The economics of new media and eCommerce had left smaller concerns on the outside looking in. With a population of only 38,000, the businesses in Crystal Lake, Illinois were feeling the pressures of keeping up with the Jones' on the Internet. The locals were especially feeling it from their neighbors 50 miles to the southeast, Chicago. This was of particular concern for the Northwest Herald, the town's newspaper with a daily circulation of 33,000 subscribers. For the Northwest Herald and its sister publications, new media was not only a threat but also an essential arena to enter.
Dean Romano, Internet Manager for the Northwest Herald, explains that the Northwest Herald had been online since 1997, "but there was not a clear direction." This was a typical reactive defensive response of newspapers in general to the new medium. Without a Web presence, the newspaper could lose subscriber interest. "If our readers can find what they want on our Web site, it keeps them away from our competitors' Web sites," explains Romano.
A Trusted Supplier Provides an Outsourcing Solution
Baseview Products of Ann Arbor, Michigan, a division of the MediaSpan group, serves over 2,800 newspapers with a wide array of publishing software. Terry Rorison, director of sales for Baseview Internet Technology Services, explains that Baseview recognized the nature of the Internet dilemma for small publications. "Our customers wanted to have a hosting service without having to incur the infrastructure and support costs," he says. Smaller publications needed an affordable, simple, hosted IT solution with full 24/7 technical support.
The solution was the creation of Baseview Internet Technology Services (BITS) in January 2001. "We designed BITS to be scalable and flexible for our customers so they can get what they need and afford even if that customer is one person with one computer putting out a publication." The little guys could now have the same opportunities in new media as the big boys at an affordable price with state-of-the-art software and delivery systems.
The Northwest Herald had tried other systems that did not meet its needs, so it turned to BITS. Romano says, "We use its software products and knew it was a company that we could trust. We knew that there would be support if we had a problem. We have such a successful relationship that it was a no brainer for us."
Beginning in November 2001, the vendor completed its research and development over the course of two months. "They were phenomenal in helping us with anything that we needed," notes Romano. The launch in January 2002 was seamless with no interface or porting problems. "When we went live in March with our smaller sister newspaper, the Kane County Chronicle, the process took one day," he reports.
The design for BITS emphasizes customization to fit the needs of the client. BITS developed an unobtrusive interface with all of the clients' software, regardless of the vendor. BITS addresses all of the technical issues in configuration and accommodation from its server. The client is free from the concerns of compatibility and display irregularities between the print and online versions of the newspaper.
Updating the online version is at the choosing of the newspaper, according to Rorison. "We want to put the controls in the customers' hands so that they can determine their needs." They can choose the time to automatically update the site or do it manually. "If they have a piece of breaking news they want to update, they simply go into the module, press the button and off it happens," Rorison explains. Otherwise, the updating automatically occurs with the newspaper not needing to do anything but preset the time.
BITS also offers the ability to generate reports from its database. Romano says that the Northwest Herald uses the reporting capabilities "extensively to do all of our tracking of banner campaigns and traffic on a monthly basis. It is very powerful."
Outsourcing Doubled Return On Investment
The online version of the newspaper provides an up-sell advantage, according to Romano. "It enhances our product line. Whenever you have a new product, there is an increase in revenues." In the classifieds, the purchaser knows that the ad will be delivered the way the reader wants to get it.
The Northwest Herald can now offer its customers new media outsourcing solutions through Web site design, hosting, virtual storefronts, and search engine registration. The businesses trust the Northwest Herald in pursuing these new endeavors. "They are accustomed to us being there for them to help them grow their business," Romano explains.
The return on investment (ROI) on the site when compared to cost of BITS services "is extremely profitable, well over double," reports Romano. The added value lies in the collateral advantages of building goodwill, addressing competitive market issues, and solidifying their place in the community. "We need to provide our readers with the content that they want in the way that they want it. BITS has helped us to become successful at that."
The reliability of BITS has been almost trouble free. "Our Webmaster is a very picky individual and he gives nothing but glowing reports about BITS." Romano can rest easy regarding the online version of the newspaper. "There is a lot of value to be had in knowing that I can go home and sleep at night."
Lessons from the Outsourcing Journal:
- Outsourcing allows traditional businesses to enter new media at a cost they can afford.
- Outsourcing can double the return on investment.
- Outsourcing allows the enterprise to provide its new services.
- Outsourcing to a supplier whose software you already use removes much risk from the relationship.