Can we stop acting like selling advertising into a network is some big radical shift? It's not. It naturally falls out of the NewspaperNext project, which is a couple of years old now. It doesn't automatically mean that we quit being in the news business. And the thing that everybody seems to be missing is that newspapers have actually been selling into networks for years now.
Let's consider some examples:
Classified Ventures was created by newspaper companies way back in the last century. It runs a number of familiar national brands like Cars.com and Apartments.com. Newspapers sell advertising in local markets that is presented on those national brands.
Monster.com, CareerBuilder.com (owned by newspaper companies) and Yahoo Hotjobs all are represented locally by various newspapers under an array of deals.
One of the early tests of cooperating with your competitors was the creation of regional employment advertising networks in several areas of the country, such as Florida and Texas. In those cases, newspapers could sell ads locally that appeared on the websites of regional competitors.
Network-distributed advertising is a major component of the Newspaper Consortium deal with Yahoo. Newspapers can sell high-CPM behaviorally targeted advertising that is delivered across a broad network including the websites of newspapers, Yahoo, and other network partners and participants. (This is where most observers have completely missed the point, assuming that newspapers are drooling over the prospect of getting a flood of national advertising.)
And there are many other examples, including many that have failed. Been there, done that, got the Auction Universe T-shirt.
Success or failure in these areas isn't about new ideas; the ideas have been around for years. It's really about focus, execution, and whether you happen to align with forces beyond your control, like the economy.