local media insider

Top revenue initiatives for 2018

The best ideas and the software that powers them


What´s new and need to know in local media technology this year? Below are our top ten, from a round-up from the Mega Conference and talking with media executives around the country. From personalized paywalls to virtual auto shows, from spoken editions to new DIY advertising options, there is better technology and more opportunities for low-cost incremental revenue gains than ever before.

1. Build revenue per user and audience relationships via personalisation

Ways to register and sell subscriptions to audiences has greatly improved over the years and it is paying off in revenues. Sandusky Newspaper Group´s  Brandon Erlacher shared an example of a more personalized approach to paywalls at the 2018 Mega Conference. While launching their first paywall, the group used Cxense to track non-registered users and serve the registration offers. The platform allows the newspaper to serve different offers at different frequencies to different types of users simulataneously based on where they came from, such as in town or out of town, and what they are looking at, such as sports or long form articles. The base line is to serve a registration requirement to users who have 8 sessions in 16 days, and after a cooldown period of 30 days, serve the paywall. Users with ad blockers and former print subscribers see the  paywall right away.

In its initial test, the program generated $60,000 in annualised revenue with no loss of traffic or engagement. As the program advances, multiple offers and frequencies can be tested and served simultaneously. Gigya is the software they use to house registered user profiles, including a bit of social information if they used social to log-on (about 20% do). CircPro is his subscription management system.

2. Take the business of providing local ticketing platforms away from Eventbrite

An increasing number of local media are reselling ticketing platforms to local event organizers, competing with national sites like Eventbrite, and keeping the data on ticket purchasers and disrupting the disrupter. 

Local media can compete successfully with national sites because they have a relationship with local audiences, and the ability to package in web traffic, email newsletters, and online advertising.

Travis Fisher, CEO of TicketSauce, one of the larger providers, points out that the platform transforms the relationship with events organisers from a typical six week advertising campaign to a year long, platform platfrom sale.

San Diego has 1,800 events a year, and 90% are local. Eventbrite has a market valuation of $4 billion.  This is an opportunity for us to disrupt another opportunity.¨

And example of the site is here. 

GeoTix, a platform-based company formed by a group of magazines, also showed up at the conference.  A smaller company that just began selling to other media in 2017 with a $1 million round of funding from Casey Cowell, co-founder of U.S. Robotics. CEO Deb Fellows, says the company already generates $250,000 in ticketing revenue annually from 150 local events organizers, selling 80,000 tickets a year, and acquiring 57,000 new email names. “We know the value of a customer relationship,¨ she said. 

3. Upgrade obituaries platforms with more tools for families

Legacy announced during the conference that it has selected iPublish Media as preferred provider for a self-serve front end systems. This means that local media can allow funeral homes and families to buy and create obituaries directly online, in addition to having customer service support. In the deal, iPublish gains access to Legacy´s ObitsWriter, a platform which uses advanced natural language technology that writes obituaries for families. Legacy in return also receives an integration with iPublish Tributes, which reverse publishes obituaries to a monthly or quarterly special print section. A Gatehouse initiative that uses iPublsh Tributes sold $500,000 in self serve obituary special sections on the iPortal platform in its first test of 5 markets, and expects $1 million in sales this year from this one initiative. iPublish also offers a variety of DIY front ends for SMB´s to purchase print, online and social.

The end result is this: Whether they use Legacy or iPublish, local media companies in 2018 should be adding self serve and reverse to print special sections for incremental revenues. iPublish also has an upsell to Memoriams, a permanent site where family and friends can share images and memories. For media with obituaries, put this one on your list. 


4. Add more self-serve options for SMB's to buy advertising 

We've been encouraging local media to add self-serve options for the past year, however new statistics also made the rounds at the Borrell Associates conference, showing that self-serve advertising will add millions in revenues to local media companies this year.

According to Borrell & Associates, 97% of SMB´s buy some form of DIY marketing, up 71% from two years ago. Other stats show the "halo effect" that is given to well-established local media brands for selling DIY advertising over other start-up options, and that being able to add print has become a competitive advantage. 

iPublish is a leader in DIY self-serve advertising as well and has a platform that serves the real estate vertical and a general SMB platform that allows media to sell small ads, including Facebook, is programmatic and even auto-paginates vertical pages for, say, real estate or theater.  Their upgraded SMB platform will be on display at Local Media Association´s Digital Revenue Summit in Chicago on May 1. 

5. DIY upgrades are another reason to look at Friends2Follow and CitySpark

The Friends2Follow platform creates a widget that allows media to display the social feeds of SMB customers in real time on any page of a media site, whether on a high traffic home page or on a vertical page, such as dining or real estate. SMB´s pay a monthly fee for the extra traffic. It takes less than a minute to add or subtract a feed, plus the platform comes with a cool tool that maps and ranks the best F2F prospects in any city by both the frequency of their Facebook posting and number of followers. 

