been public in its criticism of the legislation. In testimony delivered to parliament and shared on its blog, Colin McKay, the company’s head of public policy and government relations, said, “This is a history-making opportunity for Canada to craft world-class legislation that is clear and principled on who it benefits.” However, he noted that C-18 is “not that legislation.”

The campaign launched on Oct. 24 and is running through December across cinema, OLV, OOH, podcast, digital and social. Airfoil handled the broadcast production.