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NCN and Real Media bury the hatchet: former market foes announce partnership that includes coordinated online ad sales campaigns.

Former market foes announce partnership that includes coordinated online ad sales campaigns

New Century Network (NCN) and Real Media Inc. have agreed to jointly promote newspaper Web sites and cooperate in online advertising sales and management services.

The companies have previously been head-to-head competitors, selling similar network ad services to essentially the same market of advertisers and online newspaper sites across the country.

The move comes as both companies face potentially potent new challenges from emerging newspaper industry competitors as well as new Internet publishers like Microsoft and America Online. For instance, Zip2 Corp., of Mountain View, Calif., has recently linked more than 130 newspaper Web sites into a single network that can facilitate the placement and management of ads; Knight-Ridder has launched its own national ad network of 32 newspaper sites; and Cox Interactive has begun promoting a national ad network of its own newspapers' Web sites.

`Tremendous amounts of competition'

"There's tremendous amounts of competition out there on the Web," said NCN senior vice president Tom Bates. "Even when we were going after each other eight months ago, (Real Media president) Dave Morgan and I were keeping the fines open, asking, `Could there be a better war.' I think we've now found that better way and, hopefully, going at it together will give us a much greater advantage."

Morgan of Real Media explained, "We ultimately came together because we have the same objective. We need to promote newspaper Web sites in a way that makes those sites more valuable. Working with NCN to promote our technology is great for us and working together to promote newspaper Web sites is great for newspapers. We all win."

NCN dumps NetGravity

Under the terms of a deal finalized Dec. 5, NCN will dump NetGravity, the firm that has supplied it with Internet ad management services, and replace it with Real Media's Open AdStream software. That software will now run on NCN's central servers, providing the digital backbone for the network that connects the Web sites of more than 140 NCN affiliate newspapers.

NCN has agreed to not only incorporate Real Media's software system as its core ad networking technology, but also to make that same ad management software available at special rates to its affiliates for their own Web sites. Until this summer, Real Media gave its ad management software to newspaper Web sites for free. Now it charges for the package and related services.

The two will also work together on the sale of network ad services. For instance, Real Media will now place all newspaper ads for its sports "event" Web site promotions through NCN.

"If we don't think in this larger, cooperative way," said Morgan, "newspaper Web sites are going to get largely shut out of national advertising. Both NCN and Real Media have been selling these sites for quite a while and some (newspaper site managers) understand what has to be done to make themselves attractive to national advertisers and others don't. By complimenting each other, NCN and Real Media will be better able to help newspapers package themselves for the national advertising community."

Partly owned by Publigroupe of Lausanne, Switzerland, and headquartered in New York City, Real Media is a Web technology firm that has rapidly expanded over the last year. It now provides online ad management services to a wide array of mainstream publishing companies in the U.S., and this summer began expanding its online ad placement network to include newspaper Web sites in Europe and parts of Latin America.

Also headquartered in New York City, NCN is a consortium formed by nine U.S. media companies to develop strategies that advance the interests of newspapers on the Internet. The nine owners are Advance Publications (Newhouse); Cox Newspapers; Gannett Co.; Hearst Corp.; Knight-Ridder Inc.; New York Times Co.; Times Mirror Inc.; Tribune Co.; and the Washington Post Co.

Temporary `event' Web sites

Real Media has been the most aggressive of the nation's ad management companies in the development and promotion of temporary sports "event" Web sites created with content from multiple newspaper Web sites. Earlier this year, it organized the Triple Crown horse race Web site sponsored by VISA, filled with coverage from newspapers in Kentucky, Maryland, and New Jersey, and linked by networked banner ads to more than a dozen other of the largest online newspaper sites around the country.

Currently, Real Media is playing a central role with three other companies in the U.S. and Europe in developing a soccer World Cup Web site promotion tied to newspapers in as many as 20 countries. The project has the potential to be the largest single, coordinated sale of print and online newspaper advertising space in history.

The idea of such "event" or "vertical" sites was actually first described by NCN well over a year ago, but the organization has not been able to actually field such a project to date. However, it has launched several other impressive Web features including its highly praised NewsWorks search engine and a new multimedia e-mail system that allows readers to subscribe and automatically receive specific features from online newspapers.

`DREAM LEAGUE' ONLINE AND PRINT AD PROGRAM

Largest such campaign ever?

Four U.S. and European media companies have joined forces in hopes of turning a "fantasy league" promotion based on the world's most popular sporting event into the linchpin of the world's largest-ever print and online newspaper advertising campaign.

The companies -- the Dream League Sports Network (DLSN) of Great Britian; Total Sports of Raleigh, N.C.; Publigroupe of Lausanne, Switzerland; and Real Media of New York City -- are working to weave together a globe-spanning network of newspaper advertising tie-ins for the World Cup soccer championship that takes place in France in June.

The companies' stated goal is to organize history's largest coordinated advertising program.

Held every four years, the World Cup competition is the world's single most popular sports event. The final 1994 game was watched by 2 billion TV viewers. The event also receives extensive newspaper sports section coverage throughout North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia.

Newspapers in 20 countries

Now, for the '98 games, the four-company advertising and promotion consortium is offering ad space in a print and online "Dream League" feature that will allow readers across the continents to create their own teams of soccer superstars.

The partnership has approached newspapers in the 20 countries that have already qualified for the World Cup, and currently has agreements with over a dozen in Europe, South America, and Africa.

"Dream" or "Fantasy" sports contests arc based on the concept also known as "Rotisserie Leagues" in the United States. In each case, the members of an individual's dream team amass points according to their actual performance in real games. The overall score of any given dream team, then, is directly linked to how well the individual members do in real-life play. play.www.dreamleague.net

Levins is editor of the MediaINFO.com Web site, Weekly section, and bimonthly magazine.
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Author:Levins, Hoag
Publication:Editor & Publisher
Date:Dec 13, 1997
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