Note to the Tampa Bay Times: The online archives shouldn’t be ad-free

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The Tampa Bay Times has tens of thousands of articles, some mundane news and some as feature reading, on its former site domain. SPTimes.com represented the newspaper under its old brand name, the St. Petersburg Times. The publication moved operations to the regional domain name TampaBay.com before adopting the more regional brand name of publication, the Tampa Bay Times.

And the Times is bleeding money by way of not synchronizing reading assets from the old site with the current one.

"More Like We Can't Work It Out" sptimes.com Aug 4, 2002I tend to point people to a 2002 article where I’m the primary character in the feature reading. It’s my brush with fame; it’s my brush with the Beatles. The topic may not be relevant in a wide variety in this day and age but it will still coax in web traffic…without even a Google Ad displayed on the page, just dead-link self-advertisements by the publication.

Now take that little shtick and apply it to a topic that will draw web traffic on a wider pop culture scale. Jim Morrison, lead singer of The Doors, spent around two years in the Tampa Bay area before heading to Los Angeles and reaching fame. This feature read from 2005 draws eyeballs not only for the history of Morrison but also by touching on the woman who inspired some of the lyrical verse and poetry of Morrison’s, Mary Werbelow. The feature isn’t just one article but several pieces on a topic that holds appeal that’s far broader than just the Tampa Bay metroplex; it’s the history of James Douglas Morrison for God sake! The Lizard King and the girl that inspired him!

Yet, besides what amounts to irrelevant self-reference linkage on the sidebar, no advertising.

Another weighty example I’m going to reference here is from pro sports. If you’re a fan of the National Hockey League and know the Tampa Bay Lightning team history, you may remember the season after the Bolts won Lord Stanley’s Cup was wiped out by way of lockout. Players didn’t just sit back idle, some led to Europe or went further east and Mother Russia. Retired team star Vincent Lecavalier was one of the ones who went to the KHL to play, he joined AK Barz Kazan. Tom Jones, known for columnist tripe and blah-blah-blah in this day and age, went to Russia to report on things in his March 2005 piece Rough Translation. It holds weight in a far broader essence than simply Tampa Bay Lightning coverage (though the title suggests it’s just Bolts relevant). It also has no sidebar advertising and only self-linkage.

There’s an argument to make that simply by age it makes these cited reads irrelevant in a publication. The fact they’re available online is simply lucky. If this was 25 years ago, they’d only be accessible via microfilm. The Times could save a dime by taking down sptimes.com all together and just focus on current news and events and new reading on Tampabay.com.

Yet the Times could make a dime by investing in updating the location of these articles (and so many thousands of others) on to the TampaBay.com template. Add a generic advertising banner — not hyper-local, pay-us-directly-up-front ads but page impression advertising like general websites have by way of Google Ads and others out there. This should be at the forefront by a traditional print media publication. Heck, it should have already played out in the first decades of the new millennia: moving from print-media centric ad income and drawing revenue from online ads, be they through direct sales or generic banner advertisements.

Maybe it’s not a simple act to import site content onto the new domain name and put it under the modern site template. It’s still a worthy investment to try. Even if you have to keep things as-is, see about placing a generic advertisement on the sidebar and continue to have these writings (and so many, many others) truly hold a degree of value for the publication.

To keep things as-is cheapens the value of the brand, let alone the content that’s available online that draws interest not just from those subscribed to the Times but national and international readership.

For the record, the Times does have a limited paywall on TampaBay.com which applies more to day-to-day use than once-in-a-while visitors. Also for the record: Advertising does get annoying, especially pop-up ad content. Media entities do need to earn money for the news, opinion, and features they’re providing.

 

 

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