Intermercials + Archives; Digital Bindery Changes

By: Steve Outing

The Los Angeles Times Web site just began to offer searchable back-issue articles from the newspaper dating back to 1990. The payment scheme is as follows: there's no charge for a search, which displays as results headline, first sentence, length of story, and author; downloaded articles are $1.50 each. (There are also bulk price plans: $4.95 per month for up to 10 articles or $25 per month for 25 articles; and a business plan offers 100 stories from the archives for $100 paid in advance.)

That's a nice model. I'm especially pleased to see search results that tell you how long a story is. I've found it annoying on other Web archive systems to download a story based on a search result, only to find that I just paid $1.25 for a one-paragraph brief. The Times Web archive also is kept very up to date; stories from the current-day print edition are included in the Web archive as of 6 a.m.

If you read my last column on "intermercials," you'll understand why in my mind I linked this archive model with this new form of Web advertising (in which a visitor to a Web page first must view a brief advertisement that takes over the computer screen for a few seconds). A potentially nice way to increase archive revenues is to give users the option to substitute viewing an intermercial for paying cash.

Consider this scenario: An archive customer executes a search and a search results screen pops up. Finding an article worth downloading, the user clicks on the article and a payment screen is returned, indicating that the user can either pay $1.50 for this article or pay nothing but agree to view a 30-second Web intermercial before the desired story is downloaded. My guess is that this free avenue to getting valuable archive stories will increase archive usage, and thus site revenues.

Obviously, such a scheme requires some targeting for it to be worthwhile for advertisers -- who are going to pay the money to make up for lost cash archive fees. The simplest scheme is to give the archive customer a choice of intermercials to view; they choose a topic that's of interest. Alternatively, sites can sell keywords or groups of keywords to advertisers, so those people searching for cars, autos or any brand of car see an intermercial for a car dealer, for example.

This concept -- of offering, in effect, cash incentives to Internet users in exchange for them viewing a targeted ad -- is the approach taken by a new breed of companies like CyberGold. This concept of offering cash for consumers to view an online ad (or fill out a survey, etc.) hasn't really taken off yet, but my guess is that over time it will become a major business. News publishers can start thinking out of the box by implementing such schemes on their sites.

As I said in my last column, I'm not excited by the intermercial concept, because it's too intrusive a form of advertising for my taste. But combined with offering a cash incentive for viewing an intrusive Web ad, the intermercial concept makes a lot of sense. (Also, read on for letters about intermercials, at the end of this column.)

Digital Bindery closes to public; serves publishers

Digital Bindery, a "push" service that delivers via e-mail any page on the web to consumers for free each time the page changes, has shut off its service to the public. subscribers to the service received an e-mail message late last week notifying them that bindery has been suspended as a public service. attempts to view the bindery web site ( result in a request for a user name and password.

A Digital Bindery spokesman says the service is not dead, but rather the company has changed its business model and is operating "where the money is." Executive vice president Robert Kost confirmed that the public version of Digital Bindery, which was available to anyone using the Internet, has been shut down. He won't rule out the possibility of returning the free public service at some later date, however.

Kost says the model that seems to be working for the company is in offering the service privately to individual clients, such as publishers. Digital Bindery is in effect operating as a service bureau for publishers, handling e-mail delivery of its Web pages on behalf of its client publishers. Entrepreneurial Edge Magazine uses Digital Bindery to allow its Web readers to easily subscribe to its Web features, for example.

Kost describes the arrangement as a licensing deal where publishers pay Digital Bindery based on volume of deliveries. Pricing is "on the order of 1 cent per delivery."

The Digital Bindery public service accomplished essentially the same thing -- from the consumer's perspective -- as new "push" features added to the latest Web browsers from Netscape and Microsoft: delivering as e-mail on a regular basis particular Web pages. The difference is that Bindery does the work on its servers; the new Web browser features use the client PC to retrieve specified Web pages on a user-defined schedule.

Digital Bindery is a business unit of New York-based US Interactive, a digital marketing consulting agency whose clients include IBM, Microsoft Network, American Express and Donna Karan.

Contact: Rob Kost, rob@usinteractive

UClick expands to cover non-UPS syndicated content

Universal Press Syndicate (UPS) has announced a cooperative venture with newspaper Internet service provider InfiNet to host syndicated content from various sources. The special version of UPS' UClick service will provide a "one-stop" source for syndicated material to be used on news Web sites; the service will be available to the more than 140 newspaper clients of InfiNet.

UClick originated as the Web source for UPS syndicated content like comics and crossword puzzles. Comics, for example, reside on the UClick server and are served up to a newspaper's Web readers directly from the UClick server -- in co-branded format with the subscribing newspaper's logo. The system serves up the comics only to those Web users coming from a newspaper's Web site.

The new twist is that UPS is inviting participation of other syndicates, in hopes of creating a common Web delivery system, according to UPS editor Bill Mitchell. Currently, comics that a newspaper Web site might subscribe to from UPS and other syndicates may not be presented with uniformity. Mitchell says he envisions a common delivery and one-stop system for newspaper clients that would enable them to select syndicated content for comics and features pages with the look and feel of the papers' own Web sites.

Contact: Bill Mitchell,

Intermercials: Your views

My column about "intermercials" brought some letters, like this one from Jim Gold, managing editor of the Stockton (California) Record:

"I buy your argument as applied to the lofty-goaled information-seeking Web user. I think it falls apart when you think of the 6,000 people jamming Yahoo Chat rooms and seeking virtual thrills. Will we see a 10-second condom intermercial before the server opens a private chat room? Would that be so bad?"

I agree. That's an appropriate use of intermercials. Used wisely, intermercials will, I think, become a significant part of the Internet publishing scene. But there is the potential for misuse when applied to Web pages that consumers seek out (that is, "pull").

John Carragee, president of PinPoint Communications, Ltd., wrote:

"I would suggest one other major consideration that should guide the use of intermercials in the future -- and that is context for the ads. Consider, for instance, the REALMalls shopping directory offered by my firm. We guide shoppers through the stores and brands at over 1,000 regional malls around the U.S., providing information on sales, fashion events, and which stores carry a given brand. The shopper who visits the Neiman Marcus store at the Stanford Shopping Center may be quite interested in a 10-second 'intermercial' on the latest Donna Karan fashions. Or clicking on the link to Bloomingdale's, she might see an intermercial for the Clinique Gift with Purchase.

"The latter example is the Web analog of the cosmetics merchandising that meets the shopper at the front door of Bloomingdale's itself: the carefully coiffed sales staff with the spritzers of eau de cologne. Are they intrusive? They may slow down the shopper who has just rushed in and hopes to exit with a quick purchase, but for most of the shoppers, that's why they came to the store in the first place.

"We shouldn't forget that advertising is, in great part, information, and the astute merchant knows how to deploy point of purchase advertising to assist the shopper and clinch the sale at the same time. I would no more deplore this kind of 'in context' advertising than I would the page-after-page of department store advertising in my printed New York Times on Sunday. In fact, large numbers of people count on just these ads appearing in just this paper every Sunday to plan out their shopping for the week."


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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

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


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