2012: What we know now on local advertising, meeting the needs of communities and customer connection
As part of the larger story, the top lessons from a range of perspectives learned over 2012 is a four-part series the JA is running over the month of January. This is the second part of the series and features three thought leaders – Dick O’Hare, CEO & founder of Local Yokel Media; John Garrett, CEO and publisher of Community Impact Newspaper; and Laura Rich, co-founder of Street Fight – offering their insights. Together our initial think group shared a collective sense in early 2012 that publishers could benefit from a roadmap of the many small steps needed to increase and stabilize revenue across the industry. These additional contributors offer the lessons they’ve learned leading and growing successful new companies; all of them launched five years ago or less.
Make it a mission
JOHN GARRETT, Publisher & CEO, Community Impact Newspaper
As a leader of a growing local news organization, most of the things I have learned in 2012 have to do with being a company that is growing up. Managing and investing in nearly 90 employees, balancing new financial opportunities and challenges, and the constantly changing and evolving way to approach technology have kept me on my toes. But the most important thing I have learned this year is that a reader’s need and desire for quality through relevant and useful local content is stronger than ever.
Everyone in our organization needs to know and understand that our mission is important. Our company came together in 2012 to clearly define our mission statement: To build communities of informed citizens and thriving businesses through the collaboration of a passionate team.
Forbes staff writer Christopher Helman recently described Garrett’s growing local print news empire this way: “If you want to be in the news business and don’t have an online strategy, you ought to have your head examined–and your coffin sized. Unless you’re John Garrett. The 37-year-old Texan publishes 13 hyper-local editions of Community Impact Newspaper, delivered free each month to 855,000 homes in the Austin, Houston and Dallas areas. (Daily circulation at both the Houston Chronicle and the Dallas Morning News is roughly 400,000.) And it makes money: It pulled in an estimated $1.5 million in operating income in 2012 on advertising revenue of $10 million. But less than 5% of that business comes from its website.”
LAURA RICH, Co-founder, Street Fight
At Street Fight, we’re finishing up our second year (and first full year) strong. When we launched the business in spring 2011, we saw the media landscape as being long past one that sustained simply on advertising. Certainly, few websites except those with millions of daily visitors can see ad revenues high enough to support a fully functioning media business. So we launched with a plan for a three-pronged approach: site advertising, event sponsorship and ticket sales, and research underwriting and retail sales. So far, we have expanded the first two and will be putting a big focus on research in 2013.
But it’s not just about the revenue. To be a useful media brand, especially in the B2B sector, you need to match the needs of your customers. We give them daily content to keep up with the latest news and thinking within the industry. We bring people together at our conferences to meet one another in person and form partnerships. And our research gives those in the hyperlocal industry deeper insights and strategies that will lead to their own sustainable business models.
Co-founder Laura Rich of Street Fight, a media, events and research company focused on the business of hyperlocal content, commerce and technology, speaks to a key lesson for her of 2012 “to meet the needs of your customers.”
“Over the last six months, with our Hyperlocal Investment Report newsletter, we have aimed to guide investors through this new industry, to give context and insight into the market potential of pre-public companies, and to synthesize activity in the public markets as well as in private placement, venture capital, mergers and acquisitions, private equity and the like. We’re very proud of this great product, with its strong analysis and unique focus on hyperlocal investing. And with [the September] issue, we’re moving it from a paid product to delivering this content on our public website for free, to engage in broader discussion around key issues in hyperlocal investing.”
Lessons learned in local advertising
DICK O’HARE, CEO & Founder, Local Yokel Media
Our mission at Local Yokel Media is all about bringing efficiency, scale and performance to hyperlocal digital advertising. With this dynamic as a backdrop, here are a few things we learned in 2012:
- Content matters. In this rapidly changing digital media ecosystem, audience-based (eg., men 18-34 in the market for a car) ad targeting has grown in prominence with the creation of programmatic ad buying. Targeting audiences through data has marginalized the value of publisher content. However, the contextual relevance of the content a consumer consumes along with the ad message on that page continues to be a leading indicator of ad performance. We find this to be especially true with a local ad message in local content addressing audiences in close proximity to the advertiser….
- Executing digital ad campaigns is still too hard. Digital advertising remains too complex. Simply launching a digital ad campaign takes many steps from generating an insertion order to developing ad creative to trafficking an ad campaign to post campaign management. … However, there are great innovative solutions on the horizon. …
- Be transparent. The internet is known for its “dark alleys.” … For example, the downside to audience-based ad targeting is you usually don’t know what publisher websites your ad will appear on or when. … Marketers are demanding more transparency in their advertising buys to protect their brand value. …
- Get into the weeds of digital advertising. We learned some valuable lessons this year that can only be learned by getting in the weeds. A recent example of this is how ad servers operate and how ad impressions are counted.
We are in an exciting industry. One full of opportunity and challenges….
Forbes contributor Alan McGlade outlines his expert take on “Local Yokel Media, a digital advertising start-up in the hyper-local market. Their ad platform enables local, regional or national marketers to target communities within a defined service area on local websites and content. According to BIA/Kelsey, local digital advertising will exceed $42 billion by 2015. However, there is no efficient way to target and serve locally relevant ads to consumers at scale. Local Yokel is trying to solve this problem by signing up thousands of local publishers and aggregating and organizing their ad availabilities…”