By: Karim Mostafa

‘Clicks and Mortar’ Talk Invades News Biz

NEW ORLEANS – Interactive newspapering, as it’s been defined for the
past 10 years, took a leap forward into the clicks-and-mortar world
yesterday. E-commerce was the topic for the first keynote address at
E&P’s 11th Annual Interactive Newspapers Conference.

Carl Steidtmann, director and chief retail economist at
PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, delivered a full-fledged, hard-core
economics course for online retailing. He didn’t mention the word
‘newspaper’ once.

The urgency for such a talk was stressed by Mark Dacey, president of
E&P owner Adweek Magazines in New York. ‘Wall Street has valued six
major newspaper companies that publish a total of 140 newspapers at a
total market value of $56 billion, equal to two-thirds the valuation of
Yahoo!’s stock,’ Dacey said. ‘Times really have changed.’

Change was stressed throughout Steidtmann’s keynote. ‘Ideas change the
world . . . Change is your friend and your friend is unstable,’ he
said. And change is accelerating at a rate unforeseen. ‘Over the course
of the next 10 years, [we will have] a higher rate of productivity
growth, a higher rate of real growth, and a lower rate of inflation.’

Steidtmann illustrated how technology, which is doubling every 18 to 24
months, is changing the consumer for the retail industry – and for
newspapers. With technology everywhere, customers have more knowledge
to make choices and can provide feedback more quickly. As a result,
retailers are changing how they think about their businesses.

For the retailer, the Internet substantially reduces the cost of doing
business. But being an Internet-based company is not enough, Steidtmann
said. Retailers have to create problem-solving networks, which entails
partners and outsourcing, and building delivery networks.

Steidtmann stressed that on the Internet, ‘We’re all retailers and
everybody is our competitor.’

Some newspaper folk apparently agree. Gordon Borrell, vice president of
new media at Landmark Communications in Norfolk, Va., said of the
newspaper industry, ‘We’re in the business of helping people sell
things.’ For newspaper sites serving a local area, the goal should be
to connect local retailers to the local Internet operation. Even if
that means approaching business on Main Street with the offer of:
‘We’ll help you set up a site on the Internet,’ Borrell said.

However, Peter Conti Jr. stressed that ‘building a virtual mall online
is wrong.’ Conti, general manager of the city site in
Virginia, suggested taking an active role in the transaction. Start by
building an online model for local retailers, add to it comparative
shopping, and then build a same-day delivery system for the merchants.

Borrell found that local retailers are still very skeptical of the
Internet. ‘It’s still very early in the game,’ he said. ‘It’s a tough
sell.’ And it’s a tough proposition for news publishers to transform
themselves into retail facilitators.


Karim Mostafa ( is assistant
editor of Editor & Publisher Online.

(c) Copyright 2000, Editor & Publisher

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