local media insider

Five free or cheap basic tech tools every local media needs

Alisa Cromer

Often, what seems like a difficult technical problem is actually easier than it appears. We've seen a number of executives build software only to find out later there are plenty of ways to do it for free - or at least cheaply. Here's a quick list of technologies local media companies should have in their toolbox.

1. QR Code Generator

QR codes can be generated in seconds, free, at any number of sites. However, for $86 a year, QRStuff.com will also provide analytics for individual customers.

QR codes allow phones to "Quick read", or pull up, a URL on a mobile phone, by scanning a code. Thus it "mobilizes print." One company has turned their newsboxes into mini-billboards and is selling major "outdoor advertising" campaigns using QR codes to fuel text-back campaigns (in next week's case studies). So if you are thinking about this, don't develop, just grab!

2. Overlays

A great way to build-up e-mail registrations is via these simple widgets that act much like pop-ups.  Two sources are AWeber, which integrates the overlay directly into its email service, a capability that may be worth considering this e-mail provider. Another virtually free provider recommended by SubscriptionSiteInsider.com's member is Popup Domination.

3. Google Webmaster Tools

A well-known SEO vendor offers to optimize" one channel of a local site for $500 a month, clearly out of range for most small sites and down-sized media companies. We need to get better at this on our own!

A free, overlooked strategy is using Google's Webmaster Tools. Just Google "Google Webmaster Tools," click on the link, "add a site" and follow the prompts. Usually you can upload your site via a static page or your Google Analytics account.

Immediately see an extra data set similar to Google Analytics, but showing not only the top key word search terms leading to your sites page view in search, but also the number of clicks per word, which is very different. Useful to know which words get clicked the most, not just searched the most, to incorporate into headlines and meta tags? We think so.

From there, follow the prompts to "upload site map." You can also upload RSS feeds so that Google does not have to crawl your site to find the content. This tip thanks to LMI member and webmaster of Embarcadero Media in Palo Alto, Frank Bravo, who says his sites rankings greatly improved after implementation.

4. Conversion tracking - Calls, e-mails and post-click activity

Companies using phone call tracking for ads are already ahead of the game. However we like TruMeasure (hence our review two weeks ago) because it tracks calls, e-mails AND post-click activity. Give different numbers to online and offline components of the same campaign and the results may surprise you - and justify the higher offline budgets.

At $10 per month per campaign, there is no excuse for not using tracking. The results are almost always better than anticipated - and certainly more than the advertiser assumes. This allows local media to optimize campaigns and make a case for ROI.

5. Google's free, DIY mobile sites for SMB's

It's hard to sell a mobile campaign  - or even QR code - without a mobilized site or landing page. While there are a number of work-arounds, we like this one supplied by Kurt Lozier, Dow Jones Local Media Group. At a recent meeting, Google execs showed Lozier this just released link: http://www.google.com/sites/help/intl/en/mobile-landing-pages/mlpb.html

This is an easy way to create sites quickly, especially mobile landing pages for individual campaigns if you don't have a directory or other solution that provides a full mobile landing page. 

Thanks to LMI members for sharing these five extra technology resources.

Alisa Cromer

The author, Alisa Cromer is publisher of a variety of online media, including LocalMediaInsider and  MediaExecsTech,  developed while on a fellowship with the Reynolds Journalism Institute and which has evolved into a leading marketing company for media technology start-ups. In 2017 she founded Worldstir.com, an online magazine,  to showcases perspectives from around the  world on new topic each month, translated from and to the top five languages in the world.

qr code, qrstuff.com, review, aweber, subscriptionsiteinsider, google, trumeasure, kurt lozier, dow jones local media,


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