Publishers Work to Increase User Base
The half-full attended Web Publisher's forum was moderated by OPA President Michael Zimbalist. The panel included CBS Marketwatch Publisher Larry Kramer, Washingtonpost.com CEO & Publisher Caroline Little, New York Times Digital CEO Martin Nisenholtz and Weather Channel President Debora Wilson.
Zimbalist opened the session with an overview of market conditions and then questioned the publishers on the current market is treating them.
Marketwatch's Kramer says his users have become more and more engaged in the site and that implementing behavioral targeting has provided an increase in value of each page of 3-4 times. Page design has been modified to lure users deeper into the site.
Washingtonpost.com's Little explained 80 percent of site users are not local necessitating page redesign to insure visitors know they are on the site. Additionally, she is considering the launch of two separate homepages catering to the specific expectations of local users versus national users. Times Digital Nisenholtz says the site sees 13-14 million users per month each spending between 38 and 40 minutes on the site. He considers this “not acceptable” and is building out the back of the site with more content as well as adopting rss feeds and syndication as methods of bringing additional users.
Moderator Zimbalist then asked the panel to comment on the increasingly distributed nature of the web and the emergence of RSS. Little says coming in through the home page is an old model and coming in sideways is the new method or arrival for most users. As well, the site has begun to write headlines differently online than off to more effectively attract search engine traffic. WeatherChannel's Wilson her site has been an early adopter of wireless delivery and aims to "surround the consumer with weather info: no matter where they are."
All publishers agreed that paid subscription models are not a priority nor are they a viable revenue stream at this point. Most publisher also agreed that combining sales efforts with offline properties has been a challenge as well due to the differing language of the two media and, at times, opposing sales goals.
When asked by a by an audience member how weblogs are affecting their sites, Nesenholtz say the New York Times has embraced weblogs and now links to them from some online articles. He says he "sees nothing wrong with pointing to another sources of content.” This, along with the implementation of RSS feeds, Nisenholtz sees as more of a user service rather than a revenue channel for the site.