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Media firms in Web ad sales alliance

February 15, 2008|Michael A. Hiltzik | Times Staff Writer

In an effort to recapture some of the national advertising dollars that have fled the pages of newspapers for major websites, Tribune Co. and three other leading media chains today will announce a joint venture to sell ads on their Web pages on a national scale.

The alliance, called QuadrantONE, is financed by Tribune, the parent of The Times, along with Gannett Co., Hearst Corp. and New York Times Co.

The four companies own 129 newspapers and hundreds of other media properties, including magazines, information services and television and radio stations. Almost all have suffered revenue declines stemming from the shift of advertisers' dollars from print and broadcast to the Internet.

The terms of the partnership, including the size of each company's capital contribution, were not disclosed.

QuadrantONE, scheduled to be operating by April 1, is designed to offer national advertisers one-stop shopping for display ad space in the partners' network of websites. The sites reach 50 million unique users monthly and cover 27 of the nation's top 30 advertising markets, according to Dana Hayes, a Tribune executive who is functioning as the venture's interim chief executive. The network also would be open to websites unaffiliated with the partners.

Despite their broad aggregate reach, the websites still function as local media, Hayes observed. This has limited their appeal to national advertisers, which would have to make dozens of individual ad buys to assemble a national audience for their marketing. As a result, national brand advertisers have tended to migrate toward "portal" sites such as Yahoo.com and CNN.com.

"The ad market has become very fragmented," Hayes said. "So our websites haven't been able to monetize their audience," referring to the ability to use their millions of users to attract advertising revenue. That has increased losses from the migration of advertisers away from traditional media even as newspaper websites draw record numbers of visitors.

One study last year projected that Internet advertising would grow by an average of 21% annually by 2011, overtaking print-only newspaper ad revenue in 2010. But much of the increase will be diverted to Web-only entities such as Yahoo and Google.

Hayes said QuadrantONE would start with a sales force of up to 17, independent of the existing sales departments of its partner companies, and would be given its own inventory of ad slots on member websites.

Advertisers will be able to customize their ad buys by specifying individual sites, markets, news sections or targeted customers, Hayes said.

"The future looks quite bright in this area," Hayes said.

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michael.hiltzik@latimes.com

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