Tribune Kicks Off Registration Drive for Online Editions

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Tribune Interactive, a division of media conglomerate Tribune Co., now requires first-time visitors to Chicago Tribune's Web site to register before they can read the full online edition and will expand the program to other newspapers.


Initiated in early March, the move will enable Tribune Interactive to recognize regular readers of chicagotribune.com and share some of the audience's characteristics with advertisers. Tribune Interactive currently targets advertisements on its Web sites only by section content.


"We'll be getting a lot smarter in terms of who our customers are and what they like and where they like to go and what they value most," said David Hiller, president of Tribune Interactive, Chicago.


Details asked of readers are standard demographic fare: name, password, e-mail, address, ZIP code, household income, gender and year of birth for compliance with privacy policy concerning minors.


The publisher also would like to know if online readers subscribe to the print edition. If so, then a telephone number is required to communicate future subscriber-only benefits.


Since the section-by-section phased rollout began, chicagotribune.com has garnered 169,000 registered users.


Around mid-April, online users of Tribune's Los Angeles Times will be asked to show their hands. Latimes.com currently offers optional registration for its Latte newsletter and other alerts. Nearly 80,000 users have registered for these services.


And later in the summer, the same registration process will be required of readers of the online edition of Tribune's New York area newspaper, Newsday.


"The registration initiatives will help Tribune better understand our customers and we will be able to make more informed decisions as the market for online content improves," said Christine Hennessey, public relations manager at Tribune Interactive.


"When the market for online content evolves," she said, "Tribune's three largest newspaper sites will be able to target advertising by data points and user behavior as well as provide premium content offers to subscribers."


The argument can be made that Tribune lags behind peers like The New York Times in its registration initiative. But the publisher chose to first roll out a standard publishing platform across all sites. The net benefit is that registration on one Tribune site allows access to all company-owned sites.


"We'll be able to offer multimarket advertisers solutions to advertisers in these three major markets," Hennessey said.


Headquartered in Chicago, Tribune has 11 daily newspapers, 23 television stations, two cable channels and more than 40 Web sites.


Among the other leading online properties of Tribune are Baltimore Sun's sunspot.net, South Florida Sun Sentinel's sunsentinel.com, orlandosentinel.com, Hartford Courant's ctnow.com, Allentown, PA-based The Morning Call's mcall.com, stamfordadvocate.com and greenwichtime.com.


All told, the Tribune Interactive sites collectively attracted 8 million unique visitors in February, according to Media Metrix.


As for advertisers, Tribune Interactive counts AT&T Corp., General Motors Corp., United Airlines and Trip.com among its leading online supporters. The sites offer options like banners, tiles, sponsorships and sweepstakes campaigns. In rich media, its sites are capable of running Eyeblaster and Shoshkeles, or moving visual ads.


Like many online publishers, Tribune Interactive is working with advertisers to develop custom content. Recent examples include an latimes.com and Miller Brewing Co. "Out in LA" campaign and Tribune's entertainment-based BlackVoices.com's General Motors deal.


Tribune Interactive revenue last year rose 42 percent to $59 million, up from $42 million in 2000. The division expects to turn a profit by the end of 2002.


The revenue jump was "primarily on higher classified revenues," Hennessey said.


Though Tribune Interactive benefits from its cross-media holdings as media and audiences fragment, it is clear that the Internet is one of the bigger challenges facing the company.


"Like most publishers with strong print and online businesses, Tribune is evaluating new ways of deriving value from its content, including paid content and subscription models," Hennessey said.


"We're in the process of studying those concepts in our major markets," she said, "taking into account the potential impacts on both our online and print businesses, and the desires of our readers and advertisers."


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