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January, 2018 email newsletter





First off, Happy New Year to our readers and sponsors. We are looking forward to a transformative year in local media. 

One of the questions we've been asking recently is whether the Amazonification of advertising is now hand - and what it will mean for news-based media companies. Specifically, what is the opportunity to regain marketshare of small business advertisers, and how large is it? 

This month LocalMediaInsider has been working on case studies with a variety of newspapers which are adding self-serve options to additional verticals and product mixes. 

iPublish, which supplies the leading single source self-serve platform, reported recently that nearly $200 million in self-serve transactions passed through its portal in 2017 alone.

One of the major newspaper initiatives to sell advertising via e-commmerce in 2017 took place at Gatehouse, where a partnership with iPublish and its single source platform led to $1.25 million in increased business and saving of 3 FTE's for the 70 or so small newspapers participating in the first year of the roll-out. 

See the full  Case study: Estimated millions in new revenues will from self-serve platforms at Gatehouse newspapers in 2018 here.  This case study looks at: 

• Transitioning stages 

• Adding self-serve to Obituaries in small markets 

• How call-centers used self-serve platform to place orders more easily

• Private party ads  

• Selling print special sections via an online portal

• Results and lessons learned 

Read the whole case study here.

Our list of  great ideas for selling local programmatic campaigns in 2018 includes adding programmatic to self-serve packages. 

Stay-tuned more coverage of this topic in 2018. 

Have a successful initiative at your company? A campaign to nominate for a …   More

Best practices for promotion self serve advertising options

The “Amazonification” of local advertising is advancing as platforms like Google, Facebook have opened the door for small businesses to purchase advertising online. For local media embarking on adding self-serve options to products and verticals, her  are ten “best practices” from iPublih´s top customers with seven years or more experience with adding self-serve options.

Select an interface that simplifieds the  shopper’s user-experience

The single most important decision in your self-serve program is the platform.  Web design to facilitate the buyer - in this case an advertiser - is fundamentally different than one which is optimized for readers.

Uers prefer a simple decision tree with just a few choices, buttons located where they expect them, cut to the chase messaging and good looking visuals that explain what they are purchasing.

     2.  Build and segment the database of prospects 

A lot of attention has been given to collecting data on newspaper audiences, and their ARPU (Average Revenue Per User).  Theh same holds true for DIY advetisers. Rebuidling a current database in each vertical and tracking engaged users for special offers is a needed skill set. 

      3.  Focus on an ongoing promotional  strategy to drive sales

Don’t expect slef e-commerce  to simply take off without any promotion. The fact is that search results for the word “advertising” in any city are low to non-existent. That does not mean you can’t use search terms for, say, jobs, houses or cars, but newspapers need to readdress how they think about marketing.

Users do not know they can now buy ad mixes online, how low the cost is, or what the benefits are. It is a classic “reach and frequency” marketing problem!

Today is the time to put that big marketing engine - the high traffic volume, social media presence and …   More

Native partnership

What Tito's understands about local marketing

A new native campaign by Titos Handmade Vodka provides a great lesson for local companies who want to build goodwill in the community  and leverage the support they have given to a cause. 

Here is an excerpt from the paid article on Titos that ran  in the New York Times  Brand Studio: 

"In the early days of Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Bert Butler “Tito” Beveridge II worked exhausting days at the distillery, with Dogjo, his German Shepherd mix, at his side. To hear him tell it, she was often the only contact he’d have with another life form for days as he cooked batches of the product, bottled it and loaded it for distribution. During those times, Beveridge often slept on a cot he’d set up in the warehouse, his companion curled up nearby. 'Dogjo was with me the whole time. I still can’t talk about her without tearing up,' he says."

Lots of human emotion here, and an alchemy in which the reader now feels pretty good about a brand of alcohol sold in small bottles on airplanes. The article goes on to explain how Beveridge eventually developed a relationship with Emancipet, a Houston-based non-profit veterinary clinic.   After feeding strays dogs at the distillery, he began to take them to the clinic to get spade. How Emancipet, like Tito's, went national. And so on. 

