Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Solo Strategy Making Headway

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Solo Strategy Making Headway

Article excerpt

Hearst Corp.'s New media approach -- using its Web-building capabilities to build relationships with readers, community groups and advertisers -- is beginning to pay off, a top executive told the Interactive Newspapers '97 conference recently

"In 1997, we anticipate our new media revenue will match our new media costs," said George Irish, Hearst's vice president/group executive for newspapers.

That's despite adding about 100 people to the new media group -- and doing much of the heavy HTML lifting in-house, Irish added.

For instance, rather than subscribe to one of the many emerging online directory services commercially available, Hearst is building one itself.

"We understand there are some directory services out there that are quite good, and we gave very serious consideration to going with some of them," Irish said.

"When it comes right down to it however, we think we bring more to the party than the vendors bring to the party," he added. "And when you come down to negotiations, that becomes pretty sticky."

Directory vendors, Irish said, understandably believe that the national reach and the sophistication of their products should translate into a long-term financial relationship with a paper. He suggested, however, these vendors undervalue the local contribution of the newspaper.

"I guess being somewhat, uh, greedy, we've decided to roll the dice and keep all the revenues in our coffers," Irish said.

A directory is one of the three projects at the heart of Hearst's new media ventures:

* Directory Center aims at building relationships with some 175,000 Houston-area businesses with a service that includes the features of an online Yellow Pages, a residential directory and a new classified directory.

While it resembles commercially available electronic Yellow Pages with map features, restaurant menus, store features and other interactive elements, Directory Center is intended to go further by involving a consumer beyond presenting a full listing. If a user purchased a bicycle, for instance, the directory would offer listings of bike clubs, trails and cycling events.

"What we want to accomplish with this is much broader than simply a directory," Irish said.

Directory Center launches at the Houston Chronicle later this month.

* Community Self-Publishing Initiative. Using software from Koz Inc. of Greensboro, N.C., and currently in beta testing at the Chronicle, the service will provide an online system and software tools to allow hundreds of clubs, community organizations and other groups to create and update their own sites inside the Chronicle's Web site.

"This highly interactive database will create new subscribers one by one by one," Irish said. It launches in midyear.

* Shared software development program. Launched recently at Hearst's Albany, N.Y, Times Union, this initiative pursues major ad categories. In Albany, the Multiple Listings Service has downloaded all its real estate listings to the newspaper's database. A similar shared software program is under development with automobile dealers.

"It is positioning itself as the electronic source for all advertising information in the market," Irish declared. "The money lies in connecting our electronic technologies and databases" to the opportunities opened by this new, intensely local, highly interactive medium. …

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