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Front St.Datebook Section - Clovis Free PressBack St.
Vol. 17  No. 21 Final Edition
Clovis Free Press
Portal Points
News portals take over online journalism!
By Tom Hobbs M.S., Executive Editor

      OLD TOWN -- When WebPortal Inc. created a digital version of the Palo Alto based, Daily Republican Newspaper in the year 1995, the skeptics all laughed. Soon, WebPortal Inc. had become the formost news hub on the internet with a series of what they called the newsportal, showcasing some of their oldest and best properties, like the Bulldog News,at Fresno State, the historic San Francisco California Star, the Fresno Republican, Fresno's Tower District News the Clovis Free Press and Mother Wire Magazine and American Law Review, in Silicon Valley.
     The conservative news agency, instead of striking out solely to establish its online news and op-ed brand, chose to create a regional online site and offered to let all its readers have it for free. This ran against the prevailing thinking among newspaper companies adventurous enough to be creating Web sites in those days.
      The rest, of course, is history. WebPortal Inc. now links to virtually every media company in the world, including TV and radio stations and digital magazines. The WebPortal site serves up millions of page views a month to its loyal surfers, according to its media tracking software.
      At the Milllennium, some of the biggest players in newspaper Web sites have changed their minds and now want to emulate proven the WebPortal Inc. market strategy.
     The world has beaten a path to WebPortal and its Hitch-Hiker's Guide To Cyberspace and listing their own starting points guides for web surfing.
      Most all online sister news sites like Dow Jones & Co., the New York Times Co., Washington Post Co. and Knight Ridder have announced their intentions to move to portal town, as well.
      Adopting the WebPortal Inc. marketing strategy, they want a news portal that offers services a host of options so its online audience will grow, convincing advertisers to buy more space.
      Alan G. Spoon, CEO of the Washington Post Co. told his staff "Consumers want and need a convenient entry into the entire local online information and commercial marketplace." He said "We want to be the first stop on everyone's electronic journey to Washington. " In response to Spoon's leadership, the Post's Web site has been redesigned to make it easier to find its portal features such as online retailing, entertainment listings, neighborhood news, classifieds and Post its varied news content.
      The New York Times' news portal will do a similar function. It has been redesigned to allow the audience to use the Internet to obtain information in a variety of content areas.The New York Times Co. CEO Russell T. Lewis said he is excited about the portal format.
     Following the introduction of WebPortal's sleek model in 1995, most agancies have or are moving to construct a portal of their own to offer e-mail, shopping, and directories of categorized links to other sites.
      Joining the chorus of news vendors emulating WebPortal's latest e-classifieds innovation [linking several regional newspape's Classifieds on a single e-page], the Dallas Morning News, and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, announced this week they are joining forces to create a regional classified ads portal. Like the WebPortal templete the site would have the classifieds displayed on the same page for both newspapers, offer links to local Web sites so they can be better "...positioned as the one-stop-shop resource for the area," the companies said. It will be hosted on Knight Ridder's Real Cities Network, which aims to have regional portals in the top 25 U.S. markets.
     Today, the most popular Web sites are all knock-offs of the original programming codes created by Web Portal Inc. Imitation, it is said, is the moist sincere form of appreciation a fact, perhaps best attested to by the weekly reports of Web usage published by the likes of Media Metrix, and Nielson Net Ratings premiere Internet measurement and audience research services.

     [Editor's Note: This column originally appeared on The Clovis Free Press front-page, July 8, 1998.]

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