AT THE BEGINNING of a discussion about online advertising, Peter Winter issued a mock warning to his audience: "If you are in any way interested in the real world and making money, you're in the wrong place."
Jesting aside, Winter told his audience at the Newspaper Association of America's Marketing Conference, the developing world of online advertising suddenly is the hottest place to be.
Winter, vice president of market development for Cox Newspapers Inc., and interim CEO of New Century Network, predicted that over the next few years, it will be even hotter.
Giving his audience an idea of the size of the potential market, Winter said that by the end of this year, 10 million households in the USA will subscribe to online services.
"Migration by advertisers out of print will obviously vary category by category as this new fundamental phenomenon takes root," he said. "It will not be significant until a critical mass of consumers . . . become regular users."
That critical mass could be formed relatively soon. Winter cited research projecting that within five years, 25% of U.S. consumers will be subscribing or accessing some type of online service, if current growth is maintained.
With that level of penetration, it's important for newspapers to become comfortable with online operations early in the game, Winter told the audience.
"We have a window - which is not long - to get competent in the intricacies of developing new interactive content and figuring out what kinds of advertising models best suit those new applications" Winter said.
He added that many newspapers can learn from the experience of Cox's Access Atlanta project, the service of the Atlanta Journal and Constitution.
Most importantly, newspapers should not simply duplicate public relations material, or transfer existing products online, Winter stressed. The online world is a new medium, and it demands a completely different approach from current operations.
To drive the point home, Winter said that at Cox, the terms "online newspaper" and "electronic publishing" have been banned - because they smack of a "lazy mind."
There are a few areas where newspapers have a chance to generate new revenue from online services.
The first is to utilize online services' direct marketing capability. Online media are response-driven and online advertising is a "logical extension" of the drive for more efficient advertising, Winter said. …