Advertising on the Internet; Some Advice Offered to Newspapers

Article excerpt

Some advise offered to newspapers

Not so long ago, advertising was a dirty word on the Internet.

Those few entrepreneurs who tried found themselves viciously "flamed" by the generally anti-business cyberspace surfers who dominated the net.

Ad messages were erased, e-mail addresses of offenders crashed under an avalanche of insults and threats, and private information about the advertisers - home-phone and credit-card numbers - was posted on bulletin boards.

Once the domain of a relatively few nerds and hackers, the net was deemed off-limits to advertising.

Indeed, users prided themselves on the net's noncommercial nature - and defended that environment fiercely.

"They display a sense of ownership of the medium such as I have never seen in 25 years in the newspapers"' said Dan Fisher, editor of online services for the Los Angeles Times.

Nevertheless, the Times is advertising on its online service with Prodigy and is creating a Home Page that will run on the Internet.

No decision has been made on whether that Home Page - which is intended to be different from its TimesLink service on Prodigy - will carry advertising.

But if it does, the Times will not be alone.

More newspapers are expanding their interactive offerings beyond an online service on one of the commercial online networks and posting a Home Page on the World Wide Web or some other part of the Internet - and they are looking for advertising to support their net ventures.

Indeed, advertising on the net was a topic that arose repeatedly during the recent three-day Interactive Newspapers '95 Conference in Dallas, sponsored by the Kelsey Group, Editor & Publisher Co., and the International Newspaper Marketing Association.

Some media companies are already finding ad success on the net.

Ironically, one of the most successful is Wired, the computer magazine with an attitude that is targeted as the kind of cyberpunk most likely to flame advertising.

Chip Bayers, managing editor of Wired's service, HotWired, said the advertising on the multimedia "cyberstation" has not encountered any particularly impassioned resistance.

"I think this idea that advertising is anathema on the Internet is a bit outdated," Bayers said.

"People are beginning to understand that advertising is paying" for the enormous amount of information available on the net, he added.

But advertising in cyberspace is considerably different than in print, Bayers and others warned.

"We in advertising can be reasonably sure that the familiar techniques of `in-your-face' product placement and repetitive messages will not survive in this new environment" said Roland J. Sharette, vice president and director, interactive resources, for the advertising firm, J. Walter Thompson USA.

Bayers credited the passive nature of the display advertising on HotWired for its success. Users see a small image of the ad and can choose whether to click it on, he noted.

"One of the things we wanted to avoid was having people feel they were getting advertising shoved in their face," Bayers said.

It is a formula that appears to be working.

HotWired has already signed up 16 advertising sponsors who are paying $30,000 each for six-month runs on the service, according to Rosalind Resnick, editor and publisher of the monthly newsletter, Interactive Publishing Alert.

The service is free to users, but they must register to get it. So far, 94,000 have.

Bayers says the magazine put HotWired on the Internet so that it could control the look of the service.

"When you go on commercial online services, they control what the pages look like," he said. "Right now I don't see how you differentiate yourself [on a commercial online service]," Bayers said.

Another advantage of the Internet is the fact that it permits an advertiser to use a virtually unlimited number of screens to present his message. …