Local engagement is key to revenue, audience development


After my last blog, a very good editor friend of mine said he was reporting me to the Punctuation Police Local 999 for overuse of the exclamation mark. I told him that was because INMA wouldn’t allow me to submit my blog in all caps, because they thought readers would think I was yelling.

I do tend to be enthusiastic when I talk about newspaper stuff, but I will try to tone it down (a little).

Now, not to beat a dead horse, but IT’S ALL ABOUT LOCAL. Visit the Newseum’s front page gallery, and randomly look at the front pages of several newspapers. You’ll find that, while there are some national and international news stories, most newspapers lead with local content.

Obviously, newspaper companies get the importance of local coverage. But there’s more to it than that.

Overall, most newspapers have done a better job of news coverage and product development in order to reach the ever-fragmenting audiences in their markets. To truly develop and attract these audiences, newspapers must better engage and be a part of their communities.

In doing so, there are multiple revenue-generating possibilities.

This is a concept that local television and radio stations have understood and embraced for some time. Through contests, community-involved programming, call-in shows, and local events, TV and radio stations drive audiences to their programming.

As newspapers evolve their value proposition from “net paid” to measurements such as audience penetration, reach and, most importantly, audience, newspapers need to be in front of these communities in meaningful and fun ways.

The good news is there are some wonderful examples of this from around the industry in the pages of the INMA Web site.

• The Wenatchee World “Community Connection” pages appear in print and online two to three times each week and utilise a small pool of community bloggers to write about topics of local interest they are passionate about. 

In her May 29 Satisfying Audiences blog post, (“How one newspaper engaged readers by amplifying their voices”), Kathleen Coleman, director of sales and marketing at The Spokesman-Review, wrote about the community engagement initiative at The Wenatchee World.

In Coleman’s blog, Rufus Woods, publisher of The Wenatchee World, says: “My intention is for The World to lead the way in creative civic engagement — to be a purpose-driven organisation that connects meaningfully with the community. We have fewer resources than we did five years ago. As a result, if we stick to business as usual, we will do less for our readers.”

The Wenatchee World is engaging its local audience, not just by reporting on it, but by making the community an integral part of the reporting process.

• The San Diego Union-Tribune utilised its weekly entertainment brand, Night & Day, to host a one-day street fair with food, music and other entertainment.

The event brought in close to 5,000 participants and gave local food and beverage advertisers a chance to connect with a specific audience. Speaking of U-T San Diego, U-T TV is a brilliant example of multi-platform audience development through hyper-local engagement.

• Boston.com, another great example of successful audience development, launched a 24/7 streaming radio station using local radio personalities.

The online radio station, RadioBDC, is increasing engagement on Boston.com, as well as driving new audiences to the site. It has also led to sponsorships, events, and advertising revenue opportunities for The Boston Globe on all platforms.

• The Denver Post developed a specific social media audience for itself and for advertisers through its Facebook Fandemonium contest. The contest capitalised on the popularity of The Denver Broncos, connecting Bronco Fans and other social media users with sponsoring advertisers.

The winner won Club Level passes, a John Elway autographed football, and prizes from the sponsors.

Again, not only did this generate advertising revenue for the newspaper and customers for the advertisers, it enabled The Post to engage with a specific audience in a way meaningful to that audience.

These are examples of newspaper companies engaging targeted audiences of both subscribers and non-subscribers to the benefit of the community, the newspaper, and advertisers alike.

In addition, the newspapers have made themselves integral parts of the communities they serve in unique and innovative ways. 

The above examples also show how engagement can generate revenue. In fact, the development of local audiences through community engagement has a great deal of revenue potential in several areas:

  • Advertising: Clearly, the examples above present multiple advertising opportunities on all platforms and through direct connection with consumers at events such as the Night & Day street fair and through RadioBDC events.

    Not only is there revenue generated from the specific community event or product, but brand awareness has the potential to drive increased advertising revenue for different newspaper products.

  • Audience Development: Community engagement also provides opportunities for brand awareness from an audience development standpoint. This awareness can translate into greater readership and increased circulation revenue through the sale of print and digital subscriptions, or free opt-in products.

    As in the example of The Denver Post, there is opportunity to monetise social media and other channels, as well.

  • Content: There is potential revenue through the packaging and sale of editorial content that is relevant to local audiences.

    For example, many newspapers have had success selling locally-themed coffee table books using both newspaper and reader-generated content. Revenue opportunities come from the sale and local sponsorship of the book, and from ad sales related to the user-content submission process, both online and in print.

  • Data: As I mentioned in my last blog, I believe one of newspapers’ best opportunities for new content and revenue lies in the development and utilisation of consumer data.

    With a critical mass of accurate data — including consumer preference, lifestyle, and other measurements — newspapers can create very targeted, extremely valuable, multi-platform advertiser campaigns. Community engagement provides endless opportunities to gather consumer data in non-intrusive ways.

    I was quite excited to see that INMA launched a new blog last month called, Big Data for News Publishers. Written by Dirk Milbou, business manager/consumer relations for De Persgroep, the blog will “highlight case studies of how Big Data is used to bring more editorial relevancy, better audience engagement, and more value to advertising clients.” I look forward to the information and insights this blog will provide.

  • Other: The possibilities for local engagement are really endless. Some newspapers have had great success with retail sales, and others have offered non-traditional services such as residential product delivery. Community engagement can also involve identifying local needs and offering solutions to fill those needs.

As newspapers continue to renew and reinvent themselves, a couple of things stand out as true. Audiences will continue to become more and more segmented, meaning advertising will continue to become more targeted to very specific audiences.

There is opportunity to reach these audiences in ways that also enable the local newspaper to engage with its audience, thus increasing awareness of the local newspaper and its importance to a community.

This awareness can translate to new revenue streams, but also increases in traditional newspaper revenue, including print.

Finally, I am pleased to report that a review of my blog reveals that I didn’t use a single exclamation point until the very last sentence of my post!

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