When evaluating our revenue trends at Digital First Media, we look at more than 60 revenue categories in digital. These range from simple banner ads to more complex re-targeting products — all tracked down to the individual sales person level with performance analysis versus goals.

We spend a considerable amount of time at this level of detail so we can monitor what is working and what is not. Where do we need to put more focus, and in the same vane, where do we need to back off? This follows our “try fast, fail fast” mentality.

However, the real focus here is on predicting where the future digital revenue will come from. Aside from obvious product lines like mobile, video, and e-mail, we know our future is in local digital sales. And all our digital pure play competitors know this as well. Google and Facebook are already looking at building local sales teams, but can they really compete with us?

While the brands are cool and exciting, we already have a large, local sales infrastructure in place and building a new one is very expensive.

Let’s take a look at Patch for a second. This latest attempt by Aol to build a local platform is not working. Content is adequate at best, and sales are very low. Even with the power of Aol and Huffington Post traffic, they are challenged. Why? How can one editor and one sales person compete in a market where we have five to 10 times those resources? Answer? They can’t!

In the meantime, we offer the best local relationships with businesses, strong brands, strong digital products, and, in most cases, the largest local audience. Through partnerships, we can expand that audience to reach virtually everyone in the market. Some use Yahoo, MSN, or third-party exchanges, but all offer the same audience extension model.

As long as we continue to focus on delivering local solutions in our marketplace, we can fend off the competition, and we can grow revenue by expanding our product mix. No longer do we focus on our piece of the marketing pie. We want the whole damn thing. And the digital arena is the great equaliser. We can offer a compelling product that directly competes with any media competitor. In fact, we can already provide Facebook and Google solutions today.

National digital is a playground we all want to play in, but we just don’t scale. Those advertisers want audience, lots of it, and don’t want to pay much for it. Even as you look to secure those buys, many use third-party agencies to place them. And those network buys come in at low CPMs, not to mention the number of them that buy inventory on the open exchange (those ads come through a remnant provider at a whopping US$1.25 CPM if you are lucky). Until we are ready to band together and form our own media exchange as an industry, this will continue to be a small part of our future. We need this to scale and should invest resources in this category, but it is not our savior.

Local is where it’s at, and local businesses need your help. There are hundreds of ways to use digital products to market a business. We offer most if not all of those solutions and as mentioned, we have the local infrastructure already in place. Solution-based selling is a given, but it must be the foundation for every local sales person out there.

The digital battle is coming to Main Street, and we all need to be prepared for it.