The Economics of Web Publishing: Please, Take This Survey

By: Steve Outing

I'd like to suggest that newspaper industry readers of this column take a few minutes to complete a survey of online newspaper service revenue strategies being conducted by University of Nevada at Reno graduate student Donica Mensing. The survey focuses on how newspapers expect to make Web-based publishing ventures profitable. It is being co-sponsored by McClatchy Newspapers.

Mensing, who is doing a media research project/thesis on the economics of publishing newspapers on the Web, says, "Online newspapers could benefit greatly by pooling knowledge, rather than keeping successes and failures secret from one another. I know cooperation between newspapers is a novel concept, but these are unusual times.

"I'm interested in this topic not because I think making money is the most important question, but because I think that economics will shape what direction this medium takes over the near term. Content and attention will flow to what makes money and trying to capture a sense of what appears financially promising will provide clues as to the direction of the content of online news. ... In the grand scheme of things, I want to know how 'good' journalism -- the kind we all care about -- is going to be paid for in the future."

I think this is an important piece of research, and I have not yet seen anything like it focusing on newspaper Web services. Mensing is mailing the surveys to all Web newspaper services listed in the NAA and Editor & Publisher Interactive online newspaper services directories. You can also take the survey by visiting Mensing's survey Web page, printing out the survey and faxing it back to her. I encourage you to take a few minutes to participate.

Mensing will post the results of the research on the Web, and I will report on them here when the time comes.

Contact: Donica Mensing,

Email-Web site working in harmony

I recently received the following brief email note from the SportsZone Web site, which I registered for long ago. (I must admit, I haven't visited it in months.)

Dear Sports Fan,

Just a friendly note to let you know that you could win $1 Million Dollars this week in SportsLine's Million Dollar Draft. Entering is quick and free, and we'll award 30 prizes in all - including a trip for 2 to the NFL Rookie Photo Shoot, Rookie Jerseys, and Autographed Joe Namath Footballs.

Just set your web browser to and enter the Million Dollar contest.

I reprint it here as an excellent example of how to make email work in concert with your World Wide Web site. It's short, it didn't make me angry about receiving junk email, and it offered the chance to win something. A very nice technique for reminding people on your mailing list about the existence of your Web site.

Web reaches most corners of the Earth

A lot of newspapers continue to launch Web services, and that's typically not significant news any more. But two announcements delivered to my email box in recent days broke new geographic ground:

* The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in Alaska launched its new site yesterday, making it the northern-most newspaper publishing online. The newspaper's Roger Price reports, "Because we are tackling this project with existing staff, our offerings will be somewhat limited at first (contents of our Sunday magazine and information about the paper). We are planning to add a weekly news digest within a couple of weeks. Our comprehensive Visitor's Guide for Interior Alaska will be added in middle to late May. Sometime in late summer or early fall, we hope to put our daily stories online."
Contact: Roger Price,

* The first paper from the tiny nation of Liechtenstein is on the Web. The Liechtensteiner Vaterland is the country's largest newspaper. It has been on the Web since February.
Contact: Rainer Verling,

Movin' On

Eric Meyer, a journalism professor at Marquette University and founder of Newslink, a new media research and consulting firm that maintains an exhaustive listing on media Web sites, will join the journalism faculty at the University of Illinois in August.

Lead Story, part 2: The importance of archiving

In my column last Friday analyzing AT&T's Lead Story service, which takes a top business story each day and creates a page that links to articles from other media Web sites, I missed an important point, as noted by sharp-eyed reader Steve Rhodes:

"Lead Story also shows the importance of archiving material and having a permanent URL when a piece goes up. A link from Lead Story's April 18th focus on cyberpublishing that is supposed to go to a story on the MSNBC tech program now actually links to a story on CompuServe's IPO since it is a generic URL.

"It would be more useful if the subjects were updated, but maybe another service will do that. I think the reason that Lead Story has a chance to suceed is that existing news sources on the Web don't do enough to organize their material beyond an occasional big story like the Unabomber case."

Limited column schedule this week

Because I am traveling this week, there will be no Stop The Presses! columns on Wednesday and Friday. The column will resume its regular 3-day-a-week publication schedule again on Mon., April 29.

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