Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Newspaper Sites Put the Whole World in Your Hands

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Newspaper Sites Put the Whole World in Your Hands

Article excerpt

An outpouring of wireless services this spring offers intriguing new pathways for newspapers to distribute their product.

The services may revolutionize news delivery by making it ultraportable, but questions about advertising potential make wireless profits uncertain.

For now, newspapers are providing wireless content simply to broaden their reach. "We are committed to being able to deliver news and information to whatever platform consumers might want," says Ed Canale, director of new media at The Sacramento (Calif.) Bee.

Nowadays, going "portable" no longer means merely taking a laptop on a business trip or vacation. Now it suggests checking the stock market or traffic report while strolling around the mall.

Early this month, Cox Interactive Media launched Access Atlanta Anywhere, a service tied to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Web site, ajc.com. The service sends a variety of local content to Palm Pilots and compatible devices, pagers, and wireless telephones with Web access. Users can customize the content they receive to get local news, sports, weather, traffic, movie show times, and an entertainment calendar.

At the end of March, Belo Interactive unveiled My-Finance, a personalized service that sends daily stock and financial information to wireless users. The service is offered through the Web sites of Belo's major papers, The Dallas Morning News, the Providence (R.I.) Journal, and The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, Calif. As with the Cox service, users can personalize the content by requesting the stock quotes they want to see.

The Wall Street Journal offers a variety of wireless content, from financial headlines to article summaries to full stories. The idea is to tailor the content to each wireless device. Customers who have to pay for the content, according to their service contracts, may be eager to customize and get "a lighter download," according to Randy Kilgore, executive director of sales and marketing at wsj.com, the Journal's Web site.

During the early presidential primaries, The Washington Post sent election returns and political news to Palm Pilots and wireless phones from its Web site. The information was updated frequently, whenever the site was updated. The Post plans to extend its wireless offerings later this year with "substantial convention coverage," according to Eric Koefoot, vice president of business development for Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive.

The Sacramento Bee recently launched two wireless offerings. It is sending local news to Palm devices with one, and to cell phones and pagers with the other. It sends a report each morning and updates it twice during the day.

Even smaller papers, such as The Knoxville (Tenn.) News-Sentinel, are offering wireless services. It is currently sending the "Handheld Edition" of the paper to 270 Palm Piloters. Users can select from six different categories of content: general news, politics, sports, weather, business, and traffic reports.

All of these fledgling services are reaching out to a growing audience. There are 76 million wireless users in the United States, and 50,000 sign up every day, according to Cox Interactive Media. In Europe and Japan, the news services target the cell phone audience, but in this country, Palm Pilots and similar devices have taken off.

The question is, how many wireless users will sign up for newspaper content? The problem is: newspapers are competing with many others to deliver wireless content - from Internet giants, such as Yahoo! …

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