Given the woes facing the newspaper industry at this moment, it's not surprising that Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) decided to hold its Newspaper Consortium CEO Summit in Las Vegas this week. Over the past few weeks, I've spoken to a number of members who expressedoff the recorda mixture of hope and worry about the program, which has been the only ad vehicle providing strong online ad growth lately. For one thing, there's been some worry concern about the departure of President Sue Decker, who was a driving force behind the creation and development of the Newspaper Consortium. And there was also some trepidation about what sort of direction the program might take under new CEO Carol Bartz, who comes from a non-media executive background. In the past few weeks, members have been encouraged by Bartz' plan to address the assembly and are most taking a wait and see attitude.
A fair hearing: "I would feel more worried about Sue not being here if the APT program weren't already being rolled out," one member told me. "AS for Carol, I think we're relieved to see that Yahoo's search to replace Jerry is over and hopefully, with the reorg out of the way, the company can get back to more mundane business of driving ad revenue. I think it's a good sign that Carol is willing to talk to the members and I'm sure she'll get a more than fair hearing."
New additions: In the meantime, the Newspaper Consortium is welcoming the addition of NYTCo's Boston Globe and published by the Times Publishing Company, which is owned by the Poynter Institute, as its newest members. Since Yahoo unveiled the APT ad targeting and delivery platform back in September, the company has added over 50 other papers to its roster. It hasn't hurt that the worsening outlook for newspapers has made the early promises of the program more attractive. As Leon Levitt, Cox Newspapers' VP/Digital Media, told me, "This has changed the way we sell. We're no longer selling the Atlanta Journal Constitution or AJC.com. We're selling audience to advertisers and we're agnostic as to the product we sell to get advertisers that audience. That's much more of an internal change. If we're going to survive, and I believe we will, we have got to be able to do that. As for how we're doing, just at the Atlanta paper alone, sold $2 million in Yahoo inventory since we launched with APT last fall."
More than incremental: At the moment, of the 798 papers in the consortium, about 120 are using APT, said Lem Lloyd, VP of U.S. Partnerships at Yahoo and a former Knight Ridder exec in charge of the Newspaper Consortium. "This year, throughout the summer, we'll have about 500 newspapers set to go live on APT. Sales are increasing, though we leave it up to individual members to release their figures. We're seeing a lot more marketers who used to be more associated with hyperlocal sites as opposed to newspapers, everything from doctors to RV boatshows. And the amount of money in those segments is pretty healthy. It's not just incremental."
By David Kaplan