Concentra Media’s “Made in Limburg” blog targets local businesses

By Koen Van Parijs

Concentra Media publishes newspapers, “free sheets,” and Web sites in the north of Belgium. Our regional assets are concentrated in two media houses:

  • Mediahouse Antwerp targets the city of Antwerp and the Kempen region (1.4 million inhabitants), with the newspaper Gazet Van Antwerpen (circulation 96,000), regional TV station ATV, and free sheet Jet Antwerp.

  • Mediahouse Limburg targets the province of Limburg (800,000 inhabitants) with the newspaper Het Belang van Limburg (circulation 96,000), regional TV station TVL, and Jet Limburg.

Concentra also participates in Metro Belgium and national radio station Radio Nostalgie.

Until recent years, Belgian regional media like our newspapers got a significant share of national advertising. As revenues began to diminish, though, we looked for local opportunities to compensate.  

Our approach has both breadth, as in hyperlocal editions and Web sites for each of the communities we serve, and depth, with Web sites targeting niche groups.

An example of the latter is “Made in Limburg.” was launched in October 2010 as a business blog, targeting local entrepreneurs and managers of small- and medium-sized businesses, a community which we estimate to be about 20,000 people.

Today, averages about 10,000 unique visitors each working day.

Last October, we launched its sister blog, “Made in Kempen,” followed by “Made in Metropool” (Antwerp) last April.

Success in attracting advertising depends on becoming the leading voice in a community. Made in Limburg has become very influential in its community by being on the lookout for stories that had never before been written.

For example, even now, in the midst of a severe economic downturn, companies are innovating, frequently with impressive results. And yet, as a consumer-oriented newspaper, we tend to mostly write about companies closing down.

So our dedicated “Made in Limburg” Web site tries to deliver five inspiring stories every day. Innovation guru, Clayton Christensen, always asks which “job” you fulfill. Our “job” is not just bringing information. It is also to strengthen the ties in our business community and, most importantly, inspire and motivate entrepreneurs.

Being an entrepreneur can be challenging and lonely. Perseverance is key to success. So every day, we bring stories about people and perseverance. It’s only five articles, but that focus is the key to our success. (And honestly, I don’t think the target group has time for much more).

“Made in Limburg has become a vibrant community, with almost 8,000 comments (more than we have stories on the site). Most frequently, comments offer encouragement from other community members.

We explicitly position ourselves on the side of business owners, so many inspired comments don’t get published. And we don’t choose “a managing assistant of the year,” but instead choose the “hardest boss to work for” (bosses have to turn themselves in), who then can reward their secretary with a weekend full of indulgences.

Social media is important, but our daily, early-morning, e-mail newsletter remains the main traffic driver, with traffic peaking between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. The deluge in traffic following delivery of our newsletter offers some Web site scaling challenges.

We implement a multitude of strategies to gather people signing in for the newsletter that vary from “asking” (journalists ask for the e-mail addresses of key corporate players they interview), to “marketing” promotions to a “metered” system (if you are a regular visitor at a weekly interval, a pop-up will appear asking you to register).

We offer advertisers partnerships that contain some exclusive positions on our Web site (leaderboard and a contextual advertising programme) and a choice among regular advertising possibilities (other banners, splashes, partner mailings, sponsoring of galleries) that are also open for spot advertisers.

In Limburg, partnerships (we have eight) make up for about 50% of total revenues. We total about 30 clients a year, and the average campaign runs about €15.000 to €20.000. In Kempen (our seventh partner has just signed on) and Metropool (already two partners), nearly all of our revenues still come from partners. We don’t participate in advertising networks, nor do we implement a CPM model.

Our goal is to create value for advertisers (for example, an industrial construction firm) and capture a bit of the created value. Selling is never easy, but having advertisers that use the sites themselves and are as enthusiastic about “Made in __” as we are, certainly helps.

Focusing on a few key things and trying to do them well has allowed us to build a highly efficient organisation. Each edition is written by a full-time journalist working halftime on it.

We mine public records to generate leads for interesting stories, offered in a dashboard with additional contextual information, so the journalist can focus on interviewing the company’s management with all information available. All other content on the site (e.g., calendar) is scraped and comes online automatically. The Web site is written on open-source platforms and is hosted externally.

Our main challenge now is growing Kempen and Metropool. Each region offers its own challenges, but having paid our dues in Limburg, we find that things at these two sites move quickly. And we’re thinking about doing more in mobile.

The main threat is internal. The more successful and the larger the operation becomes, the more it becomes part of the larger organisation. Let’s hope we can keep things focused and efficient.

About Koen Van Parijs

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