NBR, Herald fine-tune online moves

While 'NZ Herald' publisher Wilson and Horton is talking freely about its nascent Internet plans, Liberty Press, publisher of the 'National Business Review', is well advanced on an ambitious and secretive Web-site development.

While NZ Herald publisher Wilson and Horton is talking freely about its nascent Internet plans, Liberty Press, publisher of the National Business Review, is well advanced on a highly ambitious and, until recently, highly secretive Web-site development.

From the start, says publisher Barry Colman, Liberty Press has had its eyes firmly on making money out of the Net. “Right at the outset we said we didn’t want to be involved in it just for the sake of it and that it had to be a business unit that would stand in its own right,” says Colman.

Sceptics may be tempted to point to Liberty’s recent less-than-successful history in new ventures such as its short-lived and costly Yes magazine/newspaper and the new-agey New Spirit. But Colman sounds confident.

“We’ve gone out and arranged the sponsorships and advertising based on very clear criteria,” he says. “We’ve said this is the value we’ve set on it, this is the number of hits we believe you’ll get, therefore X dollars would be very good value if you want to come with us.

“We’ve taken quite a different tack to the other newspapers all around the world who’ve started off by developing the Net to see how it worked and giving the information away free. We’ve said that information is valuable and we’re not going to give it away.”

The magazine AdMedia leaked details of the Liberty Press project in its September issue, saying that the group is making a bid to become the predominant supplier of New Zealand business information on the Internet with a site made up of 26 parts, including sharemarket, property, news and political sections, and an ambitious plan to woo advertisers.

Colman says he still can’t give detail about the project and, despite the leak, he is still bound by confidentiality agreements. However, the property press section of the development has gone online (http://www.property-press.co.nz/) offering 3000 listings and a preview of the Liberty Press strategy.

Real estate companies will be offered free listings until February 1, after which a $12 charge is to be introduced. A banner advertisement greets the viewer with a link back to the BNZ Home Base page. BNZ is a major sponsor, according to Colman, seeking to expand its mortgage portfolio. Beneath are six categories of property and the banner spaces on these provide contact details for possible further advertisers.

According to AdMedia, banner ads on section front pages are being offered at $25,000 and on section contents pages and pages within these at $12,500 and $6250 respectively.

Colman is claiming success for the site already saying over 37,000 hits have been received on the property press site in its first three days, with one property sold and offers coming in at a rate of over 10 a day.

Liberty is said to be planning a million-dollar advertising campaign to launch its online venture, including brochures, direct mailing, display ads and the insertion of navigation software into NBR.

Colman’s plans are for the site to be much more interactive than the bulk of Web sites seen to date. “It’s going to be an interactive centre where you can do business,” he says.

The next section of the Liberty Press site to go live is to be the Motor Guide Weekly, but Colman says no date has been set for that.

In contrast to the seamless Liberty strategy, the Herald’s plans are positively unambitious, involving an incremental site development.

John Willis, operations manager at the country's largest daily newspaper, says the Wilson and Horton plan is based around getting information about the company and its various divisions online.

“The things that will come out will be the different commercial sides. The different departments have a lot of ideas about what they want to do, along with editorial as well.

“It will become clearer to them as we go through the process of putting up Web pages.”

The Wilson and Horton site is envisaged, in the early stages at least, as a purely promotional and information oriented vehicle for the group, with the possibility of some content in the form of the Herald’s Kid Kiwi section and interactive crosswords going online. There are no plans for the site to make money at this stage. In fact, the Internet project hasn’t even got a budget yet, but Willis hopes that advertising content will come on further down the track.

“It’s going to start over the next three to four weeks and it should be finished before the end of the year,” says Willis.

“We’re trying to do a blanket cover of the whole group so that even the Katikati Times has a presence.

“One thing the Herald’s got is content already.”

At the moment the Herald’s plans are being developed in-house but outside consultants will be introduced when the plans are firmed up, “hopefully in the next couple of weeks”.

Copyright is seen as putting some restrictions on what content the site may hold, so don’t expect the Herald to suddenly go electronic. Willis says the development will be completed in stages, with each department coming up with their own ideas and then they’ll “spin off into other projects”.

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