For those of you who missed this year's NetMedia 2003 Online Digital Media conference in Barcelona, we have produced this six-point summary to help you guide your news site to profitability.

1 Understand your audience

The internet provides a wealth of tools to help you understand more about your audience - use them. Profiles can be built from registration details and a viewer's online history, and incentives such as prizes or fun questionnaires can encourage readers to submit information.

Organisations like Nielsen/NetRatings provide detailed information on user groups. The average time spent online by 18 to 24 year-olds in the UK, for example, is 39.01 hours for men and 6.15 hours for women. Understanding your readership is key to developing appropriate content - and advertising.

2 Develop online content

But be aware of the economics - do you really need a completely separate online team? If you already have a team working on a print version, utilise their specialist areas to produce online columns, for example.

Both quality - unique, compelling and engaging content - and quantity - a diverse range of material to satisfy as many niche interests as possible - are key to a successful site.

Give your readers a greater role. offers readers their own blog, and the BBC invites readers to submit photographs.

3 Use free content to attract payment

"Free content is the river on which paid subscriptions arrive," according to Vin Crosbie, managing partner of Digital Deliverance. Take details of readers when they sign up for free and you will be able to provide a better, tailored service when they begin to pay.

The premium provider - the recognised brand leader - can always charge more for content.

When the subscriptions arrive, use automatic payment renewal systems to cut the drop-out rate.

4 Intelligent advertising

Move adverts around a page so that readers do not get used to seeing them in one place and screen them out. Develop tailored advertising so that the right viewer sees the right advert.

Do not use adverts that automatically pop-up when you load a page; they are intrusive. Instead, try using text-sells on the page that open an advert in a new window - that way you can even use traditional graphic adverts similar to those that appear in your print edition.

5 Market and develop your brand

Think how another publisher might plan a competing site. What are you doing? What are you not doing?

Promote your web site address across different media. Encourage print readers to follow through to your web site by including three web teasers on the front page of the print edition.

Existing brand leaders have been the most successful in charging for content - so aim to be the future brand leader online.

6 Make the most of online tools

Use technology to ease the experience of your readers. Concentrate on navigability, and develop pages in a format to read as well as a format to print.

Take advantage of multimedia reporting and publishing tools: digital cameras, video, SMS, mailing lists, audio and web writing formats such as blogs.

Keep up to date with software and new tools. RSS - or Rich Site Summary - will be the next step in the format of the web and many sites, including the BBC, are already using it.

More information: - winner of the NetMedia Best News Blog award 2003 - a useful source of news and information on paid content:

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