Paying the Online Rent

During the 6th International Symposium on Online Symposium, beautiful pictures of new innovative ways of conveying information through attractive images, dynamic graphics and interactive packages flashed the projection screen in a room full of hopes for the new future.

But Jim Debth, the internet general manager for the Austin American Statesman, brought a reality check to the dreamers.

“If we can’t support all those wonderful things, they will go away.”

Journalists resemble elephants and ostriches when it comes to this topic, Debth said – when they are not remembering the past, they have their head underground where they can’t see the future. Truth is, journalists must remember that their crusade to inform depends on the very real need for money. Debth, a participant in a panel on the current standing of online advertising and its ability to finance journalism, affirmed that the days when the internet was a simple experiment with a small audience has changed.

Yet today, just like the days of old, one thing remains certain – content is still king, and advertisers know it. In fact, they push to be included in the stories themselves.

This is the first time that old media sees innovation as an opportunity, Debth said. And the opportunities are plenty. With a $1.9 billion industry and 3% of newspaper revenue, online circulation is exploding. With the fruits of the Internet ripe for the taking, one challenge remains – finding a successful business model.

This question drives the newspaper’s entrepreneurs. How does the website get a larger audience? How does it get more eyeballs? And it’s important to get answers soon, Debth said.

“Our futures and jobs depend on the question.”

ISOJ 2005: Online Advertising, from Knight Center on Vimeo.