News International’s long-awaited foray into electronic newspapers
begins this week with the launch of Internet editions of The Times and
The Sunday Times. In two months’ time, advertisers’ directory Brad will
launch its first listings of Internet publications which carry
The Web seems to be coming of age as an ad medium, but when pressed,
even its strongest supporters admit it still isn’t up there alongside
‘I’d say we’re targeting R&D budgets as much as media budgets,’ says
Simon Jones, commercial manager for Internet publishing at News
That’s one of the reasons why his new site doesn’t have a ratecard,
despite the presence of advertisers such as PeopleBank and Sun
‘Selling this isn’t like selling ad space in The Times and The Sunday
Times,’ says Jones. Instead of fixed costs for slots, he offers three
levels of involvement: Hotlinks, which readers can click on to jump to
an advertiser’s own Web site; sponsorship of parts of the site; and an
all-in service using News International’s Delphi subsidiary to design
and run Web sites for advertisers which can be accessed from News
Right now, none of these look like huge money-spinners. Certainly over
at The Guardian, whose GO2 (pronounced Go To) site went live in
November, recruitment ads are still free and, as at The Times, there’s
no ratecard for display. Instead, advertisement director Carolyn McCall
is looking for a couple of partners rather than a long list of
advertisers buying standard spots.
The Electronic Telegraph has been around since November 1994 and now
claims 150,000 registered users, with 15,000 individuals visiting the
site every day. Advertisers have included TSB, Vauxhall, Barclays and
United Airlines. It sounds impressive, but technical manager Fiona
Carter agrees that many have come at it as an R&D exercise rather than a
part of the media schedule. Nevertheless, some advertisers, such as
United Airlines and Barclays, have already come back for more.
Reel to real
For all these publishers, being online is more an expression of hopes
for the future than a present-day money-spinner. For News International
especially, the possibilities are huge. When the speed of the Internet
increases enough for real-time video to be a possibility, there’s no
reason why a Times report on rugby shouldn’t carry full-motion footage
of the crucial tries, courtesy of Sky TV.
All this depends, firstly, on technical advances, and there seems little
doubt that they will come. But it also depends on Internet access
becoming popular with consumers, and that could take much longer.
As with satellite TV in its early days, Internet publishing faces a
dilemma: without good content, few consumers will hook up. But without
those consumers, few media owners will want to provide the really good
content that will draw them in.
News International has linked up with Motorola to offer an Internet
start-up kit to encourage readers to get on-line.
It was News International and Amstrad which broke the deadlock in
satellite. Could they do the same for the Net?
The nationals online
* The most developed national newspaper site is Electronic Telegraph
(www.telegraph.co.uk) which was one year old in November. It charges
pounds 25,000 for six weeks, during which time advertisers’ copy moves
around between editorial sections.
* There’s no fixed ratecard for the Internet editions of The Times and
The Sunday Times (www.the-times.co.uk), but the entry-level cost will be
around pounds 12,500, which buys two ‘hotlinks’ facing editorial matter
for three months.
* The Guardian’s GO2 (GO2.guardian.co.uk) also declines to offer a
* The Financial Times (www.ft.com) launched last May.