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MediaNews Group to Charge for Online Content

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MediaNews Group is the latest company to rethink its interactive strategy--one that includes what is surely to become the hot topic of the year: paid content. On Tuesday, a memo from the Denver-based company sketched out details of a meeting regarding, among other things, a pay model for its Web sites.

"It's going to be a multiprong approach," Jody Lodovic, president of MediaNews Group told E&P today. "We have given the task force the overall strategic objectives, and it's putting the meat on the bones at this point."

Lodovic said the company isn't expecting a windfall from charging for some online content; rather it's about providing a safe harbor for print. "The whole idea is to stop the erosion from print to online and encourage people to become print subscribers."

MediaNews plans to borrow the pricing strategy currently used by the cable industry by offering varied subscription packages. Explained Lodovic: "Say you are a Sunday-only subscriber, you can add on an electronic version and online components for a few bucks a year. If you don't want to be a print subscriber, we will still give you breaking news and abbreviated stories. We don't want to lose the traffic we have. We might look at micropayments or a registration model. If you pay one dollar a month you can avoid the micropayments. It's going to be a combination of all the above."

Lodovic points to the fact that MediaNews (and indeed the industry at large) needs to extend it audience. Lodovic confirmed that most of MediaNews' audience reads the print edition while going online too. "It's largely duplicative," Lodovic said, adding that online-only readership makes up roughly 5% to 7% of MediaNews' audience.

"The audience is still growing ... but we are not really reaching a younger demographic. And we can't go after a younger audience by simply putting the same content online [as in print]. That is not a business model. The newspaper brand is not going to attract a younger audience. We still want to leverage the value by creating a separate brand."

The company plans to take a "templated approach" to such areas like entertainment, health, "moms," and segment those audiences. In turn, MediaNews plans to sell behavioral targeting using Yahoo's APT platform against specific demographics.

MediaNews still plans to offer bundled packages to advertisers. Said Lodovic: "Our focus right now is creating a sales and marketing division in corporate and roll out tools to help sell audience not platforms." The idea is meet advertisers' needs -- maybe one advertiser wants to reach consumers using behavioral targeted online ads in addition to buying a print ad in the health section of the Denver Post. "We are putting in place all the tools necessary for all the sales reps to sell in that fashion."

In the past, sales people tended to specialize in one area. "It's not going to change overnight," Lodovic said. "It's going to happen over a period of time.”