NEW YORK: In olden days, when the worldwide web was a mere twinkle in the eye of Sir Tim Berners-Lee, newspapers fought a ferocious battle against each other to grab the attention of readers and advertisers.
These days, however, they are more prone to forge alliances as they battle to stem the outflow both of readers and ad revenues to online rivals.
US domestic newspaper groups Gannett, Tribune, Hearst, Media News Group and Cox Newspapers are reportedly mulling a central sales unit to offer national marketers 'one-stop shopping' for their web ad requirements.
The team would focus exclusively on selling for newspaper sites and give national advertisers a single point of contact.
For example, if the Chevrolet auto brand wanted to buy the same spot on the sports page of a group of local newspaper websites at a specific moment during a sports season, it could do so via one call to a network sales representative.
In addition, companies are considering the next level of cooperation, such as joint call centers and printing facilities, together with common delivery systems.
Talks are still in their infancy and the newspaper groups will have to overcome tensions over an ad partnership with Yahoo to which some of them signed last year.
Hearst, Media News and Cox and others teamed with the web giant to boost its job placement site HotJobs. Yahoo offered the publishers content sharing and cross-selling of ads as part of a national network.
Those not in the Yahoo deal, notably Gannett and Tribune, are co-owners of CareerBuilder.com, the biggest job website in the US and a HotJobs rival.
Although newspaper publishers insist their Yahoo marriage is still going strong, they acknowledge that it does not fulfill every need, namely the ability to sell their own national ads across each other's sites.
Says one unnamed executive: "Fundamentally, there is a need to make it easier to buy ad space on our internet sites.
"Yahoo still has the best technology platform. But why shouldn't the newspaper industry have its own [ad sales] firm? Don't you want to get out and tell your own story?"
Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff