Bat Boy Is Back Online!
WeeklyWorldNews.com, the Web version of the paper famous for headlines like "Bat Boy Found in Cave" went live again the evening of Feb. 8.
Beginning Feb. 4, visitors to the site were met with a message admonishing them to buy the print edition of the paper, or that the site would be gone permanently.
"I've had enough of this free web crap. When I was a kid, the only thing we got for free was a beating," wrote longtime columnist Ed Anger on the newspaper's home page.
"So I want all you deadbeats to start buying the WEEKLY WORLD NEWS this week and I MEAN NOW! ... If we don't see you buying this incredible newspaper -- NO MORE WEBSITE!"
"Ed Anger is always angry," quipped Kevin Hyson, chief marketing officer for Weekly World News' parent company, American Media Inc. "He's a very down-home American. He really believes in apple pie, and he got fed up with all of this free Web stuff, so he insisted that we do this."
The promotional stunt comes as publishers face the worst ad slump in memory and wrestle with how to get their Internet initiatives to pay off.
Many Web publishers have been serving more intrusive ads to please advertisers. Others have introduced paid subscription services.
As a result, the Weekly World News promotion apparently struck a nerve with some. Hyson said he received e-mail from some writers who thought American Media was "striking a blow" for paid content.
"I think they got the joke," he said. "I just think they saw this as an opportunity to say 'hey, if I've got to do this for free, how am I going to make a living?'
"The e-mails from people who really know the paper thought it was funny," said Hyson.
When the site went live again Friday evening, visitors were greeted with a pop-up window thanking those who bought the paper.
"Ed Anger was so happy he took a case of scotch, a blonde, and a can of tuna fish (don't ask) and left on a 5 day road trip. We'd also like to say the following to everyone who went ballistic when we temporarily closed the site, including many members of the mainstream press who take this stuff a bit too seriously...Lighten up!"
Hyson said he was unaware whether it boosted newsstand sales.
In any case, WeeklyWorldNews.com has never competed with its print counterpart, according to Hyson.
"We're a conservative publisher, and our money comes from our print product," he said.
Readers must buy the print version to get the fresh content.
The Web site publishes older content, serving as a value-add and an archive tool, said Hyson.
"If you were a new reader and you happened to read in the new issue that Bat Boy just escaped from prison in Argentina, you could find out what he was doing in Argentina in the first place," he said. "What goes online are usually things from an issue that is a week or two off-sale."
The shutdown drew national press, including a piece in the Wall Street Journal online.
Weekly World News had a print circulation of 275,000 at the end of 2001, down from 328,000 the year before.
American Media, Boca Raton, FL, also publishes the National Enquirer, and was the subject of well-publicized anthrax attacks in the fall. Its original offices where the attacks took place are still closed, said Hyson.