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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    The Information Valet Project

    Internet ad revenue totaled $11.5 billion in the first half of 2008, up 15.2 percent from last year, but news organizations have found it difficult to effectively use the Internet to be lucrative.

    The layoff of 400 jobs at Scripps in the third quarter and nearly thousands of other media job cuts presages the demise of traditional business models. News organizations will cease to exist if they do not find an effective way to monetize the Internet. The Information Valet Project seeks to effectively use target advertising to make money on the Internet, although it is only in its planning stages.

    Online readership has great potential and continues to grow. Students procrastinate in the late hours of finals week clicking and scrolling through stories off the Internet. Headlines on Yahoo! News continue to grab viewers while they surf through the Internet.

    The Information Valet Project plans to reap the potential yield of Internet readership through target advertising. It uses demographic information that is managed by information valets. Information valets are content providers that a user pays for and a user chooses. The content provides bundles the demographic information together into a profile allowing for targeted advertising and a shared network.

    The process begins with logging onto the information valet. When the user accesses a website, the web site contacts the information valet for demographic information on the user. The website receives the information and uses it to alter its website or advertisements, catering to the user.

    The project seeks to supplement revenue by charging users for consuming content. Dean Singleton, CEO of Media News Group, suggested in the Pioneer Press that Internet ads alone cannot sustain journalism. Additional payment is needed to supplement the Internet advertisement revenue.

    “Long term, we’ve got to get paid for news online or we can’t keep producing it,” Singleton said.

    Paul Maidment, the executive editor at Forbes Magazine, said on “On the Media” that consumers will be annoyed with advertisements and pay less attention to them. “What will happen next is that the audience will say, ‘If you’re going to sell us to advertisers, then you’ve got to pay us,'” Maidment said.

    Users choose to view the advertisements that are geared towards them. The more advertisement users view, the more credit they receive on their account. This results in discounts on their bill at the end of the month.

    Bill Densmore, a fellow of the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism, is spearheading the new economic model for news providers to sustain journalism. The challenge of this project is developing the technological infrastructure to sustain the information valet. It is also difficult to quantify whether news consumers are willing to pay for news and information.

    Aleksandr Grzhibek, a sophomore at Stony Brook University, felt indifferent about the news. Grzhibek is reluctant to pay for the news that he gets for free now. “I’d just click on the ads all the time to get the content for free,” Grzhibek said.

    Densmore explained that some consumers have had mixed opinions about paying for news content. Densmore talked to a man who was not a particularly enthusiastic news consumer, but the young man would still pay for news content to keep journalism alive.

    Douglas Lerner, an avid news consumer from the Upper East Side, is willing to pay for the news because he believes in keeping journalism alive. Without the news, he believed that corruption would skyrocket.

    Lerner, however, had mixed feelings about the packaging of sensitive information. He felt at ease after an explanation of the project.

    “I’ll give my soul to the devil,” Lerner said jokingly about handing over his key information.

    The Information Valet Project is strictly in its preliminary stages and many of the key features of the project still need to be hammered out. Loopholes may exist in the project, but Densmore’s main concern is garnering support for the idea. “Usually, more people do what’s right rather than what’s wrong,” Densmore said.

    Dana Todd, the CEO of Newsforce, another organization working with advertisement on the Internet, thinks that advertisements need to be reworked in order for maximum profits. She suggests that it is necessary to educate people on new business models to effectively advertise to news consumers.

    “It’s going to be an uphill battle to educate people,” Todd said.

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