Newspapers Go It Alone In Cyberspace p.7

By: MARK FITZGERALD FOR ALL THE talk about partnering, newspaper Web sites remain do-it-yourself projects, according to Editor & Publisher Co.'s latest Interactive Services Survey.
Fully 68% of responding newspapers say they take less than 20% of their overall Web site content from outside sources. And the study, the eighth annual review of newspaper interactivity, also draws a correlation between in-house staffing and profitability.
"Our research bore out very clearly that those newspapers who are more profitable are the ones who have their own departments, their own staffs and their own budgets, Marsha A. Stoltman, Editor & Publisher Co.'s vice president-marketing relations, told the 8th annual Interactive Newspapers '97 Conference in Houston Feb. 15.
"The greater the delineation from the print product and the greater the centralized control [a newspaper's] new media group has over its own destiny equates to more profitability and more accountability," Stoltman said. "It really comes down to a matter of commitment to the medium, ensuring that the newspaper's new media ventures are treated as a real business."
It's hard to tell from surveys, however, just how extensive moneymaking is in interactive newspapers, Stoltman said.
While the survey drew a good response, many papers declined to answer questions about sales and profitability. The survey's finding that respondents averaged earnings of $50,000 annually "is not really statistically significant due to the low level of responses," Stoltman said.
Newspapers are loud and clear, however, about keeping access to their Web sites either free or at a nominal cost, the survey found.
Right now, 89% do not charge for access to any portion of their online projects ? and 85% say they do not plan to charge in the future.
Nevertheless, newspapers are clearly pursuing revenue options. Among the reasons newspapers give for maintaining online services, generating revenue is second only to attempting to remain the number one information provider in the market and pre-empting competition.
Fully 87% accept sponsorship advertising. Another 40% already have standardized banner sizes, with 43% maintaining banner ad rate cards and 22% having an online classified ad rate card.
Forty percent have already developed niche products, up from 30% in the year-before survey.
"I believe this is significant, in the fact that newspapers are gaining awareness of how important it is to market what they have in their own backyard," Stoltman said.
Newspapers have also taken to heart the lesson of promotion, the survey found.
Nearly half ? 49% ? of all responding papers are doing cross promotion right now. Significantly, that number jumps to 75% of the top revenue-generating online newspapers.
The most common cross promotion, the survey found, is with the local Chamber of Commerce.
New media staffing at newspapers remains a matter of a happy few.
Typical full-time staffing, according to the survey: one advertising employee, one technical employee and two editorial employees.
our leverage to get fair contracts ? our objective all along."
Initial membership reaction to the unconditional back-to-work offer was mixed at best. In a vote taken the next day, a vote that under Teamster union rules was advisory only, members of Detroit Typographical Union Local 18 overwhelmingly opposed it.
Within a couple of days, however, it was clear that more members were accepting their leadership's rationale for the move.
For instance, Nancy Dunn, a striking Free Press copy editor and a spokeswoman for the union umbrella group, said she opposed the unconditional back-to-work offer when the idea surfaced earlier in the strike. Now, however, she said she agrees with "the overall feeling we need to do whatever we need to do to get a contract and get our jobs back."
Management "wasn't going to be brought back to the bargaining table even by the most Draconian cost and destruction of their own business ? which they brought on themselves by their own hands," she said.
Dunn and other strikers, however, said they were well aware their back-to-work offer ? a bid usually made when a strike has failed ? would be regarded as a surrender.
"I'm serious when I say I don't see this as a surrender," she said. "That word is out there and I can't stop it . . . but the long-range prospect of going back in there ? some of us ? and working inside and out is a good strategy."
Detroit Newspapers and the two dailies have hired about 1,300 permanent replacements, the great majority of them in production and circulation. In addition, about half of the newsroom employees represented by the Guild crossed picket lines and are working.
Executives have adamantly refused to consider dismissing the permanent replacements as a condition ? demanded by the unions ? to a settlement.
The strike newspaper quoted an e-mail it said was sent by management to Free Press employees: "No one on staff, regardless of when they joined the Free Press or what position they hold is in danger of losing his or her job" because of the union offer.
Under federal labor law, the companies need to take back only enough workers to meet their production needs. Detroit Newspapers executives have continually claimed the strike helped them eliminate egregious featherbedding, and that the replacement workers are more productive than the strikers were. The newsrooms too, are operating at about capacity, both publishers suggested.
Rob Musial, who was a Free Press reporter for 23 years before walking out in July 1995, and other strikers said they expected only very few strikers to be rehired.
Union spokeswoman Dunn said the unions planned to monitor any rehiring and expected "cherry-picking" to bar activist strikers.
Complicating any return is the issue of employees who have been fired while on strike. By last fall, Detroit Newspapers said, 165 employees had been fired for alleged misconduct, such as violence or disobeying NLRB agreements on picketing, during the strike. The unions say 300 of their members have been fired.


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