Saturday, April 14, 2007

Newspapers and Yahoo

When you read today about McClatchy joining a consortium of newspaper companies and Yahoo, keep this word in mind: strategic.

We think there are a lot of operational advantages for us; we wouldn’t be doing it if we didn’t. But at least as important from my perspective is what the decision says about our strategic direction.

There are a lot of moving parts on the operational side. As the press release and stories have pointed out, separate parts of the plan deal with advertising, search and content. Each revenue model works differently; some parts of the agreement can be implemented almost at once, while others will take longer to emerge.

For those of us on the news side, the opportunities are apparent. When Yahoo spots a reader from a zip code in our coverage area, links to our stories (on our websites) will be featured in local content listings. This will be true on Yahoo news pages, sports pages, in the content boxes on Yahoo Mail and even the little scrolls under Yahoo instant message windows. Selected content will also be featured on non-local Yahoo pages like Finance.

Remember, these are all links: readers who click become unique visitors at our websites. For journalists, that means great reach and more chances to have your stories read. For ad staffs, of course, it means more traffic to sell. (The Trusted Voices deal we announced a month ago works somewhat differently; a small part of our content in that deal will appear in whole on Yahoo. But there, too, we will be using exposure to Yahoo’s immense audience to drive folks back to our site for more.)

Yahoo’s capacity to identify users by location helps place links to our local content in front of the people most likely to want it. Similar, far more sophisticated technologies can target advertising with precision that makes it more relevant and attractive to users and, of course, more valuable to advertisers. We get to sell that capacity to local advertisers.

This is a simple illustration of how partnering with a technology company like Yahoo can advantage us. It’s a simple refutation of those who see the world as us/them; MSM vs. the internet; win/lose zero sum.

We can reach a lot more people with our journalism; in my world, that’s unmitigated good. It looks to me like we can make a lot more money this way, too – and we all know that’s what it takes to sustain the newsrooms that make it worthwhile.

I like where we’re heading.

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