Real Media Aims to Bring Newspapers More Online Ads

By: Steve Outing

A New York start-up is entering the crowded field of companies providing advertising services for World Wide Web publishers. But Real Media Inc. is taking the task of focusing on newspapers on the Web, hoping to fill online ad spots on multiple newspaper sites with shared ads.

Real Media has created what it calls MediaExpress, a "non-exclusive Internet advertising services network of local online publishers and national advertisers that facilitates the simple planning, sales and placement of online ads." What that means to publishers is that Real Media will fill empty slots on your newspaper Web service with advertisers seeking user hits (or "impressions") from a certain demographic that your site reaches.

Real Media's president, Dave Morgan, says an example might be when an advertiser pays Real Media for 100,000 impressions (that many computer users clicking on an online ad) of visitors to Web publishing sites in Pennsylvania who are from outside that state. This might fit the profile of a Pennsylvania tourism advertiser who wants to get its message to out-of-state computer users who visit Pennsylvania newspaper Web sites. Such an ad would be placed on multiple newspaper sites and stay up until it was seen 100,000 times on all the sites combined.

Morgan says the relationships his company is creating with publishers are non-exclusive, and publishers have the right to accept or reject an ad placement request from Real Media. A typical revenue point for a publisher placing a shared ad might be $30 to $40 per 1,000 impressions.

Real Media also is selling "remnant" ad space. If a publisher has an ad slot that he can't sell, he inserts a 2-line HTML command into his page, which will link to a remnant ad placed by Real Media. Remnant advertisers may show up anywhere and don't have the option of requesting specific demographics. Remnant ad income for publishers will be around $20 per 1,000 impressions. Morgan says he's not sure just how big remnant ads will be in the short term, though in the long run he expects it to be a small part of his business.

"Our focus is to try to find money for publishers that they're not now getting," Morgan says. Don't expect to get rich off this scheme yet, he warns. There will not be a lot of short-term money coming in from this type of shared advertising, but the strategy is to build long-term relationships with advertisers that will pay off longer term. "My goal is to be able to give the manager of a newspaper Web service a decent little check that increases every month."

Morgan says some of the advertising rates being charged by Web sites today are "out of line"; the Web publishing market is not yet mature enough to support prices that some people are asking, and that will cause a lot of advertiser churn. Since the Web publishing model revolves around the expectation of substantial advertising dollars, it's important to ease advertisers into relationships with Web publishers, Morgan believes.

Real Media so far has signed up more than a dozen participating newspapers, all smaller regional publications in Pennsylvania, where the company conducted its beta testing. Morgan hopes to add some larger papers, and also is targeting regional Internet service providers to carry shared ads. So far, it has signed up 3 advertisers who will go online in March: a bank, real estate firm and a communications company, all targeting customers in the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S.

Splat your least favorite Canadian politician

At the Calgary Herald, all online is not serious. Dave Haynes, manager of voice and electronic information, reports on his latest online addition: offering Web visitors the opportunity to throw a pie in the face of Canadian politicians.

"I was looking for an unconventional way to attract visitors to our site that might also make a little noise on the Web," he says. "So with the help of our parent company, Southam's new media center, we have rolled out Splat the Politician on the @Canada portion of the service."

Web visitors to the site click on a gallery of Canadian political leaders and hit the "Pie Me" button. "Using graphics and a server push, the politician of choice gets splatted with a lemon meringue number. A counter tallies the victim of choice," Haynes explains.

"I figured it was a loopy little way to let people vent some frustration, have a laugh, and hopefully attract new visitors to our site." The pol getting the most hits (pun intended) is Lucien Bouchard, the driving force behind Quebec's continued push to separate from Canada.

Military City Online makes it onto the Web

Military City Online and some of the newspapers of the Army Times Publishing Co. are now on the Web. I reported on MCO and its America Online service last September, when the company was just starting to work on a Web offering. Unlike most newspaper publishers, MCO has opted to make AOL its primary online home, with the Web in a subservient role.

The new core Web service is called Military City Web Outpost and features a sampling of material that can be found on MCO on AOL, including selected stories from the Army Times, Air Force Times, NavyTimes, and the Marine Corps edition of Navy Times. That's not to say that the site is light on content; actually, there's a wealth of stuff. Of particular value is a searchable worldwide database of military personnel, which was acquired by MCO through a Freedom of Information Act request (Army Times Publishing Co. is a private entity) and is available on the Web site but not on AOL. There's also a database of worldwide U.S. military sites (which can be found on the AOL service). Other features include bulletin boards, online stores, and listings of related Web links.

According to Lee Ewing, director of online content, Military City Web Outpost will probably become a subscription service in a few months, after an initial free period, with only selected content freely available. He is seeking advertisers and reports having generated some interest. The company also has put up Web sites for some of its other publications -- Defense News, Space News and Federal Times. All those publications are expected to remain free to users and be supported by advertising. Those three publications are not currently part of AOL.

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