By: Dorothy Giobbe
Rich’s Department Store is first to begin running
ads on the Atlanta newspapers/Prodigy on-line service sp.
THE ATLANTA JOURNAL and Con-stitution and Prodigy Services Co. are offering a service that provides on-line news and information as well as advertising by local retailers to Prodigy subscribers in the Atlanta area.
The service, Access Atlanta, will operate on the Prodigy platform and has landed its first local advertiser.
Journal and Constitution parent Cox Newspapers began Access Atlanta in 1991 to gain familiarity with on-line services, and it grew to reach about 1,000 subscribers. The deal with Prodigy provides a potential local customer base of 25,000 or more.
Cox dailies in three other states also are expected to go on line with Prodigy.
The new Access Atlanta includes longer versions of newspaper stories; more local news and listings than appear in the printed newspapers; subscribers’ on-line reports and communications with editors; searchable local advertising, including classified ads; and eventually photographs.
For print, “the cost of newsprint is the limiting factor,” said Cox Newspapers president David Easterly. “We can only print about 10% of the information we have available on an average day.”
The ability to search ads electronically according to specific needs or preferences is important in making on-line newspapers more convenient and useful to subscribers.
“We are investing in equipment and software to set up an operation to float information and sell advertising locally in Atlanta, mounted on the Prodigy platform,” said David Scott, publisher of electronic information services at Access Atlanta.
Prodigy has an “open network” system, allowing outside information sources to create stand-alone services that tie into Prodigy. Other newspapers, such as the Los Angeles Times, Tampa Tribune, Newsday and New York Newsday also are planning similar services on Prodigy, America Online or CompuServe.
The Journal and Constitution are the first Cox newspapers to offer the service, Scott said, and “we will eventually bring up additional Cox papers.”
Rich’s Federated Department Store is the first local retailer to advertise on Access Atlanta.
“Right now, our single sale has been to Rich’s, and we’ve made lots of presentations. There will be a couple of others I think we will announce directly,” Scott said.
Access Atlanta will maintain a sales staff separate from the newspapers. Currently, all sales efforts are handled by a single ad manager, who has managed “the bulk of the sales effort so far,” but plans call for additional salespeople.
Scott said the Atlanta newspapers chose to offer Access Atlanta through the Prodigy platform because of Prodigy’s “aggressive” attitude toward selling advertising.
“Prodigy has more advertising than anybody else so far,” he said. “If you subscribe to America Online or CompuServe, you won’t see any ads. Prodigy has taken an approach similar to newspapers . . . when you get a text screen, you get an ad, similar to when you turn a newspaper page.”
The ads appear on the screen and give the user an option of obtaining additional product information.
“Every time a new text screen comes up, there’s an ad at the bottom of the screen, and it will be a teaser for whatever advertiser happens to have that position,” Scott said.
“On the corner of the teaser, there will be a ‘look’ button. Users can either ignore the ad, read the leader ad and move on, or they can hit the ‘look’ button and go behind the ad and that brings up additional advertising screens.”
In the case of Rich’s, Scott said, “if you hit the ‘look’ button, you get a menu screen of three options: cosmetics, new technology or a calendar of upcoming events, and if you hit those buttons, you get even more screens.”
Because the concept of selling advertising on a computer network is relatively new for newspapers, setting advertising rates can be tricky.
“It’s difficult right now,” Scott said. “We are approaching our 20 or 30 largest newspaper advertisers and folks who we think would like to play in this kind of game, and we’re saying to them, we want you to help us pioneer this new vehicle, and we came up with rates or a partnership kind of fee schedule that is fair to them and fair to us.”
Users may subscribe to Access Atlanta in two ways: as a stand-alone service for $6.95 a month or if users already are national Prodigy subscribers, they can use Access Atlanta as a custom choice for $4.95 a month.
?(? Jim Rosenberg also contributed to this article) [Caption]