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Postman on Politics

Chief political reporter David Postman explores state, regional and national politics.

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June 23, 2008 2:32 PM

Weekly newspapers look for new revenue in big campaign year

Posted by David Postman

The state’s weekly newspapers have a new plan for making money from politics. The Washington Newspaper Publisher’s Association, which represents weekly and community papers, is building a Web site to compile state political news in the hope of selling politicians their names. WNPA President Bill Marcum said in this month’s newsletter put out by his group and Allied Daily Newspapers, representing the dailies:

We can also sell hot links to candidate, party and consumer Web sites. What does this mean? We would sell Dino Rossi his name every time it appears on the site. The name would be in light blue, hot linked to his Web site. WNPA would get paid (say $3) every time a reader clicked on this link and went to Rossi’s site.

An e-mail pitch to candidates explained it this way:

As you can see, each time your name is mentioned it will be hyperlinked and you can choose the website that the user is taken to, your campaign or donation page would be a prime spot. It is free to set up an account and only requires a $25 to begin receiving traffic. Click costs start at only $0.05/click and you can see exactly what each site is charging before you spend any money. Register today and let Washington voters find out who you are, what you stand for and create a name for yourself in the upcoming election.

There is a site under construction that is, at this writing at least, publicly available and obviously a work in progress. Other money-making ideas for the site are to sell display ads and host campaign videos.

Candidates could put their TV commercial on the site and would pay for the space and each time the video is viewed.

The site is being managed by an intern for now. WNPA General Manager Bill Will told me that when the site goes live in a few weeks it will include work from the weekly papers, but that the dailies, through Allied, will be welcome to join the effort. He says by e-mail:

The crux of the effort is to let users browse some headlines (or the RSS feeds of the papers that offer them) and nudge them back to the originating site if they want the whole story. We think that's a good way to fight back against bloggers who are playing fast and loose with copyright by lifting whole stories and slapping them in their blogs.

Marcum says in his article the aggregator site is one way for newspapers to fight declining revenues.

We as an industry need to work together to compete in the political arena, and over the past 20 years we have failed miserably in the political revenue category. Here is a chance to reverse the trend, using a medium that politicians want and need to get their messages to the public. They will find a way to do it with us or without us … why not make it with us, so we will make a few bucks along the way?

RELATED: Papers Facing Worst Year for Ad Revenue

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Posted by JimD

3:39 PM, Jun 23, 2008

I'm glad you're still employed after the Time's recent bloodbath.

I've recently run into more similarly imbedded links I assume are related, non-commercial content, but turn out to be commercial or political web sites.
It's a valid way to generate revenue, but will surely change the way we think of such blue highlighted names and words when we find them.
Three dollars to get directed to Dino Rossi's campaign site?
I suspect the 5-cent minimum is perhaps more than some campaigns are willing (or able) to pay.
The intern types who enthusiastically pitch these Internet schemes (and other supposed techno money machines) tend of over-state their potential.
When Howard Stern left commercial broadcast for SERIUS satellite radio, many predicted a good portion of this 20+million fans would pay $12 a month to follow him.
Turns out, less than 10% wanted to spend 57-cents a day for what they previously got for free.
I doubt Ross or anyone else will be signing-up in droves to pizz-off those who will feel hijacked when they find themselves directed to a commercial or political site they didn't want to go to.
This sure seems like a short-term way to capitalize on something Internet users are not yet accustomed to.
As blue ink becomes more universally synonymous with sites blatantly attempting to part you with your money, any value the scheme offers now will surely diminish even further.
Grab it while you can.

Posted by Jim Guthrie

3:51 PM, Jun 23, 2008

As someone who's spent the better part of the last four years monetizing traffic from both high-volume and low-volume sites, I can say with a good deal of experience that hyper-text links provide very poor conversion rates.

And political content converts even worse.

There may, may be some local candidates willing to fork out a nickel a click. But statewide? Highly unlikely. There's simply better and more efficient ways to get that traffic.

