Time for media companies to reunite with local advertisers


With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I would like to dedicate this blog to the rekindling of the newspaper’s first love — local advertisers.

There was a time when the industry flirted with national advertisers, diverting attention and resources to what some hoped would save the industry.

A few newspapers had successful, full-fledged relationships with advertisers, reaching national audiences. But, for most newspapers, the local and regional advertisers remained the loyal spouse — often taken for granted and sometimes forgotten in the rush for the new, sexier but often short-lived affairs.

Local and regional advertisers became important again as the national advertisers fell into the arms of TV, digital, and social media.

So, what are you doing at your local media property to ignite the passion again?  

The Orange County Register fielded an innovative programme in 2013 to do just that. The Register invited subscribers to pick their favourite local non-profit or charity, endorse an enclosed US$100 check to be used for advertising for that charity, and send it back to the newspaper.

Response rates were judged to be high, with the newspaper reporting that 1,300 non-profits will get advertising in the Register’s print or digital products.

It should both enhance the Register’s brand as a community citizen and a place to consider advertising. Management views it as an on-going, pro-community and pro-local advertising venture.

The Boston Globe adopted the idea and introduced a programme called GRANT to offer free ad space to nonprofits. According to the Globe, vouchers for advertising credits worth US$50 or US$100 are mailed to subscribers, who then can inform the Globe which non-profit they’d like to see benefit from the credits and be promoted within the pages of the newspaper.

By integrating the Globe into Boston’s non-profit community, it is trying to make local decision-makers see the newspaper as more than just a business venture, but an integral part of the community. Management views this as one way to appeal to Boston businesses and to bring them back as advertisers, much the same way public radio stations solicit underwriting.

Another example of rekindling the affections of local communities and advertisers is happening in my hometown of Chicago. The Chicago Sun-Times with BitWall is testing a social paywall that will accept both Tweets and Bitcoin to support the local Taproot Foundation activities.

Chicago Sun-Times readers will be invited to donate Bitcoins to, or Tweet about, the Taproot Foundation, a non-profit organisation that encourages local professionals to do pro bono work for other non-profits.    

Of course, The Sun-Times will learn about the acceptance of Bitcoin, the power of a social paywall, and content monetisation. But, if successful, it will also build its connection in the local community.

Of course, efforts like these need the follow-through of solid selling and matching local advertiser needs with the right products.  

The Dallas Morning News is a great example of seeking partnerships with outside vendors to meet the print and digital needs of its local advertisers. One unique aspect of the Dallas Morning News’ approach is to allow the sales team to select among “competing” vendors the best option for an advertising category or account.  

The company has an internal agency that can be tapped by the sales team if their services can serve the local advertiser best.  

Grant Moise, senior vice president of business development and niche products at The Dallas Morning News, will share the company’s experience at the upcoming INMA Innovative Advertising Seminar, February 20-21, in Miami.

So, with Valentine’s Day around the corner, what is the sales and marketing team at your local media company doing to rekindle the historical relationship of newspapers and the local advertising community?

Use Valentine’s Day as a catalyst to re-evaluate and show the love before the flame goes out.