Sunday Magazine Launches With Online Component

By: Steve Outing

Growing up in Denver, I remember the Denver Post's venerable Empire magazine, a Sunday supplement with a decidedly "old west" feeling. Empire died in the mid 1980s, but this fall the Post brought the magazine back to life -- a rare event, considering that U.S. newspapers have killed a number of Sunday magazines in the last decade. The Post is in a "newspaper war" with cross-town rival the Rocky Mountain News, and Empire's resurrection was just the latest shot in the continuing skirmishes.

These days, a print publication launch also requires an electronic companion, so Post new media editor Todd Engdahl, the paper's former city editor, introduced earlier this month an online edition of Empire as the first component of Denver Post Online. "We don't pretend that it's the world's cutting-edge Web site, but we decided doing it was too good an opportunity to pass up," Engdahl says. "After all, how many newspapers introduce big Sunday magazines these days?"

The site is a modest effort, created and maintained by Engdahl and an intern from the University of Colorado. Most of the content of the magazine is online, minus some of the syndicated features like the crossword. An "Electric Empire" section highlights themed Web sites in the Rocky Mountain region. (It's collected links for state Web pages, Big 8 and Western Athletic Conference football team pages, ski sites, and regional politicians' Web sites.)

Last week's Empire site focused on the ski industry and upcoming ski season, pulling material from the "Ski & Snow" section that ran in the printed newspaper. It included a directory of Rocky Mountain ski resorts, each listing including a link to the ski area's home page; snow and road conditions; and selected articles by the Post's ski writers.

Ski & Snow is becoming an ongoing Web site, to last through the winter months. A ski site is an obvious online venture for a Denver newspaper, and the site holds potential for becoming the dominant Colorado ski Web site, if the Post commits enough resources to the project.

Engdahl says he was able to create the initial components on the Denver Post Online "for peanuts." Future additions to the service are still in the planning stages.

While U.S. newspapers have been very active this year in introducing online services, the Denver market has been unusually quiet. While the Post launches in a modest way, we've yet to hear from the Rocky Mountain News. As a local observer (I live in nearby Boulder), I'll be interested to see if the Denver newspaper "war" spills over to cyberspace.

The right answer

From an interview in Interactive Publishing Alert with Jeff Pundyk, director of consulting for CMP Interactive:

IPA: "Where do you see online publishing 5 years from now?"

JP: "I have no idea. That's the fun of it."

Internet surveys deserve careful scrutiny

Alan White of the J. Walter Thompson agency in Detroit writes:

"I know this is almost a month after you presented the information from the Yahoo!/Jupiter survey, but since this seems to be a growing trend in research, I thought I should point out some major problems with the Yahoo!/Jupiter survey and other Web-based surveys.

"First, the sample is self selected. That means that only those people who felt compelled to fill out the survey, for whatever reason, filled it out. Most survey research struggles with non-cooperation bias, that is people who refuse to respond to the questions of a survey. Research tells us that those who cooperate are different than those who don't. Self-selection bias is an even more extreme case of the non-response bias. For an example of self-selection bias, see the executive summary on Nielsen's or CommerceNet's Web sites (one of the last pages of the summary).

"The second problem is that the population that the study is trying to describe is not (well-)defined. Yahoo!/Jupiter would have you believe that it is of Web users. I would suggest that it is of a subset of Yahoo! users. That may seem trivial. Don't a lot of people use the Yahoo! site to find their way around the Web? Yes, but a lot don't.

"The unfortunate thing is that some researchers cannot see, or don't want to see ($$$), the problem in this type of research. How can reporters, who don't have a background in survey research, be expected to separate the good from the bad research?"

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