Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Partnering with New Media Companies

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Partnering with New Media Companies

Article excerpt

PARTNERING WITH NEW media companies makes sense for newspapers, said Bradford Burnham of AT&T Ventures.

Burnham spoke recently at the New Media World symposium at the America East conference in Hershey, Pa.

Teaming with software technology and electronic distribution companies "allows you to have an early market entry and allows you to acquire new media skills, while actually delivering services to your community," said Burnham.

"The problem with partnering today is that no one yet understands the business models that are evolving in this converged industry.

"No one really understands where the revenues are going to come from .... So, partnering with somebody in that volatile business environment is a very delicate and potentially dangerous enterprise. Today's partner could easily become tomorrow's competitor," he noted.

That environment is nothing new to the software industry, which is Burnham's background.

He used the term "coopetition" to describe the business relationships between software vendors.

To achieve successful coopetition, newspapers should understand their objectives, Burnham said.

He also suggested that, as local content providers, newspapers have a lot of leverage, because national providers have no access to local markets. Local content is valuable information.

One objective: "As the existing media franchise in a locality, it's very important for you not only to control your content but also to control the presentation of that content."

Newspapers should control access to and information about subscribers and advertisers, Burnham said. And they should control the business model, to the extent that they can figure out what one looks like.

"Once you make a significant investment in an environment, it's very difficult to repurpose that investment," Burnham cautioned.

Newspapers should examine the authoring tools and presentation environment of an online service provider in terms of their objectives.

Representing a competitor to America Online (AOL), Burnham not surprisingly found fault with the company, which, he said, "has several of the most visible newspaper partnerships out there."

He said: "The concern about AOL's current platform is that the authoring environment is proprietary. There is one vendor building the tools and managing the evolution of those tools.

"The presentation platform is also proprietary, which means that one vendor controls how your content is being presented to your market.

"Now, that may seem to be an OK trade-off in the near term, for the sake of getting online quickly and gaining experience in this market. …

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