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When "Web" does not mean that large roll of print paper

Other local publishers and editors still cling to the notion that if they publish online ahead of their print edition they may give "scoops" away to competitors, or that readers may stop buying the paper altogether.

Faridah admits advertising revenues have been miniscule compared to print but going online has broadened its audience globally and the email feedback has been encouraging.

Utusan Online's cyber journey has had some hiccups though. It previously attempted to mirror its Malay content in German, Spanish, French and Japanese. Maintaining translators eventually proved too costly. The newspaper's English alter ego Utusan Express , however, survived the cutbacks and this was significant in that Utusan has no daily print edition in English.

"I foresee a time when the publication will become more conspicuous and may even be spun off," says Faridah, who has three staff for the English version and relies on wires for additional content.

The Star originally went online to expand the paper's community role and build up brand awareness. "Those abroad could get news from back home without having to wait. We also hoped online readers would be 'ambassadors' to non-Malaysian friends," says veteran newsman Davin Arul who pioneered the project with colleague Gilbert Yap.

Advertising for the online edition has grown tenfold from 1996 to 1999, although Davin concedes that the bulk of ads is still in print. "Online newspapers won't last long if they rely on just banner ads and classifieds to survive. We need to become mediaries for our advertisers to their clients," he adds.

Davin is currently vice president of I.Star Sdn Bhd, a newly formed subsidiary of the paper, which may play that mediary role. Last month, I.Star signed a deal with Canadian company offering free English lessons on the Net and displaying ads while the students are learning.

Davin hints that the tie-up is only the beginning of a series that may see the paper selling advertisers' products directly for them. However, he does not advocate the path some U.S. newspapers have taken in building Web sites free for companies in exchange for a percentage of profits from the product or services offered online.

"Web development can be really time consuming and eat up human resources. What we could do instead is to partner with a Web developer to handle all this work. The way of the Web is to go out and form all these little partnerships and links and add them all up to a lot," he says.



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