Company: Swift Communications
Newspapers: Summit Daily, Vail Daily and Tahoe Daily Tribune,
Initiative: Launching a separate online visitor directory and guide
Technology: Platform from Oneboat, Inc.
Estimated revenue gain: $500,000 plus
Swift Communications’ business strategy over the past few decades has been to acquire newspapers in resort areas; they now own a marquis group that includes Vail Daily, Summit Daily and Tahoe Tribune, along with newspapers in Aspen, Steamboat and Park City.
Newspapers in resort towns share core audience characteristics: a large percentage are second homeowners along with millions of visitors.
So in addition to covering “tough local issues” like the cost of housing and health care and development/environmental issues, Vail publisher Mark Wurzer said there is an important visitor audience as well, and all three groups "are here to enjoy the outdoor and cultural amenities."
“We want to be the resort marketing experts. So we are always asking how do we reach people before they get here and when they get here.”
The resort town publishers already distribute online via websites and e-editions to a large percentage of the audience but wanted to expand the reach to any visitor.
“There are always a hundred things we could do,“ said Wurzer, who runs a daily, a weekly, 13 monthly and bi-annual magazines and a digital services division with 30 employees in Vail. So coming up with a solution for his, and other similar markets, took numerous meetings and conversations.
“So we have to prioritise… and focus on what we can do well. We have to ask ourselves, can it scale?”
The group decided to launch a visitor guide directory and platform developed and tested by OneBoat Inc as a community platform serving the outer banks of North Carolina.
They decided to pilot the platform in Tahoe, launching on Tahoe.com, a separate URL from the Tahoe Tribune’s newspaper site.
Here are the main components of the program:
Key categories are Eat, Shop, Play and Stay. “Eat” includes a daily list of dining offers and happy hours. “Shop” includes discounted items at one of the local grocery stores and many other retailers, plus a cannabis subcategory.
The “Play” category in Tahoe includes events, attractions, casinos and resorts. The “Stay” category showcases a carousel of rental properties.
“Stay” has a category for vacation rentals and more offers - from bike rentals to restaurant coupons.
All of the offers ¨pop-up¨ into more information or printable coupons.
The platform also doubles as an events directory for the community, providing the most complete list of “things to do” from garage sales to nightlife for both locals and tourists in the area. Some of the content is reverse published on the print side and feeds other community calendars.
A key component is that businesses can enter their offers and events self-serve. A content marketing team provides additional writing and distribution services for a monthly fee.
The initial goal was to put all the businesses in those categories on the site with a basic listing for free. Upsells include expanded micro-websites, content marketing from the team of writers and additional distribution with banner ads, email and social media and partner sites.
As Tahoe.com proved to be solidly profitable, the Vail Daily launched EverythingVailValley.com and Summit Daily News launched EverythingSummit.com. In Vail, the Play category is customized to reflect the area:
And pop-ups are used to help build the email list.
Tahoe.com now has a full selection of businesses entering offers and events, with about 225 paid clients. The average upsell starts at $250 and can run up to $1000 a month.
LocalMediaInsider estimates that, based on these numbers, Tahoe.com earns more than $500,000 in revenues after five years. The subsequent launches expect equal success.
Conclusions and lessons learned
A visitor guide and directory can bridge the gap between providing lighter “things to do” service journalism, balanced against the need to cover hard news and hyper-local topics like the school board that may not appeal to all three audiences. The second advantage of this platform is that it works self-serve and the metrics are viable for other resort-oriented communities. We love that Swift Communications invested in Tahoe.com as a visitor brand, and the alternative to owning the pure city.com, EverythingVailValley.com also works.