Advertisers Find Newspapers to Their Liking for Web Ads

By: Steve Outing

Editor's note: Due to the Labor Day holiday in the U.S., there will be no Stop The Presses! column on Monday, September 2. The next regular column will be on Wednesday, September 4.

If you've visited the World Wide Web sites of some large U.S. newspapers recently, you may have noticed some banner ads from Microsoft. It seems that the Redmond, Washington, software giant and its ad agencies have discovered that newspaper Web sites are a good place to advertise.

Some of the Microsoft ads were placed on multiple newspaper sites by New York-based Real Media, a Web advertising placement firm that specializes in working with the newspaper industry. Real Media's president, Dave Morgan, says that Microsoft kicked off its Windows95 (operating system) "anniversary" campaign last Friday with placements by Real Media into six newspaper sites -- the Atlanta Journal-Constitution,, Detroit News, (Minneapolis) Star Tribune, Sacramento Bee, and Seattle Times. Microsoft's agency also placed the banner ads on at least four other newspaper sites independently.

Morgan estimates that Microsoft is placing more than $100,000 a month in ads on newspaper sites (not all of it funneled through his company). Before the Windows95 campaign, Microsoft had targeted a number of newspapers for its Explorer Web browser ad campaign. Other Microsoft Web ad campaigns involving newspaper sites reportedly are being planned.

Microsoft's ad agency liked what it saw with newspaper Web placements, says Real Media vice president Charles Smith. What they are seeing, he says, is an opportunity for more exposure to consumers who come back to their favorite newspaper sites repeatedly, giving the advertiser an opportunity to build a brand identity with the consumer and introduce new products over time. This is comparable to the billboard you see each day on your commute, or the TV commercials you might see dozens of times. With high-traffic, "lightning-rod" sites, there's less of an opportunity to build a relationship with consumers because they often aren't repeat visitors.

Of course, advertisers must have a strategy for taking advantage of repeat customers, since clickthroughs (when a Web visitor actually clicks on an advertiser's banner) drop off dramatically when a single banner is left for more than a few days. Changing banners frequently is especially imperative at newspaper sites, moreso than high-traffic search engines, for example. Animated banners also help, with clickthroughs averaging double the rate of static banners, says Morgan.

Morgan says Microsoft's ad agency did have some serious gripes with newspaper sites, resulting in some papers being passed by for ad placements. In talking to 14 different newspaper Web sites, Real Media found a total of 39 different ad banner sizes in use. This created a problem for the ad agency, in that supplying banners that fit on every site would have put a burden on its creative department. Thus, some newspaper Web sites lost out on ads because there's yet no standard Web ad banner system in place.

VP Smith says "this becomes extremely frustrating for national placements. A push for standard ad sizes (on Web sites) is definitely needed."

On the bright side, Morgan says he's hearing more interest in local Web content providers from numerous advertising agencies. Where advertisers early in the Web's evolution gravitated to the large, high-traffic national sites, now they're moving to major metro newspapers. The next step, Morgan believes, will be that advertisers will discover the value of placing ads on multiple small newspaper sites (which, of course, is what Real Media makes possible). As yet, Microsoft has not placed its ads on any small publications' sites.

Another encouraging sign, says Morgan, is an AT&T campaign that will start later this month. The phone giant will be placing ad banners in the classifieds sections of newspaper Web sites, promoting its long-distance services to those using the papers' real estate listings online. That a major national advertiser is interested in using the unique characteristics of newspaper Web sites is a very good development, he says.

Some regional advertisers have discovered smaller newspapers' Web sites. Melon Bank of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is making a two-month, $10,000 buy on 16 newspaper sites in cities where it has a presence, promoting its home computer banking services. Morgan is encouraged by that deal, because it's a test for the bank of how effective Web advertising might be. In the recent past, says Morgan, advertisers wanted such trial runs to be free before they'd commit to a paid run.

As for pricing, Morgan says the recent national campaigns placed on metro newspaper Web sites were running CPM rates of $25 and above. (CPM is the cost per 1,000 impressions of an ad.)

Real Media has about 150 newspapers signed up to work with it, and is placing ads on about 70 of them currently. It recently introduced Open Adstream, a new Web advertising management product that it gives away free to its affiliate newspapers. Adstream gives publishers local ad management capabilities, allowing them to target Web site ads by such criteria as time of day, type of Web browser used by the consumer, ZIP code (of consumer's Internet service provider), etc. The Adstream system also gives Real Media real-time reports on how an ad is performing on multiple sites, so advertisers are immediately aware of how their ads are doing.

Contact: Dave Morgan,

Economist launches e-mail service

London-based The Economist has started two once-a-week, free e-mail delivery services -- business and political news roundups called Business This Week and Politics This Week. The content is directly from the magazine, but is well-suited for an e-mail service. "They were almost ideal for e-mail, relying on concision and wit," says The Economist's Azeem Azhar. Other e-mail offerings are due in the future, and later he will add hyperlinks within the e-mail messages to stories covered in depth on the Web site.

"I've long believed that e-mail is going to play a very great role in online publishing, particularly as it starts to support more and more rich content," Azhar says. E-mail is great for developing an ongoing rationship with readers, he says, and the free e-mail deliveries will offer a medium to include occasional marketing material and editorial promotions about The Economist Web site.

To subscribe to the services, send a message to and type "join economist-business" or "join economist-politics" in the body of the message.

Contact: Azeem Azhar

Most visited online publications: Newspapers

Eric Meyer's Newslink is perhaps the best site on the World Wide Web to find links to all forms of media operating on the Web. For the past 16 months, Meyer has been sampling his visitors' opinions about which online publications they visit most often. The results that he reports "represent a weighted average of sentiments expressed over the last 12 months," and thus change little from month to month.

In the most recent month, however, Meyer noted a significant re-ordering of his "Top 10 List," with more newspaper Web sites appearing. "We note that as time has passed, the percentage of newspapers vis-a-vis networks and magazines on the Top 10 list has been rising," he says.

Here's the Top 10 list of most used Web sites, according to Newslink (newspapers in boldface):
1) New York Times
2) Los Angeles Times
3) Washington Post
4) CNN Interactive
5) USA Today
6) Time
7) Jerusalem Post
8) Christian Science Monitor
9) Electronic Telegraph
10) Wall Street Journal

It's worth noting that Meyer's list and the methodology behind it prompted considerable debate on the online-news Internet list. Nevertheless, his survey appears to be good news for newspapers online.

CitySearch update

CitySearch is one of those online city guide start-ups I've been talking about recently. For competitive reasons, obviously, it's worth keeping track of their progress in launching electronic community guides. The company's map page shows several cities where CitySearch sites are "coming soon": Anchorage, Alaska; Chicago, Illinois; Dallas, Texas; Denver, Colorado; Honolulu, Hawaii; Miami, Florida; Minneapolis, Minnesota; San Francisco, California; Seattle, Washington; St. Louis, Missouri; and Washington, D.C. Already operational are New York City; Pasadena, California; and Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Movin' On

David Yarnold is the new editorial director for new media of Knight-Ridder's New Media Center in San Jose, California. Yarnold is a long-time editor of the San Jose Mercury News; most recently he was the Silicon Valley paper's managing editor.


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