Local media have these 4 advantages over Big Tech for SMB ad needs

By Christian Scherbel


Berlin, Germany


With frightening regularity, I hear newspaper executives talking about the shortcomings of regional news publishers in digital advertising versus the global giants like Google and Facebook. These conversations centre around data, technology, their sheer size, or their user adoption of self-bookings versus ones from the local publishers.

I see this situation differently and want to respond to it intellectually and in theory. There are also real-world examples of small and large news publishers that accepted this competition and worked on their strengths.

Looking at these cases and the arguments against the behemoths, it’s almost a wonder they make any local (not national) advertising revenues at all. Here are four reasons.

For local advertisers, there is no such thing as bad neighbourhood advertising when the goal is to reach local prospective clients.
For local advertisers, there is no such thing as bad neighbourhood advertising when the goal is to reach local prospective clients.

1. Personal care

Looking at the “personal care” Facebook and Google offer their customers, you notice there is basically none. Except for the US$50 or US$100 voucher here and there, there’s no personal contact for the advertiser, no help, no onboarding, no training, no anything — as long as your company isn’t a national giant that spends at least US$100,000.

You know how much value local advertisers put into the direct contact, support, mentoring, and ability to feel good. As a local news publisher, you can expand on this — and this is in addition to the “buy local” argument. Make it part of your pitch and actively differentiate.

Why does self-booking work with Meta and others?

I know, everyone wants to put a self-booking tool out and just let advertisers do the magic. But, please don’t forget this magic happens — once it’s based on a great user experience and technology — only with sheer size: If Facebook targets all 212 million small- and medium-sized companies (SMBs) worldwide and reaches 10 million active global advertisers, this is a conversion rate of 4.7%, based on its global dominance.

For our regional focus with potentially 15,000 SMBs, that means only 707 advertisers would book via a self-booking tool at all if you do it “at par with Facebook” and are as regionally dominant as they are globally dominant.

What happens to the 14,292 other advertisers in your region?

2. Traffic quality

Looking at “traffic quality” at Facebook, Amazon, and Google, you will learn this depends a lot on the parameters of each and every campaign. But, overall bounce rates are high, and it’s a numbers game. More is better: more budget, more A/B tests, more tech, more time spent optimising, and more budget for specialists and agencies.

For the average local advertiser, that is just not their game: It wants to reach the few thousand people in its target group out of your potentially much bigger reach with precision and reliability. No A/B tests, no 90%+ bounce rates, and no low percentage click rates.

What local publishers can offer is traffic quality and a “good neighbourhood.” The ads appear in the right contextual and regional environment, and they also show much higher click rates than on other sites. Additionally (and this is crucial), they convert much better on advertiser landing pages post-click.

The challenge here is to prove this if your advertiser uses no or very limited analytics on its page. My strong recommendation is to use a service that automatically builds banner and landing pages for each and every local ad campaign to track attention and interaction metrics like time spent on the landing page. The difference in the sales narrative for your local sales reps and local advertisers compared to any other digital campaign is astonishing.

3. Full service

Facebook and others are great in making their game the advertiser’s game. They focus on good Web sites, digital KPIs, and A/B tests, but local advertisers like restaurants and car dealerships have absolutely no interest in that. These businesses have no intrinsic motivation to have a great Web site and a lot of “Web site traffic.” They want foot traffic in their stores. Further, they want you to take care of it instead of using their evenings to familiarise themselves with different Web design and conversion tricks.

With local digital campaigns, as a news publisher you can make the difference by offering the full campaign “out of the box” based on the last printed campaigns, social media posts, Google places data, home page data, and similar information.

Make advertisers happy and include a best practises built-in ad impression bundle with the right geo- and context-targeting. Plus, include banners and landing pages and local advertisers get value for money, they will never get from the anonymous global giants. You don’t have to overload your organisation with the operational overhead of hundreds of those small campaigns when you work with companies like Smartico that offer these services.

4. Intuitive results

As noted, Facebook and Google are trying to fully convert local advertisers into digital marketers. If that works (that 4.7%), then good. If that doesn’t work, then this route is not for them. The local advertisers that do not thrive on click-through rates (CTR), bounce rates, and A/B tests are terribly lost in that space.

Local advertisers are not interested in the "typical" stats that online retailers care about.
Local advertisers are not interested in the "typical" stats that online retailers care about.

As a local contact person, you can not only explain those numbers but also introduce numbers that make a difference for the advertisers. Your insights answer questions like: How many slides of my ad were shown? Where were my ads permanently shown and not only in rotation? How much time did people spend on the ad and the landing page? What did they do on the landing page?

This is a much more compelling story for the local SMB (not a national or regional digital-first key account) than any CTR. Please ask your sales reps what story would sell better to a local restaurant: “You had a 0.2% CTR with your US$99 campaign” or “you got 73 people spending 101 minutes on your landing page for US$99.”

Based on this, I am not afraid of this huge competition for the local advertising budget because news publishers have their clear advantages. We just have to work on showing and communicating them better.

And, if you don’t have the right local US$99 packages for digital that include the banner and landing page as well as a visual reporting dashboard, consider connecting with a vendor that can help.

About Christian Scherbel

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