Highlights From Interactive Publishing '96 Zurich

By: Steve Outing

Greetings from cloudy Zurich, Switzerland, where more than 200 leaders in the interactive media business are gathered for the Interactive Publishing '96 conference. This event, attended primarily by Europeans but with a smattering of attendees from Asia, the Middle East and U.S., finds many more non-U.S. publishers with Web ventures running than a year ago. At last year's conference, many European publishers were still experimenting with the Web or yet to make a serious commitment. This year sees much more activity, and considerably more concern about how to turn Internet publishing into an effective revenue producer.

For the next couple of columns, I will run brief summaries of some of the most interesting presentations at Interactive Publishing.

Hans Lindroth, Dagens Nyheter, Sweden

"It wasn't raining when Noah built the ark," says Lindroth, director of new media for the Stockholm daily newspaper, imploring publishers to move quickly and aggressively in creating classifieds strategies for the Web. The title of his talk: "Classifieds: Get Used to Losing." "If we don't act today, we might have a problem" as entrepreneurs and non-news companies move into the classifieds business. He's not worried about how an online classifieds presence might cannibalize existing print classifieds, but would rather see his company get a piece of a new and emerging market that will make up for the eventual, inevitable loss of classifieds revenues that will result from electronic competition siphoning off print classified ads in the coming years.

Contact: Hans Lindroth, hans.lindroth@dn.se

John Evans, president, R.E.M. Productions, U.S.

Keynote speaker Evans says that the lack of "rules" on the Internet is making it very difficult for traditional publishers (who come out of an "industrial era mindset") to comprehend the Internet and know how to do business in the information age. But "it's never going to be the same," so publishers need to adapt. Because the Internet is empowering ordinary people, he says that brands cannot simply be imposed on Internet users; well known brands in other, traditional media are not as readily trusted on the Internet.

He compares the "people to people" (vs. publisher to people) nature of the Internet with print newspapers' classified advertising, in that both give people a voice. Evans is former publisher of the Village Voice newspaper in New York, and he notes that when the Voice moved some of its classifieds onto the back page of the weekly paper -- creating a sort of community bulletin board -- that page generated 11 times more revenue than when the back page carried a display ad each week.

Contact: John Evans, johnbevans@msn.com

Franz Dillitzer, Burda New Media, Germany

Dillitzer, chief operating officer of German publishing giant Burda's new media division (with some 100 employees), says he's paying attention to the two most promising and large market segments: kids and retired people. They are turning out to be the groups most "plugged in" to the Internet. For large chunks of the middle aged market, they are the "digitally homeless," as Dillitzer quotes MIT's Nicholas Negroponte.

Contact: Franz Dillitzer, dillitzj@burda.com

Hugo Drayton, The Telegraph, England

Drayton, marketing director for The Telegraph in London, says he is convinced that registration is of such importance to his Web site that he's willing to live with fewer readers. "In my view, if they can't take 2 minutes to fill out a form (for free access to the Electronic Telegraph site), then they haven't bought the product, so to speak," he says. The information gleaned from registration will allow future improvements in serving readers, such as personalized, targeted advertising.

Contact: Hugo Drayton, draytonh@telegraph.co.uk

Leslie Laredo, consultant, Massachusetts, U.S.

Registration is good, affirms Laredo, an interactive advertising "guru" formerly with Network 1.0, Softbank Interactive Marketing and Prodigy. And it's fast becoming necessary in giving publishers accurate statistics about Web readership that will satisfy advertisers' insatiable desires for quantification of how their Web ads are performing. Indeed, most Web publishers currently cannot accommodate advertisers' demands -- not only for accurate counts of viewers of an ad, but also for accommodating a particular size of ad banner or for swapping a number of versions of an ad through a regular rotation. Web publishers must learn to meet ad agencies' demands if they expect to do business, Laredo says.

The lack of standard ad banner sizes for Web sites is the most vexing problem faced by the industry today, she says. The ideal solution is for publishers and advertisers to agree on about a dozen standard sizes that all sites would accept. Banner burnout (viewers tuning out an ad after seeing it a few times) is a problem, so publishers must accommodate advertisers' requests for frequent rotations. Sites also should set policies for animated banner ads, so as to prevent pages that have too much "noise" in the form of multiple animations that distract the reader.

Laredo says that estimates of Web ad revenues are to be taken with a grain of salt. Estimates of a $2-$5 billion Web ad market by 2000 from online research companies like Jupiter Communications are over-reaching, she says, because they project based on rate card pricing. In reality, many publishers deeply discount Web rate cards. She predicts a $1-$3 billion Web advertising market by 2000.

Contact: Leslie Laredo, dustytoo@aol.com

Dr. Thomas Baubin, Andersen Consulting, Switzerland

Baubin, an international partner with Andersen's strategic services competency group, reported on the consultancy's Information 2000 study which examines the role of publishers in the new information society. "Publishers will be the quality pacesetters" in online media, Baubin believes, continuing their current role. The emphasis is on the word quality; since online consumers face such a huge overload of information, they will turn to trusted information gathering organizations for reassurance of the quality of information.

The role of publishers online must be that of community organizers, he says, noting that publishers are the best positioned to create communities online. But they must transform themselves from product companies (producing a printed publication) into service companies that deliver relevant information and facilitate community building amongst their clientele.

Contact: Thomas Baubin, thomas.baubin@ac.com

Luc Sala, Sala Communications, Netherlands

Repeating his performance last year as the conference's most controversial presenter, media entrepreneur Sala urged the attendees to embrace video as one of the most important elements of Web publishing in the coming few years. "We need 5,000 channels of video," he says, and in five years publishers need to be able to produce video at the level they currently produce print or text content. True to his advice, Sala spent the conference carrying a small video camera and conducting impromptu interviews with the assembled interactive media experts in attendance (for a media television show he produces). His message was met with extreme skepticism by this gathering of mostly print professionals, several of whom expressed disdain for the idea of a World Wide Web filled with "crappy videos."

Contact: Luc Sala, sala@euronet.nl

MMD invests in Real Media

Switzerland-based Publicitas Holdings, one of the largest advertising services companies in the world, has made a minority investment in Real Media Inc. of New York, an Internet advertising software and services company that specializes in serving the newspaper Web community. Real Media provides Internet advertising management software to publishers, and operates an Internet advertising network through which it places advertising into more than 100 newspaper Web sites in the U.S. The Publicitas investment, which is being managed through the conglomerate's MMD multimedia company, is expected to help Real Media establish a global presence. "It's a tremendous strategic boost for us," says Real Media president Dave Morgan.

Contact: Dave Morgan, davem@realmedia.com


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This column is written by Steve Outing exclusively for Editor & Publisher Interactive three days a week. News, tips, and other communications may be sent to Mr. Outing at steve@planetarynews.com

The views expressed in the above column do not necessarily represent the views of the Editor & Publisher company


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