Publishers Pay Netscape, Yahoo! for Extra Hits

By: Steve Outing

Of all the Web sites to envy for their user traffic, Netscape and Yahoo! top the list. As a local news publisher, would you like some of that traffic? Well, Yahoo! will sell it to you.

Yahoo!, the successful Web directory company, has teamed with Netscape to create the Netscape Guide by Yahoo!. You get to the Guide by clicking the "Guide" button on 4.0 or greater versions of the Netscape Navigator browser. It contains a variety of categories like News, Business, Entertainment, Sports, Travel, etc., which lead to what might be called "abridged" Yahoo! directory pages for those categories, which are updated with daily news and events. Content providers for those categories include many national publishers, who pay Yahoo! for the right to include their headlines, sports scores, stock summaries, etc.

The Guide also has a "Local" area, which leads the user to directory pages of more than 20 U.S. cities. These pages are divided up into several categories, such as "Today's Headlines," "Today's Community Events," "Today's Web Events for (City)," "Web Sites for (City)," Weather, Scoreboard, Restaurant Reviews, Hotel Finder, and Yellow Pages. Providing the information within most of those categories are local publishers, who take part in a program in which they pay a monthly fee for the privilege of being there and providing daily (or sometimes less frequent) content to the local Guide pages.

Sign of the times: Paying for links

It's an unusual concept; most local publishers aren't used to paying to have links to their sites included on another Web site. Yet local Web publishers who are taking part in the early stages of the Netscape/Yahoo! program are optimistic that they will receive significant boosts in traffic as a result.

Dan Brogan, publisher of 5280, a city magazine in Denver, Colorado, is one of the content providers to the program for the Denver Guide page. His company provides restaurant listings/reviews and calendar events. Restaurant listings are in the form of pop-up boxes for "area," "cuisine" and "cost." When a Denver Guide page visitor chooses from the boxes, that results in a search of 5280's restaurant database. Community events are in the form of a table showing the date, category and event. Clicking on the event title, a Guide page visitor is taken to 5280's events listing for that event. However, 5280 events show up only once every three days; the other days, events are provided by WestWord (Denver's alternative newsweekly) and DiveIn (telco USWest's online city guide for Denver).

Headline news in the local Guide pages also may rotate, if Yahoo! finds more than one news provider that wants to take part in the program. In Denver, both the Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post are taking part. One day, Post top headlines are included in the Denver Headlines section; the next, it's the Rocky Mountain News'.

Brogan says he thinks that 5280's participation in the program has great potential to drive traffic to his Web site -- something for which he's willing to pay a reasonable fee. "It's a way for the little guy like us to compete with the Microsofts," he says, referring to the software giant's Sidewalk Web entertainment site, which is due to launch in Denver later this year.

The Guide program started back in April, when Yahoo! revamped what originally was Netscape's lackluster "Destinations" area. Local channels of the Guide were launched in June, with pages for 12 of the largest U.S. cities. Late last week, another 10 "second-tier" cities like Denver, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Tampa, Florida, were added to the mix.

At this point, publisher participants in the newest cities are not paying for the service and get to try it out for a month or two, says Netscape by Yahoo! business manager Elizabeth Collet. Partner publishers for the first-round cities are just now being converted to paying after their free trial period.

Yahoo! director of production Tim Brady won't quote a price, but for a smaller publisher wanting to take part in a local Guide page, it's in the "low hundreds of dollars a month" range, according to one of the program participants. Pricing is primarily a fixed monthly fee, with no guarantees of traffic that participation in a Guide local page might bring, although Collet says that might change as the program matures. Pricing is estimated partly on projected traffic and a CPM (cost per thousand) rate converted to a flat monthly fee.

Collet says that in a competitive market, where more than one provider might want to be included in a local Guide page, deals are worked out where providers for different sections rotate between two to four publishers. So a publisher might get on the page only once every few days. And print news publishers may find themselves rotating with TV news Web sites in the same local news headline category.

Brady says that publishers also must qualify for the slots, and in some cases it might become a bidding process to see who gets on the local pages. Collet points out a company policy against doing exclusive deals with any local publisher.

Early results

In its early days, the Guide local pages have generated "relatively modest" traffic, Brady admits, but he expects it to grow over time as Netscape 4.0 browsers that include the default "Guide" button get into more hands. "There's no better promotion when someone's online" than having that button always be on-screen, says Brady. Links to the Guide also are found on the Yahoo! site.

Collet describes the media links on the local Guide pages as being much like paying for a banner advertisement promoting a site. Guide does not try to compete with online city guides like CitySearch or Digital City; it's much more limited in scope. "It's kind of a hybrid," she says.

The "more sophisticated" publishers seem to accept the concept of paying for the extra traffic that Yahoo! can bring them, Collet says. But among publishers who have invested less in their Web sites, there has been some resistance to the program.

Local publishers already trying out the Guide program in local U.S. markets include the Boston Globe, Boston Phoenix, Austin360, Texas Monthly, some Knight-Ridder newspapers, Cox Interactive, San Francisco Bay Guardian, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Miami New Times, and a growing number of television stations. Online-only Web services also have been signing up.

Contact: Elizabeth Collet,

Cup-side billboards

The Microsoft local Web online entertainment guide Sidewalk is embarking on some serious marketing. In New York, Sidewalk has struck a deal with the distributor of ubiquitous paper coffee cups to imprint the Sidewalk logo on an item used by thousands of New Yorkers every day, according to a report in Media Daily. The campaign began in mid-July to distribute 1.2 million coffee cups in Manhattan, the Hamptons, and eastern Long Island. New York's Sidewalk launched on May 19.

Here's further evidence that newspapers -- whose entertainment sections stand the most to lose from a successful Sidewalk operating in their local markets -- need to be aggressive in marketing their own Web ventures. Fire up those house ads!

It's the process, stupid

Steven McQuinn comments on my recent column about mediocre Web coverage of the Fort Collins, Colorado, floods:

"The whole while I'm reading your review of Fort Collins flood coverage on front range newspaper Web sites, I'm thinking, 'Process Redesign! Process Redesign!' Television and newspapers have fashioned their news processes to accommodate rigid output formats and fixed deadlines; radio enjoys more time flexibility within a technology that is both constraining and liberating. ('The best pictures in broadcasting are on NPR.') A news Web site could combine all the positive attributes of other media, including radio's impromptu immediacy.

"To achieve this potential, however, a news Web site would need much more than additional personnel; it would need a thorough rethinking of news gathering, editing and publishing processes. Imagine Web coverage of the Fort Collins flood as it could be: reporter/editors in the field posting direct from location; near real time availability of citizen and agency material including video clips; an interactive map of the event updated on the fly.

"'But that's not how newspapers or TV stations work!' Nope, Old-Timers, it's not.

"Hey, any venture capitalists out there who want to underwrite a cruel but profitable lesson in process obsolescence? Here's the pitch: A national news network with local franchises, exclusively on the Web. (Sounds line a serious version of Sidewalk.) I'd have to hire from outside the ranks of journalism, though, as too many newsies are fixed in their ways (even the X'ers).

"New era, new rules. He who writes the rules defines the era."


Previous day's column| Next day's column | Archive of columns
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


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here