A Co-branding Option for Newspaper Personals Online

By: Steve Outing

"Online matchmaker" Match.com has begun co-branding its popular online personals service with other publishers. This week, the service announced three additional partnerships, including one with the New York Daily News and its just-launched mostNew York Web site.

The deal that Match.com offered to the Daily News is similar to deals that are popping up from various Internet companies seeking co-branding relationships with publishers. Expect to see more such offers as entrepreneurs with stand-alone World Wide Web services that they have created seek additional market share by partnering with established publishers. It can be a good deal, in that the newspaper partner gets a ready-made niche service to add to its overall Web site -- no muss, no fuss, just lend a brand name, begin marketing the service and share revenues from the co-branded service.

Match.com, a service of San Francisco-based Electric Classifieds Inc., is a national online personals service founded in 1993 by entrepreneur Gary Kremen. As a stand-alone Web service it's also a competitor to newspaper personal ads, since users can target their searches for prospective mates to selected cities. Match.com is most useful to singles in major metro markets, and is an increasingly used alternative to daily newspaper and alternative newsweekly personal ad sections (which typically rely on $2-a-minute 900-number calls by users for revenues). Match.com is a $7.95 per month subscription service that allows users to communicate with potential mates via anonymous e-mail, among other high-tech features.

Branding issues

Co-branding opportunities simply create a secondary Match.com site that is co-branded throughout with newspaper and Match.com logos. According to Match.com general manager Fran Maier, when a user registers with the mostNew York site he is tagged by the system as a mostNew York subscriber. Even if this user enters Match.com through the national site rather than via mostNew York, the system recognizes him as a mostNew York subscriber and serves up co-branded pages from then on out. A mostNew York subscriber will see only co-branded pages and links back to other content on mostNew York, but no backlinks to the national Match.com site, says Maier.

The business model is a sharing of revenue between Match.com and the publishing partner. The publisher gets 5% to 20% of subscriber revenues from subscriptions generated by the co-branded site; the exact amount depends on the particular deal. Advertising revenues also are split, with the selling party keeping the majority share, says Maier. Other factors in a co-branding deal can include an exchange of promotion and advertising between the two parties. Each deal can be a little different, she says.

The co-branding option is a good opportunity for a newspaper to quickly create a matchmaking service for its Web site and bring in new revenues. Match.com does not currently offer integration with a newspaper's 900-number personal ads, but Maier says that the company hopes to add that capability soon. A co-branded newspaper-Match.com site could be treated as a separate service from the newspaper's print-audiotex personals. Maier says the co-branded sites should not be viewed as a replacement for the 900-number service.

mostNew York is the first newspaper co-branding deal for Match.com, though Maier says she hopes to do more. Other Web ventures offering a co-branded Match.com service include Women's Wire, Thrive (self-help Web site), GNN (a subsidiary of America Online), NetNoir, Latino Link, iVillage and Lifetime TV.

Other options

Match.com's parent, Electric Classifieds, also offers newspapers a turnkey online classifieds system that can include a personals component, which is based on the same technology as Match.com but does not include Match.com content. Global Online Classifieds was released in version 1.0 in recent weeks.

Other options for newspaper publishers looking for online personals solutions include the Personals Online Network (PON), a new service from Tele-Publishing Inc.. Publishers join PON as an affiliate, and share in revenues generated by the service, which uses a paper's existing personal ads and is branded primarily with the newspaper name. The service costs nothing for publishers to join and relies on the revenue split model.

A similar concept is offered by audiotex company MicroVoice and its Internet partner, InterStep. The companies' PersonalsPage system and network hosts a newspaper's personal ads online, tied in with the paper's existing audiotex personals system.

Contact: Fran Maier, fran@match.com

(Author's note: Besides writing Stop The Presses! I wear another hat it my career, as an interactive publishing consultant to publishers and technology companies. In 1996, I have been an occasional consultant to Electric Classifieds Inc.)

New Haven Register to the Web

The New Haven (Connecticut) Register has launched a site on the World Wide Web at http://www.ctcentral.com/. The Register was the last newspaper to have the misfortune of signing up to create a service on the ill-fated AT&T Interchange Network proprietary online service, which AT&T killed earlier this year.

The Web site will publish daily news from the newspaper, offer discussion and live chat areas, entertainment guides for movies, events and television, and more, according to electronic publishing editor Sara Glines. In another month, four other daily newspapers of the Register's parent, the Journal Register Co., will go on the same Web site.

Contact: Sara Glines, saraglines@ichange.com

Digital City Denver, part 2

Jefferson Sentinel publisher Bob Cox wrote in with a clarification on my Monday column about his suburban newspaper company becoming a content provider for Digital City Denver:

"It would be better to describe my experiences with commercial online services, AOL included, as one in which they couldn't give me the time of day, more than wouldn't. My sense is that although those I spoke to thought the local content approach was a good idea, it was an idea that, at the time, was well under their radar screen -- and who could blame them? When you're busy signing up a few million subscribers, there are bigger fish to fry than worrying about when potholes will be filled in Dogpatch. Now that the industry has started to get a better sense of the services it can provide, it's reasonable that the folks at AOL have come around to looking at local content, and I'm glad they have, and that we now have the chance to participate."


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