Irony is dead, last gasp of newspaper industry edition

February 2008:

Four large newspaper companies are joining forces to sell advertisements on the Internet, hoping that the combined heft of their Web sites will encourage large advertisers to spend more money.

Each of the four companies — the Tribune Company, the Gannett Company, the Hearst Corporation and The New York Times Company — is transferring a portion of its online ad space to quadrantONE, a new company that will be announced Friday.

The purpose of the joint venture, which will be based in Chicago and will hire 17 people [commitment!], is to let national advertisers place ads on local Web sites with a single phone call [phone call!].

The sites belong to papers like The Los Angeles Times (which is a Tribune property), The Des Moines Register (Gannett), The Houston Chronicle (Hearst) and The Boston Globe (The New York Times Company).

Some of the companies’ flagship sites, however, will not be included, because they are not considered local. These include the sites of USA Today, a Gannett paper, and of The New York Times and The International Herald Tribune, which are owned by the Times Company. [These are also known as the ones that actually have reasonable numbers of readers.]

Executives involved said the newspaper companies understand [by which they mean, “used to have a local monopoly but don’t anymore”] the local market better than Google, Yahoo and Microsoft…

The companies were also all part of the New Century Network in the late 1990s…

Source: New York Times.

March 1998:

[W]hen New Century Network was kicked off last April by nine [newspaper] giants teaming up to conquer electronic competition, even the launch party bombed…

In a ballroom at the Newspaper Association of America convention in Chicago, a thousand bottles of champagne emblazoned with ”New Century Network: The Collective Intelligence of America’s Newspapers” awaited the hordes expected to come to toast the watershed new-media joint venture. When fewer than 100 people showed up, Chief Executive Lee de Boer made an abbreviated speech before retreating…

The reception was the first public humiliation for New Century Network, but only one in a series of blunders that culminated in the company’s abrupt shutdown on Mar. 10. Created in 1995 to unite newspapers against Microsoft Corp. and other competitors girding to woo electronically advertisers and readers, New Century Network came to embody everything that could go wrong when old-line newspapers converge with new media…

Started with $1 million each from Knight-Ridder, Tribune, Times Mirror, Advance Publications, Cox Enterprises, Gannett, Hearst, Washington Post, and New York Times, New Century seemed an entrepreneurial dream. The Internet had just opened to the world, creating vast new competition for readers–and for the advertisers that pump $40 billion into newspapers. But it also gave newspapers a chance to capture national accounts that favored the one-stop-shopping convenience of TV and national magazines…

[T]he [newspaper] companies had wildly diverging philosophies about how newspapers should make the electronic leap and what role the new venture should play. ”You had private companies and public companies and companies that were risk-averse and those that were risk-tolerant,” says Harry Chandler, head of new media for Los Angeles Times. ”You had big-city papers and small chains. We shared a need. But it was frustrating trying to come together.”

While the wired world moved at warp speed, New Century spent 18 months hiring a permanent ceo and two years creating an electronic doorway to 140 newspapers… ”This [Internet] thing is really racing,” says Al Sikes, the former Federal Communications Commissioner who is president of Hearst New Media. ”Organizations of a number of co-equals can’t turn on a dime.”…

The partners ultimately invested more than $25 million in the virtual venture… The board decided… to pull the plug, coming to a remarkably quick agreement–for the first and final time…

Source: Business Week.