'The Gate' Re-alignment Joins Newspaper, TV Station on the Web

By: Steve Outing

The Gate, the online service for the San Francisco Chronicle and Examiner (California), is making some interesting moves that will make it more of a true "multi-media" Web site:

* The Gate operation has been acquired in full by Chronicle Publishing Co., parent of the Chronicle newspaper, which bought out Examiner parent Hearst Corp.'s interest in The Gate. The online service formerly was co-owned by both companies, and was run by the San Francisco Newspaper Agency, the joint operating agreement arm of the two dailies, which operates production, advertising and distribution components of the papers' operations.

* The Gate's staff of 16 will soon move into the building of television station KRON, which is also owned by Chronicle Publishing, where they will join forces with KRON's new media staff of six.

This appears to be the first such merger of a single company's newspaper and TV Web sites into a single "multi-media" site.

Not TV, not print -- the Web

The Gate's online staff of 22 will now report to Chronicle Publishing, and not to either the newspaper or television station, according to The Gate's manager, John Coate. The "new" Gate is being housed in the KRON building in San Francisco because of a lack of space in the newspaper office, and because the KRON offices are "wired better," he says, and not because of a reporting relationship to KRON management.

The Gate will continue to offer content from the Examiner, for as long as the paper wants to continue that arrangement, Coate says. It's expected that at some point the Examiner will develop its own online service separate from the Chronicle-owned Gate, but no plans have been announced. The agreement does not affect the papers' classified ads published on The Gate, which remain under control of the Newspaper Agency (and thus, both companies).

Coate says he's very excited about the move, since it will "give us the opportunity to see what we can create in a true 'multi-media' environment." He expects the site to continue pulling much content from the Chronicle (and Exaimner), as it does now, and to expand its experimentation with video and audio. KRON's Web staff is particularly adept at audio for online presentation, and Coate says he sees that as the short-term focus area until video on the Web becomes more practical -- awaiting better compression schemes and greater bandwidth to the Internet consumer. The print-broadcast collaboration also will allow the site to do more live, breaking news coverage, he says.

The full Gate and KRON Web staffs met in person for the first time last week, so no definitive plans have been laid out for the new collaboration. Coate says he hopes that the "new" Gate will provide a richer offering to users. In effect, The Gate and KRON Web sites are merging. For exactly what that will look like, "we're going to figure it out when we get there."

Getting ready for the competition

The motivation for the move comes partly from the online competition coming to town from companies like Digital City, Microsoft's Sidewalk, CitySearch, Yahoo! San Francisco, Pacific Bell's AtHand, and others. "That situation puts pressure on the need for success, most definitely," Coate says. By combining Chronicle Publishing's cross-media resources on the Web, the company believes it will be better positioned to fight off the cyber-intruders to the local market.

The Gate site has been "an economical investment" for the Chronicle and Hearst up to now, Coate says, while declining to offer specific numbers. "We've done a good job of being efficient. We've spent less in three years than some (newspaper companies) have spent in one." He says The Gate remains "more R&D than business ... but part of our research is learning how to be a business."

The site gets more than 500,000 hits a day, or just under 200,000 page views; Coate estimates that those figures translate to 30,000-40,000 individual visitors a day. The site is entirely ad supported.

In another interesting move made last week, it was announced that Chronicle managing editor Dan Rosenheim, a long-time newspaper editor with no TV experience, is moving to KRON to become news director. Rosenheim reportedly took a strong interest in new media activities while at the Chronicle, and Coate describes him as "a friend" of The Gate. It will be interesting to watch this mutual print-broadcast undertaking by a multiple media-owning company on the World Wide Web.

Contact: John Coate, tex@sfgate.com

New and improved look for NCN

New Century Network has a new look for its central Web gateway page, as the U.S. newspaper Web site network makes more visible moves as it heads toward a formal launch date in early 1997. This is a minor redesign, and more dramatic announcements about NCN's activities are expected in the coming months. NCN has a new motto, "The Best of America's Newspapers," which while not terribly catchy is much more descriptive than the old "The Net With a Hometown Point of View."

Digital journalism conference being planned

New York University is putting together a two-day conference on digital journalism, scheduled for May 30-31 in New York City. The purpose of the conference is to explore the role of journalism in cyberspace, and it will cover such topics as non-linear story-telling, computer-assisted reporting, the "reporter as editor," and hypertext as a device in non-fiction narrative. It is expected to attract reporters, editors, designers, educators, students and publishers working in the new media fields.

Anyone interested in organizing a panel for the conference should contact John Garcia, director of digital journalism at NYU.

Contact: John Garcia, john.garcia@nyu.edu


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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 steve@planetarynews.com

The views expressed in the above column do not necessarily represent the views of the Editor & Publisher company


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