By: MARK FITZGERALD
BY CENTRALIZING ITS Web servers but allowing its newspapers to design Internet sites locally, Morris Communications’ small- and medium-circulation papers are making money, its director of online services says.
Sixteen of Morris’ 31 newspapers operate Web sites, and all of them are in the black, online services director Michael Romaner told a session at the Newspaper Association of America convention in Chicago.
“I never would have guessed that a year or so ago,” Romaner said of the Web papers” financial performances. “I’m not going to tell you what the margins are ? but they are astounding.”
While the sites are “in the black,” Romaner readily acknowledged that his financial calculations don’t include the substantial costs of operating two central servers.
All the Morris Web sites are run from central servers, one located at its Augusta, Ga., headquarters and another in Topeka, Kan., where Morris publishes the Topeka Capital-Journal.
If the cost of the central server sites were included, the local Web sites “would not be in the black,” Romaner said. “But by the end of 1997,” he added, “we expect everything ? newspaper and support center ? to be in the black.”
And dividing the labor between the central servers and the local paper has worked out very well for Morris, Romaner said. In essence, the system allows Web heads and journalists to do what each group does best.
The corporate Web staff “gets to focus on high-end tasks, while our newspapers get to focus on what they do best ? local content,” Romaner said.
He added that the experience with the Morris papers has convinced him that the go-slow revenue forecasts for Web newspapers are simply wrong.
“Any time you go to a conference and they say to you, ‘You can’t make money until 1999,’ I challenge that thinking. I think it can be done. We’re doing it now,” Romaner said.
At the same time, Romaner adds he is not so optimistic about the long-term future of newspapers operating as Internet service providers (ISPs) ? a business he says is making a nice chunk of change for some Morris papers right now.
?Web Site: http://www.mediainfo.com.
?copyright: Editor & Publisher, May 3, 1997.