Announcing your newspaper online service or new media product to the world is getting easier. You'll want to promote it via traditional channels -- such as house ads in your paper, direct mail, promotions with computer stores and retailers, etc. But online promotion is equally if not more important to getting the word out -- and it's MUCH less expensive.
Here are the best and most efficient options for announcing your service or product.
Do it yourself
There are more than 100 services on the Internet that will accept your announcement. These include search services such as Yahoo and Infoseek; "What's New on the Internet" Web sites; "Cool Site of the Week" Web sites; Web directories; newsgroups and mailing lists.
You need to notify all these sites about your service. This gets the word out to the Internet community and -- most importantly -- gets your service in the databases of the many World Wide Web search engines. For many Internet users, the search engines -- such as Infoseek, Lycos, WWW Worm, WebCrawler, OpenText -- are how they find information on a given topic. Enter "online newspapers" into any of these services, and you'll be pointed to the URLs (electronic addresses on the Web) of pages authored by me, and probably a pointer to this column.
Getting your announcement to every service is a lot of work, of course, so some enterprising Internet citizens have created free systems that offer shortcuts to this notification process. For example, try out Submit-It!, a free service that allows you to fill out a single form with information about your online service, then send the data to about 17 Web directories and databases. This nifty service saves you from figuring out the addresses and submission procedures for various sites. It's not entirely automatic, however, and you could easily spend an hour clicking on buttons and submitting your information to each individual site. (What Submit-It does is save you from re-entering duplicate information for each site you notify.)
Also check out Promote-It, which links you to the Submit-It site and lists many other Web directories that accept submissions.
Automated submissions -- for free or fee
Netcreations, a Florida Web site development company run by Rosalind Resnick (who's also publisher of Interactive Publishing Alert), has done Submit-It one better, this week introducing a service called The Postmaster. With this service, you fill out only one form, click on a button and it sends your press release to more than 100 Web directories, databases and publications (for a fee) or to 30 sites (for free). Unlike Submit-It and others, you will not have to click the Submit button for each site you wish to send your press release, saving a lot of time.
Netcreations charges $500 for The Postmaster to send your release to its full list of more than 100 online sites and 300-plus media representatives. There are discounts for multiple use of Postmaster. (A 4-time key to use the system costs $250 per press release.) The scaled-down free version of Postmaster is a good way to try out the system; it hits most of the major Web sites that should be alerted to your service.
Resnick says the hundreds of reporters and editors that Postmaster notifies about your service are not getting "spammed"; press releases only go to media addresses that have been publicized as accepting press releases. "Our intention is definitely not to spam people," she says. For this reason, it does not post to mailing lists or newsgroups, with the exception of BESTWEB and net-happenings.
Hire a consultant
If The Postmaster catches on, it might reduce the workload of some consultants, who perform online publicity services. (Resnick says she used to charge $1,000 to perform an Internet publicity campaign now done automatically via The Postmaster.) Some savvy public relations firms also provide this type of service, but that will cost you more than Postmaster.
That didn't take long: USA Today abandons proprietary Web service
USA Today has abandoned its subscription-only Web strategy and has opened up its Web area to all Internet users for a limited time as it searches for the right business model for online publishing. USA Today Online was an oddball service. Launched in April, it was available only to those willing to use a customized Web browser and connect through the CompuServe Network, at a price of $12.95 per month for 3 hours of connect time (additional hours $2.50). It left millions of Web surfers -- notably those using the ubiquitous Netscape browser -- out in the cold.
The subscription stand-alone service (for those wishing to purchase Internet access) will continue to be available, but the newspaper service for now is free to all. Previously, Internet users were limited to viewing a promotional USA Today Web area.
The CompuServe-only service had most industry analysts -- including me -- scratching our heads when we heard about the USA Today strategy. I'm pleased to see that they are changing their approach to support open Internet standards.
Editor Henrik Tengby, at the Swedish daily Arbetet, has moved to Riksmedia AB in Stockholm after projecting the company's launch of a Web service including some 50 newspapers online, together with classified sections and a CD-audio store. The site is going commercial in early October and is a joint venture with Swedish PTT Telias' division Multimedia and the Swedish Post's PostNet division.
Got a tip? Let me know about it
If you have a newsworthy item about the newspaper new media business, please send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This column is written by Steve Outing and underwritten by Editor & Publisher magazine. Tips, letters and feedback can be sent to Steve at email@example.com