Posted by upchuck

6:45 PM, Jun 23, 2008

i'll be sure to click on every GOP candidate i see linked... at least a dozen times!!! = )

Posted by JimD

6:50 PM, Jun 23, 2008

We can turn it into a movement of support for newspapers publishers. With an army of volunteers clicking day and night, we could save the newspaper industry at the expense of politicians. Not that would be sweet justice ;-)

Posted by John

9:35 AM, Jun 24, 2008

JimD, announced last week The Seattle Times is tracking our web address for what? To sell this to other companies? Or make a database for political action groups like MOVEON.ORG
Greed in this paper is appalling.

Posted by Jim Guthrie

9:37 AM, Jun 24, 2008

Yeah. Click on the ads hundreds of times. Nobody's ever heard of click fraud, how to identify it and prosecute it. /sarc

Posted by upchuck

10:43 AM, Jun 24, 2008

i was merely joking there Jim...

on a more serious note it takes concerns of the commercialization of our news media to a new level. what would edward r murrow have to say about this? i already am highly suspicious of news pieces that are soft on iundustry when the same industry has many large ad buys in the same publication...

for maintaining any shell of its supposed role in our democracy to inform the public, news media should be looking for ways to make profit on the basis of delivering quality and dependable information and analysis rather than by linking stories dorectly to ad or political revenue sources

Posted by John

2:45 PM, Jun 24, 2008

The tiny secret the times will not tell you is they are giving the newspaper away with home delivery below their cost just to have higher circulation numbers. So if you want to shut down the times call up for home delivery and when they give you the price, say it is to high it will shock you how low they will go. :)

Posted by JimD

6:59 PM, Jun 24, 2008

John wrote:
"...JimD, announced last week The Seattle Times is tracking our web address for what?..."
That is a lie.
I said no such thing.

It's no "secret" that the Times (and every other newspaper) generates most of its revenue from advertising.
The cost of distribution is obviously not covered by the newsstand or subscription price - common knowledge, common sense and certainly not a "secret".

I was just joking too - although upon reflection I can maybe appreciate how even joking about it might tick you off, since it sounds like you may work in the Internet industry.

I share your concern with large, conventional advertisers.
The positive content component with this Internet re-direct scheme is that readers can choose whether they link or not.
I doubt there's much revenue potential there, but at least the scheme doesn't create an incentive for publishers to compromise content.......does it? Can't think of any at the moment...hmmmm...

Posted by John

7:54 PM, Jun 24, 2008

You say itís a lie, come on man, hallelujah, I finally found a guy that lies so much he canít tell the difference from what he said as truth or a lie.

Posted by Jim Guthrie

9:53 PM, Jun 24, 2008

Guthrie, I was just joking too - although upon reflection I can maybe appreciate how even joking about it might tick you off, since it sounds like you may work in the Internet industry. -jimd

Didn't tick me off at all. It's not my problem, personally.

However, click fraud is a very serious issue in today's Internet world. If people want to engage in it, be prepared for the big boys to come down hard.

Posted by JimD

10:13 PM, Jun 24, 2008

I appreciate that. But you're absolutely right, and even a satire of a fanatic creep who'd do something like that could be misintrepreted as a serious suggestion - especially around here ;-)

Posted by upchuck

11:39 PM, Jun 24, 2008

i don't know why i bother, but John is putting words in JimD's mouth. here is the actual quote from a previous thread. seems like John has trouble with his reading comprehension, but you can judge for yourselves...

"John - it couldn't be more obvious that you're also authoring William and a couple others, including the infamous "Jim".
Same exact style, same misspellings, same grammatical errors, same words...and as the Times' tech guy can quickly determine if you don't knock it off - from the same computer and/or server.
You've been forewarned ;-)"

Posted by John

12:03 AM, Jun 25, 2008

upchuck jimd all the same users.
Like how would the SEATTLE TIMES GUY know my SERVER if he isn't keeping track of our IPS numbers.

I'm waiting jimd and if I'm wrong I'm big enough to say so!

Posted by JimD

8:38 AM, Jun 25, 2008

He's got to be a troll, ya think?
If so- brilliantly done.
I can think of no better way to use this site to discredit the republican side of politics than this brilliantly stupid satire.

Posted by John

3:28 PM, Jun 25, 2008

If you can't stand the truth attack the messenger!

In Italian, I have a figure of speech for you, whoever you are today.

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