“Web news wars” and CNN.com

Brian Stelter has a good story in today’s New York Times about CNN.com and “Web news wars” among top news sites.

Some snippets that caught my eye:

On media ubiquity

  • CNN now is as close as any news entity is to achieving ubiquity, with an array of television channels, Web sites, a radio network, airport TV sets and magazines. It is even signing up newspapers for a wire service — fed by CNN.com — that will compete with The Associated Press.

    The challenge, for Mr. Estenson and others, is to make CNN.com more distinctive. At the end of a long day recently, he showed a visitor screen grabs of four Web pages on his Macbook Air.

    “When you look at the top news sites, they often look almost identical,” he says, gesturing to the home pages of CNN, ABC News, The Wall Street Journal and Yahoo News. Down to photo choices and color schemes, the four sites look practically interchangeable and utilitarian, he says — hence his emphasis on the power of “unique signatures.”

On high-traffic times

  • Tracking audience sweet spots is also a juggling act. CNN’s television arm exerts much of its pull during the prime-time hours of 8 to 11 p.m., when advertising rates and audience levels are highest. But for the Web news desk in Atlanta, prime time is the lunch hour, when users log on during work breaks.

    More broadly, Ms. Golden defines “Web prime” as 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. During those hours, the home page will feature six or seven lead stories, on average, so no one headline lingers too long.

On profitability

  • CNN.com formally achieved profitability eight years ago, the company said; Time Warner doesn’t break out separate revenue figures for the unit. In an era when “monetization” is a buzz word among news organizations migrating to the Web, CNN.com has been able to capitalize on its traffic surge by keeping visitors on the site longer, thus exposing them to more ads.

    It’s also trying to make money from more experimental forays. During the inauguration coverage on Tuesday, for the first time, CNN.com Live, the Web site’s video arm, will include TV-style commercial breaks. Until now the only ads on the streaming service have been snippets that play before the main clip, and small sponsorship banners.

    Amid a recession, advertising sales are sluggish on television and online, putting a damper on CNN’s growth plans. But CNN.com is expected to remain flush; while Web revenue doesn’t match TV’s, the costs aren’t nearly as high.

Published by Newley

Hi. I'm Newley Purnell, a journalist covering technology and business for The Wall Street Journal, based in New Delhi. I use this site to share my stories and often blog about the books I read, tech, sports, travel and more. Join the growing group of readers who get my email newsletter.

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