However today you can also sell F2F feeds on any vertical to your advertisers and propsects by email. 

Below is a Friends2Follow section that runs on the homepage of the Southesast Missourian.

The platform´s admin panel even includes a list of SMB prospects, ranked by the level of posting and number of fans, to use as a prospect list. 

Previously, however, “most of our clients were unable to reach out to all of them directly with a sales representative,¨ said co-founder Reinig Evan Morris, in an an interview last week. The new self service option allows media to send a link to the prospect list by email, and follow-up in person.

And then there is CitySpark, which has added DIY options to advertise events listed on their calendar platform.

Arguably the best events calendar platform on the market, CitySpark has a great user experience, promotional calendar widget, reverse to print and other services that include providing human curation for hyper local events listings. A new feature allows event organizers to also click to purchase additional forms of advertising such as placement in print, Facebook posts and/or email newsletters. Here is a screenshot  of the interface:

The fulfillment of some of these options is not yet automated, but the sales process is. A key advantage of the platform is that it, by nature, gathers the data of local event promoters. Cityspark has a deal in the works to partner with Ticketsauce to integrate with ticket sales.

7. Resell email to SMB's

While email is primarily used by SMB´s to recontact customers and can be too time-consuming for many to keep up with, a new Borrell study on SMB´s who use email marketing say that it still ties for first place in helping to build lists and target customers, and as Facebook becomes more expensive, email is a better option. 

While most local media are still content to sell advertising or native ads on their email newsletters, the bigger companies are already reselling targeted email sends using third parties. 

This year, at the Mega Conference we ran into Site Impact, a company that has been around behind the scenes for about ten years. It provides a wholesale turnkey targeted email delivery for resale to small businesses.  The company says its email lists are opt-in and double opt-in, with targeting to 300 plus lifestyle choices, plus age, gender, hobbies, levels of interest, geo-targeting by proximity and guarantees a CTR of 2%.  

“You can target a 15 mile radius of an address by income, and send traffic back to the website,” said Brandon Rosen, CEO. Open lists are also available for sale, providing another way for local media companies to build their own databases, with co-owned data paid for by local clients. The enhanced automotive data includes a variety of searchable records on automotive purchasers, including make, model, fuel type, year purchased as well as an advanced intent to purchase feature. 

8. Create a spoken edition of the news

It´s no secret that the off-screen listening audience - that is, podcasts and portable audio devices - is exploding. SpokenLayer provides a turnkey solution to produce and distribute audio broadcast for companies like the Huffington Post, Salon and now the SF Chronicle.

The SF Chronicle´s daily news show is created by SpokenLayer who produces the show using their own talent, delivers it primarily over iTunes, and monetizes via an ad network that includes the likes of Uber, Lyft, BevMo! And Kaiser Permanente. Expect a case study on this initiative in the coming weeks. 

9. Create a virtual automotive show

Wehaa´s virtual auto show platform allows local media to sell one automotive dealer a virtual event, such as Memorial Day, or to host a virutal show with multiple dealers in any category such as  SUV's, RV´s or boats. These events can be in conjunction with live events and multi-media packages. 

Best of all, the technology is beautiful and the marketing tools are complete.  The platform pulls in cars via a feedless direct link to the auto dealers´ CMS. Then the media can use all the templated marketing materials including online and print ads (below):

The dealers get their own landing page for multi-dealer virtual shows:

Sales to dealers are running from $1,500 to $10,000 depending on the market. In the works is making virtual sales co-op approved. If we were an ad rep selling this category we would want this platform! 

9. Upgrade the recruitment partnership

One of the up-and-coming companies at the conference, Recruitology has evolved from AfterCollege into a full recruitment advertising network that still has a robust network of niche sites, including colleges, green employers, diversity and veterans.  

Their key value propositions? Monster controls the relationship with larger employers under their own brand, while Recruitology allows newspapers to keep the employer relationships, market under their own white label brand and place ads in more of the most valuable niche sites according to Lisa Grau, Marketing Director. 


10. Create a Digital Billboard network 

We initially overlooked this source of revenues, but today have reversed our opinion. Screens like ATM´s are coming to stores and it matters who will control them. 

Phoenix Siteview System provides the technology that allows newspapers to build a network of digital billboards at grocery stores and on top of their own news racks.  Stores are incentivized by the ability to advertise some of their own offers in some of the programming ad units. Visual recognition of the view helps determine which ads are exposed. Proof of concept is the execution by Oahu Publications who won the Local Media Association´s  Digital Innovator of the Year AWard in 2018. They project 2018 sales of $1 million and $4 million by 2021.

Thats it for the initiatives we caught during a fast three days. Look for case studies with strategies and tactics on the best of these initiatives in LocalMediaInsider´s newsletter in the coming weeks. Many thanks to Site Impact for sponsoring this report. Technology sponsors allow us to provide this infromation free to the journalism-based local media as they grow new business models.