Magazine article Editor & Publisher

The Magnifying Power of the Web: How a Tiny Newspaper in San Diego Uses a Web Site to Pretend It's a Regional Media Giant

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

The Magnifying Power of the Web: How a Tiny Newspaper in San Diego Uses a Web Site to Pretend It's a Regional Media Giant

Article excerpt

The online version of the newspaper is produced and published first. Then that Web content is used to create the day's print product.

How a tiny newspaper in San Diego uses a Web site to pretend it's a regional media giant

Andrew Kleske boasts: "We've convinced the world that we are the major daily in San Diego, when in fact, we're just a niche publication here."

Editor of the San Diego Source (, the online version of the San Diego Daily Transcript, Kleske says his organization has been so successful in creating that illusion, that last January when the Super Bowl took place in San Diego, major national advertisers swooped in to buy space on the site. "We had IBM, Intel and Wells Fargo Bank" crowed Kleske.

In part, the illusion is just that -- smoke and blue mirrors. But there is some substance to the image the Source puts across online. For instance, while the Daily Transcript provides news about local business, finance, law, real estate and construction (which are major industries in the region), the Web site offers much broader coverage. "It became immediately obvious that, on the Internet, we're dealing with a different customer" Kleske explained. "Our entertainment coverage had to be far better than anything we could put in the paper in order to keep up with other Web sites -- like Sidewalk and some of the other entertainment-based sites." The Source offers online guides for movies, restaurants, hotels and tourism, as well as a complete guide to nearby Tijuana.

Not to mention the online version of the San Diego Daily Transcript Law Journal, and "We hired an oceanographer as our El Nino expert -- you can ask her a question and get an intelligent answer," Kleske said, proudly.

The magnifying power of the Web

So, how has the online news resource for a regional business daily -- which, according to Kleske, has a circulation of "about 14,000, on a good day"-- accomplished this feat? "It's the power of the Web," said Kleske. "We realized that if we completely retooled the company, we could turn our online news service into a viable alternative to what the other papers are putting out. The challenge was to do it differently than everyone else." The plan to take advantage of the new medium took root fairly early at the paper. "We started this in November of 1994, which makes us a real old-timer on the Web" Kleske explained. The initial idea was to launch a bulletin board to publish the newspaper's specialized data. But William Revelle, whose family owns the company, had a different idea. A professor at Northwestern University, Revelle understood early on the possibilities inherent in the Web. "He said, `You guys gotta take a look at this Web thing' and it really only took me and the rest of the staff about 10 minutes on the Web to realize that this was where we wanted to be" said Kleske. "This was going to put bulletin boards and maybe even newspapers out of business."

Four years ago, the number of newspapers with online versions was minimal, at best.

Pointing out that at the time, the Los Angeles Times was still involved with Prodigy and the San Jose Mercury News was the only other California paper on the Web, Kleske boldly proclaims that, "We were the first Southern California paper on the Internet."

Tomorrow's newspaper today

Kleske said other newspapers made a mistake when they "put two or three people in a room across the street [from the newsroom] and had them regurgitate the news for the next day. …

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