Online Publishers Launch Trade Group

Twelve of the biggest names in the Web publishing industry have launched the
Online Publishers Association (OPA), an advocacy group to deal with the
advertising community, the media, the government and the public.

As earlier
reported
, the OPA was formed to act as a policy and advocacy group for
content creators who do business on the Internet.

Founding members are the New York Times Digital (NYTD), the Wall Street
Journal Online (WSJ), CBS MarketWatch, MSNBC.com, CNET Networks, Inc., Conde
Net, ESPN.com, The Industry Standard, KnightRidder.com/Real Cities, Salon
Media Group, Inc., USATODAY.com and the Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive.

Former ePod vice president Michael Zimbalist, who will serve as the
association’s acting executive director until a permanent head is named, is
currently the group’s only paid employee.

Zimbalist, who will work out of the NYTD’s Manhattan office, said the
mission of the group is to provide online content brands with a unified
voice on issues like advertising effectiveness, first amendment and
intellectual property rights and copyright infringement issues.

Indeed, the group’s launch comes on the same day the U.S Supreme Court upheld
an earlier ruling that some of the biggest publishing houses must first
obtain permission from freelance writers and photographers before
republishing their work in electronic databases.

It is a ruling that could potentially hurt the pockets of publishing
concerns like the New York Times, which said Monday it would remove
copyrighted works from electronic databases like Lexis/Nexis in keeping with
the Supreme Court’s ruling.

In an interview with atNewYork, Zimbalist said the OPA would also address
the issue of premium vs. free content on the Internet.

“That’s a debate we will definitely participate in. We believe that quality
content matters and, under the right circumstances, people will pay for it,”
he said, noting that a few of the founding members — WSJ and Salon — are
already charging for content.

Forced to deal with a sharp drop in online ad spending, Zimbalist said the
OPA’s short-term priority would be to woo traditional brand name advertisers
back to the Internet.

Dismissing speculation that the OPA was formed out of frustration with
issues within the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), Zimbalist said the
group would work closely with the Bureau to in the advertising sector.

“The IAB mission is wide. This organization is narrow and specific. There
is room for both of us to do quality advocacy work.”

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