local media insider
Conference report

What’s new in media technology this year

Data, audio, verticals and more

Alisa cromer

The The 2019 Mega Conference was packed with technology that is powering effective cites and new revenue streams. A “walkabout” of the conference plus some follow up calls yielded one clear observation:  A lot of business is getting done.

We did not see a lot of tech clunkers, but on the other hand, a lot of the new technology was missing as developers without the patience for media partnerships move on to easier markets. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  


Without further ado, here’s what new, what’s evolved and who we like this year:

Newzware, BNTech and Lotame

Since the new B2C channel was added, we met some old and new players in the audience space. The Buffalo News was on hand to showcase BNTech, a set of tools it developed that use machine learning to maximize subscription revenue regardless of the paywall platform. David Adkins, COO&  VP of Technology, said the tools have tripled the subscription uptake. What did he like amongst the other circulation technology? He pointed to software by Newzware, an established platform that has evolved over the years.

TownNews also introduced an audience data partner, Lotame, on the solutions stage.

Lotame allows media to tag their pages with a data collection tool that uses cookies, to give each user a unique ID. These ID’s are assigned categories based on actions and matched to unique ID categories in the larger network of hundreds of millions. That way, even with a small amount of local data, a lot more is known about that ID category, including, for example, the propensity to buy a car, or even a subscription. Audience segments can then be served content they prefer or delivered to the DSP, so media can resell these super valuable audiences or use them for their own B2C transactional purposes.

The platform starts at $5,000 a month but TownNews purchased a subscription and offers it as an upsell to their CMS clients. When media have deployed this tool on the news side to increase engagement, the duration of user visits increased by 120%.

Cracking the hyper-local space: Nextdoor, and Burbio

Hyper-local is making a comeback. Also on hand were a few new hyper-local platforms aimed to capitalize on neighborhood-by-neighborhood marketing. As Nextdoor spoke about its new media partnership with the San Diego Tribune, Burbio appeared at the conference for the first time. The start-up compiles hyper-local civic information, creating a supply of hard-to-get local news important to families such as school openings and closings and non-profit events by email.

“Our audience is moms with kids,” Burbio’s president Dennis Roche said. The company has launched 200 of these aggregated hyper-local sites on the east coast, with one exclusive online news partner and a few larger deals in the works.

Dirk Trapp, an investor of a German-based hyper-local start-up, was also roaming the floor looking for opportunities and gave me a 30-second demo of their new form of self-serve ads directed at neighborhoods. When a small business clicks to purchase, they get a pop-up of a single ad format. One click uploads the image. Then the user simply types in a headline and text. He claims the model is sustainable with one or two reporters who deliver more hyperlocal news than Nextdoor, which focuses more heavily on neighborhood gossip. They are in talks with a Canadian newspaper chain.


What else did we like? In spite of an almost visceral hatred of automated phone trees, a presentation by TCN left a great impression.

TCN provides a customized automated call center that can replace outsourced call centers where inbound reps have no efficient two way back-channel to a company. The software provides an efficient alternative for handing basic circulation issues such as expired cards and missed deliveries.

The company claims it can lower costs, increase saved subscriptions, and provide a better customer experience. They make a compelling case. Instead of a live person, customers go through a customized tree. While they can still “hit zero” to reach the customer service team, reduced in size, but one that belongs to the newspaper.

The case study they provided shows a 63.6% “containment rate,” that is, callers who chose to use the automated system over human support. Plus their recent case study found an increase of saves of expired subscriptions from 296 using human support to 1,100.


In the accounting and CRM category, Brainworks demoed its new platform, Stratica, rebuilt from the ground up. Full disclosure here, I have also run sales teams and am super-critical when it comes to using the built-in CRM of most accounting systems, they typically look like the dashboard of a jetliner. In the past, we have advised using SalesForce or Hubspot as an alternative. So let put it this way: I am a hard sell.

But… Brainworks’ new cloud-based CMS looked very slick when I put it through its paces on the show floor. It has all the user-friendly ease and pipeline tools of Hubspot, with more powerful integrations.

Most of the “tech companies to watch” we named in 2018 were back and doing better than ever.


Recruitology, which uses AI to match jobs to its recruitment network, used the ‘Solutions stage” to showcase a new case study with Tribune Publishing. The metrics are impressive: its platform resulted in sales of 13% more recruitment products per order and 15% more revenues overall than Tribune’s prior partner.

Super popular in the tightening job market is its upsell to reach passive job seekers on Facebook. Recruitology matches its data on active job seekers with “lookalike audiences” on Facebook. A partnership with iPublish allows inbound and outbound sales reps to add the buy in a few clicks.


This year the company is focused on expanding its hottest new community service - and dirt simple upsell - Tributes, a reverse published monthly or quarterly print special section. This is an opt-out upsell that can add $20 to $25 to every obituary. Do the math on this. Last year’s partnership with Legacy means almost every newspaper can utilize this option.


Another “company to watch” we named in 2018 is Wehaa, whose platform powers virtual automotive tent sales, real estate agent ads, local experts and more. It also gained a spot on the solutions stage to showcase case studies for Virtual Automotive Tent Sales, and its ‘Under $15,000 used car platform.’ It had just released a new call-tracking tool so automotive customers can view and listen to calls from ads.

TicketSauce and CitySpark

TicketSauce, which allows local media to resell a ticketing platform to local events producers, and CitySpark, an events platform, have partnered after months of talks.

CitySpark customers can now sell ticketing to local producers, so customers can buy tickets directly from the event listing.

CitySpark was also showcasing its cool Alexa feature to find local events by voice command, “Alexa, what is there to do after 7 p.m. in Las Vegas?”  The little black gadget glowed red and answered.

We’ll keep you posted on metrics from these and other deployments in the months ahead.


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