Read the  full story here.

Lessons learned here are many. To replicate this kind of campaign locally, here are a few steps: 

1. Look for a company with a community mission. Ever on  call with a great local company with a famous brand who "doesn't need you" but wants to talk about their favorite causes?   Ask a few more questions. The largest "buying sign" is a company that talks about aspirational intentions and what they have done for the community. While researching the prospects website, watch for charitable events they are involved with, especially ones they own. 

2. Work backwards by keeping …   More

Why native solves the mobile dilemna

Native Advertising, the new hot buzzword for local media executives hunting down new revenue models, may also provide the best mobile ad unit.

That is, sponsor posts are a much needed alternative to mobile display ads, and better-suited to the small screen.

So said Chris Lee, president of Deseret Digital Media, at the Local Innovation conference. He walked through a model of the mobile paradox that native ads can solve:

If you are lucky enough to be president of Deseret Digital and have, say, 100 million desk top page views with 4 ad units per page and an overall CPM of $5, that's $5 x 4 = $20 x 100,000 or $2,000,000 possible dollars.

It's easy to see why newspaper companies can't migrate their massive organizations to digital sales for the measley sum provided by banner ads alone.

That's why the most successful initiatives have included non-traditional revenue streams, where Deseret is a clear leader.

As consumers migrate en masse to mobile, however, the situation gets worse.

There is only one muon-sized ad unit on a phone and CPM's have fallen to around $2.

So Deseret's entire 100,000,000 in traffic could be sold out, theoretically, for $200,000.

The impact of this fact-of-media-life is still waiting to be felt, as ad spend greatly trails the consumer in use of mobile.

One of the answers to the mobile dilemma, however, is native advertising.

Sponsored posts appear in-stream and several can appear per user session on the page as readers scroll, not just click.

Facebook mis-understood the mobile advertising model at first and suffered until they finally got it right with sponsored posts.

Today, "sponsored posts" account for Facebook's fantastic growth forecast.

One of the odd quirks of media is how physical space impacts design, which profoundly impacts the business model.

And as a better, more profitable mobile ad unit, native has a strong future.

See all the reports on local native advertising in our …   More

How big is your obituary marketplace?

Why is everyone so interested in obits?

To start with there's a lot of money at stake.

The obituary market is worth millions in many large cities as our case study on the Bay Area News Group has shown; they grew annual obituary revenues from $2 million to $7 million in about seven years.

Overall, families spend $900 million on obituaries in the United States,  depending upon who you talk to. 

About 1% of the population on average dies every year, a number that stays surprisingly flat but does have local variations. That's about 2.4 million deaths a year in the U.S.

About 80% of these people have families that will buy an obituary, depending on the DMA and cultural and socio-economic factors.

For media executives planning to research their own marketplace more carefully, best practice is to talk to funeral homes, and your own sellers, as well as researching what other media have done.

A few practical details: Plan to contact funeral homes over the summer months; fewer people die in August, while there is a spike in December and January.

To estimate the market for a specific area, check with the county for an exact number of deaths. General statistics by state as of 2012 are at this link.

As an example, Mississippi had 1,022 deaths per 100,000 people, meeting the national average of about  about 1%.

So with a population of 2.985 million statewide, that means about 29,850 deaths, 80% of whose families purchased an obituary, or 23,880 obituaries sold.

So at $100 to $250 a piece that represents a $2,388,000 to $5,000,000 marketplace, statewide.

The city or county health department is the place to start for death rates in smaller areas. 

Unfortunately, even with the death rate in hand, it's not quite that simple.  If your DMA has a variety of cultural and socio-economic groups, it may be hard to pin down what the percentage uptake should be. 

Family preferences after a death vary culturally and …   More

When the best piece of journalism you read last week is sponsored by a burrito

At last week's awesomely content rich, Native Advertising Summit, produced by  Local Media Association, a smallish group of attendees was almost giddy with the new possibilities offered by native advertising programs.

