It’s hard to persuade advertisers to spend money in newspapers these days.

In economic bad times, a simple offer to buy millimeters in one day’s print edition is hard to put in your budget — especially when you’re not the big national advertiser spending tremendous amounts of money on advertising.

Aren’t most of the newspaper advertisers local companies? Or dealer ads? Our well-known old products are unaffordable for a lot of these companies.

That’s at least what I see in our market. The big survive, continue spending budgets, keep raising brand awareness. And the smaller advertisers try to find new ways.

If you stick too long with the answers and products of the past, that share of the market will soon find its way to another medium. Not yours.

I’m a strong supporter, therefore, of good old sponsoring. Not the way we looked at it 10 years ago, but instead a cross-media offer to reach a specific target group so smaller advertisers can spend their budgets on your products, without thinking they will have to spend too much.

A very good example we know in Belgium comes from local media publisher Concentra. They created a new product called “Made in Limburg,” a business-to-business product targeted to the market of local business people.

The product is not run by the business newspaper but by the local newspaper, Het Belang van Limburg, blocking the way in for the Flemish business media.

What did they do?

Actually, it’s very simple. They started to keep their one page a day of business news in the newspaper. But they also added a new series of products, on the Internet and elsewhere.

With one brand, “Made in Limburg,” they started a daily e-mail newsletter — a simple alert to the business community about what happened somewhere else in the region. If you want to read more, you’re directed to a Web site where you can react to articles. An editor monitors the comments to make sure they conform to ethical standards.

For advertisers, this is great. It’s 100% targeted on a segment. Your brand is displayed daily in the e-mail. Every partner can ask to claim tags so that your banners are displayed on top of an article with that tag. So it’s even more targeted in a special segment.

You get exclusivity in your business. You can place information about your company on special pages. You get special advertising spots on the Web site.

But it does not stop there. In addition to the digital products, they publish special editions in print. You get the chance to advertise a couple of times on the business page and to send one partner e-mail a year to all the newsletter recipients, etc.

The job of the advertisers? Pay a yearly fee as partner — a great word for good sponsoring. Cost of the publisher? One person as product manager, and your business news desk that has more space to write. Before that product, they had only one page. Now they have a newsletter and Web site extra.

This product just smells like a killer, in all possible target groups. Can you imagine one for primer league football teams? Or lovers of cultural events? Or for women? Or for car lovers? Endless possibilities. Not always daily, but weekly or monthly must be possible.

I believe that this kind of sponsoring and cross-media product development is part of our future in advertising. And will generate loyal and happy clients. Happy advertisers. Isn’t that what we all want?

And if your editor needs to be convinced, let him or her call the editor-in-chief of Het Belang van Limburg. INMA member, great journalist, independent and creative mind. But also responsible for the future of his brand. A business man. I guess he would sponsor it if he wasn’t publishing it.