Chris Jennewein launched the world's first newspaper Web site for Knight Ridder's San Jose Mercury News in 1993. He has since led the new media departments for the Knight Ridder and Cox newspaper chains.
The Newspaper Association of America presented him its New Media Pioneer Award in 1997, and two years later Editor & Publisher presented him its award for Outstanding Achievement by an Individual. Jennewein now is the director of Internet operations for The San Diego Union-Tribune.
"I'm a big optimist on this issue," said Jennewein. "I'm convinced that newspaper companies can use their online editions to more than make up for declines in revenue and circulation on the print side."
He said that his newspaper's site, SignOnSanDiego.com, makes more than it spends on payroll, taxes, employee benefits and marketing. The San Diego Tribune covers the operation?s overhead and equipment costs.
"While 40 percent of our revenue does come from classified upsells, that percentage is declining steadily. Moreover, our model requires customers to explicitly agree to the extra charge for online posting, and only 70 percent or so agree. So it's real money."
He thinks there are two major ingredients in the recipe for online success:
First: "Continuously updated local news. Newspaper Web sites must routinely scoop all local competitors, both online and off. You can do this through a combination of intelligent use of wire services and culture change in the print newsroom."
Second: "A dedicated online sales force focused on non-newspaper customers. The best prospects are those who don't advertise in print. SignOnSanDiego.com has a dedicated sales force of 15 people."
"Newspapers that simply post their print edition online and expect print reps to sell banners won't succeed."