Here's a round-up of what we heard: 

• Native advertising is the new black. The chop-licking started with expressions of palpable relief from media execs at selling anything against news content that isn't a banner ad.

Rick Ducey, managing director of BIA/Kelsey, pointed out that "You are 475.38 times more likely to survive a plane crash than click on a banner ad," while native advertising is experiencing hockey stick growth.

Almost every major media company now has a native program and a variety were in attendance.

Speakers included David ARikin, VP of content at Gatehouse, which is building a new content and design center in Austin.  There was even a radio company or two.

• Content that is not good doesn't work. All speakers with experience in native agreed "It has to be excellent" and said they are picking up tips from BuzzFeed.

One digital agency, SpeakEasy had to cancel a story for a sports-oriented client because the newsroom had independently come up with the same one, "Top ten places to watch the World Cup."

Biggest concerns from a quick poll of the audience was "crappy content" and dilution of the brand.

• Customers read but dislike native content. The annoying paradox of native advertising is that if correctly done click-through rates to stories can be, frankly, fantastic.

But in the end, readers sometimes feel duped or informationally glutted wandering down a rabbit-hole of sponsored content.

The day I got back, a friend sent me this pertinent quote:

"Everything was going well until John realized that the hilarious list of management failures he was reading was sponsored by a burrito."

(I also surfaced a Tweet, Disrupt Burrito Journalism, but can't figure out …   More

Media Minds

You put an FM chip in my what?

At the 2014 Radio Ink Convergence the conversation about activation of FM chips inside phones continued. Wait... an FM chip where?

Just Androids. And only FM.

For those of you new to the issue, apps can activate the chips to receive FM radio broadcasts directly, like tiny radios. It's the most under-reported media debate outside of radio insiders.

Convergence Key note speaker Jeff Smulyan, Chairman/President/CEO of broadcast conglomerate Emmis Communications - and chip activation advocate - got on stage to pitch the concept (again) and say he no longer believes streaming apps are radio's future.

Emmis purchased a large streaming network back a few years ago, but is now pouring resources into a new company, NextRadio, an app that activates FM chips.

Apparently there is already an FM chip placed in about half of all smart phones when they are manufactured.

Jeff Smulyan, CEO


They  just sit quietly in there until an app activates them.

Smulyan argues that history is on the side of chips; as bandwidth is sucked up by the insatiable demand for video and audio streaming, users will experience time lags and price increases, and look for free options.

Given a choice, according to this vision, they will turn to free over-the-airwaves FM broadcasting on their phones - and terrestrial radio will make a comeback.

Since stations hate paying streaming charges, this should be music to their ears.

As both a consumer and media analyst, I like the idea of receiving FM on phones - who wouldn't -  but many consumers already have unlimited dataplans.

And chip activation is not, actually, free, either, to the industry.

The wireless industry sees no reason to install more FM chips or partner to allow them to be activated.

So NextRadio had to buy its way in, paying Sprint $45 million for the privilege of chip activation, a cost shared by a consortium that includes a number of radio companies large and small, from Hubbard to …   More

Media Minds

RadioInk Convergence: Group selfies and streaming angst

What's radio up to in 2014?

If most of the speakers at RadioInk Convergence are right, the critical problem for the industry is that radio is stuck in cars, and the key challenge will be moving radio from cars to phones.

Many of the speakers tried to map the problem for the audience. And one thinks they have solved it.

But first, the awful truth:

Terrestrial radio is losing audience at the rate of 6% per year, while total audio audiences are growing, 16% per year, in fact, on mobile devices alone. As a Clear Channel Executive pointed out, 70% of all online radio listening is already on mobile devices.

And while radio execs have poo-pooed Pandora's claim of a 9% share of the audio audience as "self-reported," Larry Rosin, Co-founder and president of Edison research said his best informed guess is even higher, at 12% of all "share of ear."

In fact, he said, Pandora audience is now three times the size of the total online radio audience, with 44% of its reach at the expense of  AM/FM stations. Ouch.

So as long as radio is trapped in cars, the future looks bleak.

