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August 26, 1998


The online news business

Madhuri Velegar K at Pragati Maidan

Email this story to a friend. Back to IIW coverage index. Probably the most enlightening talk of the day, Dr Madanmohan Rao's lecture on the online news business was packed with loads of killer apps used by various Web sites.

The principal consultant at explained how the Internet is being accepted as a new medium. And how it is offering challenges through growth of portals Web sites and category killers (read niche sites).

The Net is definitely seen as a powerful tool that can be used in the publishing business. It has proved its mettle in several cases in the past: When a famous leader like Mother Teresa or Deng Xiaoping died, or the hand-over of Hong Kong to China took place or the Monica syndrome broke out, all increased traffic to news sites.

In fact, according to Rao, "A few Asian nations like Singapore and Korea managed to safeguard part of their financial balances because they had access over the Internet to business reports and analysis predicting the currency crash."

"Today there are two categories that are attracting Web based ezines. One is of becoming a portal. This is an evolutionary step. After being content-rich, offer a few e-commerce tools like free email and you can be on the way to being a portal.

Rediff On The Net may fall under this category for they have gone beyond news to now offer shopping online and a bit of commerce too and because they are content-rich, they may well be on their way to thinking of the portal idea, he said.

CNN is another instance of having gone beyond just news, they offer customised and personalised service by offering to give you news suited to your profile.

Killer category aps include, and This is the second way to hop on to the Web.

"Of course the fact that you begin first with anything is an added value advantage which you can use to leverage with your competitors," he said.

The difficult part comes when you try to earn revenue through your Web site. Rao explains that "For this you require a mature Internet auditing firm that will issue daily or weekly audits as certification of the hits and the pathway that your visitor takes."

"In the same way, you have to plan the growth of your ads through ad management: different ads on different pages. The trick here is that some of the ezines are adopting to publish first for free and are then charging a fee."

The Wall Street Journal is the first online newspaper to charge a fee for accessing its news. Today's news is free; you pay for yesterday's. Now Business Week, The Economist, South Morning China Post all do the same.

But how do you know when to charge? What if no one comes to your site with a fee?

"Here content is extremely important. Some sites like India Informer or gets content from elsewhere and meld it within their site to offer it to their consumer. It is its also like a category ap. The Chinese began a Web site during the Southeast Asian riots as a means to reach out to the Chinese Diaspora and tell the real picture through the Web, another killer category ap. There have been many, and if you are in the planning stage of setting up your Web site, it's time to think."

Rao classifies the first generation Web site versus the second generation.

The first generation only offer news and information services like tips and directories, gifting services but a second generation will offer archival, regional coverage, inclusion of content from other sources, they do event based promotions and go beyond news.

In fact, a second generation Web site could use the intranet (use technologies to interact with their offices) and use it in advertisement booking with the help of Web-enabled technologies.

Back to IIW coverage index. "However," Rao says in conclusion, "issues to remember before you launch your own Web site are: affordable audits for both demographics and psychographics, ability to manage peak traffic, copyright content regulation and evolution of a seamless site with all integrating operations."

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