N.Y. Times Launching More Topical Web Sites

By: Steve Outing

The New York Times has a number of online projects in operation or under development, including the @times service on America Online and a forthcoming major Web service (expected to be launched early in 1996). Those new media ventures are being created by the New York Times Electronic Media Company, a division of the newspaper company.

In another section of the corporate heirarchy, the New York Times Syndicate also operates a consumer Web site, Computer News Daily, a free service offering computer industry news from a variety of news sources. Check out this site for articles on computing topics from news organizations that are partners with NYT Syndicate, such as Bloomberg, Cox Newspapers, the San Francisco Chronicle, and others. It’s a nice public service and a great way to keep up to date on computer industry and Internet news.

Coming November 28 from NYT Syndicate is a similar niche news Web service called Your Health Daily, which will offer 5-6 daily health care articles culled from Medical Tribune News Service and NYT Syndicate’s media clients. (The site is not yet open to viewing.) It will include top health headlines of the day; a compilation of recent articles on common medical topics, such as AIDS, cancer, smoking, women’s health, etc.; hypermail Web discussion groups on major health care topics; and a search function to find archived articles on selected topics.

Special projects director Patick Vance, who heads up the Computer News Daily and Your Health Daily Web services, says other topical news sites are being considered. The concept is that such services remain free to readers, supported by advertising. Computer News Daily currently has 2 sponsors, EDS (Electronic Data Systems) and Insight (a computer retailer), and Vance says a couple more are poised to sign on.

Such services are modest operations for a company the size of the New York Times. A single editorial staffer can maintain the sites, culling the wire feeds of the Syndicate and selecting stories to include in the daily news compilation. The sites currently are housed on the servers of Interactive Connection, where NYT Syndicate rents disk space and administration services.

The topical news sites are dependent on advertising revenues and little else. Vance says that advertising on Computer News Daily “has not been an easy sell,” partly because few companies currently have budgets allotted for new media buys. “The Web hit everyone rather quickly. … (Advertisers) have been stealing away money from the print budgets” to pay for new media ad placements. He’s optimistic that 1996 will be a better year, when advertisers will have found a place for new media buys within their budgets.

“We have to prove this is a business, and not just a plaything,” Vance says. “We have to get a good revenue stream coming from advertisers.”

One possible additional revenue source for the topical news sites may come from offering an email newsletter version of Computer News Daily and Your Health Daily, charging a subscription fee. But the decision to try that approach has not been made yet. Watch for other topical sites from NYT Syndicate in 1996.

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This column is written by Steve Outing and underwritten by Editor & Publisher magazine. Tips, letters and feedback can be sent to Steve at steve@planetarynews.com

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