The mainstream approach is via apps and streaming. Following audiences from cars into streaming platforms and bundling the two audiences has become a standard practice at Clear Channel and many forward-thinking stations. But other station owners and managers at the conference complained bitterly that streaming is an unsustainable as a model in its current form.

The whining may sound familiar to print folks who already followed audiences into cheap, tiny online display ads. But for radio the pill is much more bitter to swallow, and some are threatening to cough it back up.

Streaming transfers broadcast dollars to digital pennies, not just dimes. The reality is that so far streaming costs are so high that  ads are much  lower in margin ("no margin" one station manager pouted) than other kinds of digital ads.

And everybody pays. Streaming eats up consumers …   More

Top Ads' Premium Ad Challenge Has a winner

There were some truly outstanding entries last month for LocalMediaInsider's monthly Top Ad Contest after Impact Engine, a leading premium ad platform, added a $1,000 award and Premium Ad Challenge to the contest.

In the end, one campaign stood out from the pack:

Winner: Andrew Burney, Account Executive, WMEE radio, a division of Federated Media

Market: Indiana

Campaign: $50,000 Backyard Makeover

Client: Customer Outdoor Oasis, a division of Auburn Concrete

About the winning campaign: Auburn Concrete, a commercial supplier of outdoor paving products, wanted to break into the high residential market.

WMEE's step-by-step annual plan started with a new website and SEO, then launched a contest - $50,000 Backyard Makeover - as a lead generation program powered by all of the stations audiences. Listeners entered via a premium ad on WMEE.com. Judges liked the big prize, distribution strategy and results; the campaign virtually launched a million-dollar business overnight: 1,225 requests to be contacted for outdoor remodeling and $500,000 in business in the first two months (see how they did it in the members' area).

Congratulations to the whole team at WMEE and Federated Interactive.

Andrew Burney, Marketing Consultant/Integrated Marketing Solutions, Federated Media



A shout-out also goes to Deb Williams, Director of Interactive Sales, Federated Interactive for nominating a campaign from her team. Andrew owes you lunch!

For those interested in big ideas for integrated campaigns like this to pitch in your own market, you can find this step-by-step case study in the members' area and search for more by target customer on the left rail of LocalMediaInsider.

Don't forget to enter July's contest by June 31. Entry is free. All winners receive cash prizes and a free pass to LocalMediaInsider.

Thanks also to Impact Engine, which supplies a leading platform for creating cutting edge premium ads, for supporting best …   More

Brand Insights

What makes a Top Ad?

Impact Engine, developers of an ad platform that allows a typical production person to build a premium ad in minutes, now has hundreds of premium ads running at any given time. 

This month the company posts an award of $250 for June's Top Ad wnner, plus a special bonus of $750 to the best campaign that uses premium ad formats - sliders, push-downs, take-overs, and other premium ads.

(If you have a great local marketing campaign click here for details and to enter.)

So after seeing the good, the bad and the ugly in local ads created by media companies, what does the team at Impact Engine think makes a top ad?

Bryan Depew, VP Product Development/Co-Founder at Impact Engine  us some answers:

"You need to start with the client's goals, obviously, and what gets attention and interest," he said.

"However, the fact that digital ads have always told you exactly how many clicks you get, advertisers can get overly focused on CTR as the only measure of a digital ad's success.

"We spend a lot of time with our media clients teaching them to move away from click-throughs as the primary metric.

"A top ad is one that garners eyeballs, interactions with the ad unit and clicks through to the site."

So what is it about clicks that is misleading?

"A click is like the cherry on top of the sundae... but don't ignore the sundae underneath," he said.

"Our analytics tell you, first off, did the ad show up? Then how many people hovered over the ad with their mouse, then how many interacted inside the ad unit.

"In my opinion, the criteria for a Top Ad is how much engagement and overall impact the ad has overall, including click-throughs to the web site, but also interactions within the ad unit itself."

So is the use of video and audio for premium ad units on the increase?

"Where we see the media moving is very much in a television-style direction. With large format premium ad units, we are getting closer and closer to the methodology …   More

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