KeepMedia Hopes to Attract Newspapers

By: Carl Sullivan

The KeepMedia online newsstand that launched Monday is mostly concentrating on magazines so far, though there is some newspaper content included. That’s a conscious decision, said co-founder Louis Borders, who previously founded Borders Books and the now-defunct Webvan online grocer.

“There are 3,000 magazines in the U.S.,” Borders said. “We have a lot of work to do in the magazine business first.” Redwood Shores, Calif.-based KeepMedia currently has about 140 magazines in its digital library.

But newspapers are a natural market for KeepMedia to move into next. “I might want to read about a new car and I didn’t know that the Detroit Free Press did a tremendous article about this car,” Borders said. But a consumer searching an online database such as KeepMedia could find that article. “Aggregation is the key to making the revenue stream work,” Borders added.

Currently, KeepMedia’s limited newspaper content includes a few opinion writers and columnists from Knight Ridder and The Wall Street Journal.

Unlike other services such as LexisNexis, KeepMedia is designed primarily for the retail consumer, with a low price of $4.95 per month for unlimited access to the articles. Or customers may pay per article if they prefer.

Revenues will be shared with the contributing publishers, Borders says.

The site won’t have advertising or run any paid-sponsored results, according to Borders.

The venture is privately funded, mostly with Borders’ own money, but talks are under way with outside investors.

“Comarketing will be the key method of developing the [KeepMedia] brand,” Borders said. “When the big shopping malls opened, nobody had heard of ‘XYZ Mall,’ but consumers went there because Bloomingdales and The Limited were there.”

Likewise, Borders expects consumers to be drawn to KeepMedia through the power of the content providers that can be found there — names which include BusinessWeek, Forbes, and U.S. News & World Report.

Why will his venture succeed where other online archive services have failed? “The timing is good,” Borders said. “Good content is moving behind pay walls fairly rapidly,” he explains, pointing to the AOL Time Warner decision to restrict its magazines’ content. Those magazines are not participating in KeepMedia, however.

Borders added that he’s learned from the excesses of Webvan, which burned through hundreds of millions before flaming out. KeepMedia only has about 50 employees.

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