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The problem of information by Internet touches many areas and calls into question well-established economic principles. There are approximately 1,500 official press sites on the Web (daily papers, magazines, newsletters), although by the time you read this, the number will have slightly increased. But few of them seem to have truly understood the Internet revolution. Very often these sites are boring shop windows, sometimes including an extract of the day's edition. It is useless to point out that these sites have a limited effect, both from an internal point of view (they don't help prepare their employees for the information society revolution) and from an external point of view (these sites are sparsely visited and record few regular visitors). The Wall Street Journal, La Tribune Desfossés and Les Echos are among the pioneers, and demonstrate how it is possible to play the virtual card intelligently.

The Wall Street Journal was one of the first and few papers to put the whole of its daily edition on line. Initially, access was completely free for all visitors. This allowed the site to become known, to identify its readers (to obtain free access to the daily edition, a form had to be completed) and to increase reader loyalty. First programmed in mid-1996, a paying access system was set up towards the end of that year. Out of the 400,000 readers who completed the form, only 40,000 agreed to subscribe (50$ a year) in order to continue to receive online access. Although this figure might seem disappointing, it should be seen in the context of classic direct marketing campaigns (between 1% and 3%). There is another reason why the Wall Street Journal figures as a world-wide example : it is one of the only publications to have decided to install the team responsible for its website right next to its news room.

The Tribune Desfossés has been present on the Web since 1995, but its site is of limited interest : although the whole of the daily paper was available, visitors were put off by its user-unfriendly interface, which devalued its content. Since November 1996, a completely redesigned interface and a real communication project (including real value-added services : discussion groups with experts, key-word research possible from several years' archives, stock exchange information, business advice ...) has made this site one of the most successful and ambitious among the French and European press.

There remains the delicate question of feasibility. Although there are numerous sources of income (subscriptions, advertising, small ads, archives, professional services ...), no pattern seems to be emerging. The figures are encouraging : 36% of American newspapers reported that they had run an economically viable Internet activity during 1996, or intended to do so in 1997 (source : NAA, Newspaper Association of America) ; 24% forecast a break-even point within the next four years.



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If you enjoyed this site, we obviously share values: we have written it in 1999 !

We haven't updated it online as the vision still is more and more relevant: the more the internet matures, the closer it gets to our vision.

We still believe in innovation, creativity, rigour and results control.

Contact us if you need webmarketing services:

Raphael Richard, founder

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