🤝Join our bi-weekly SMB Advertising Sales Briefing for Newspaper Executives for free!

Receive industry trends, sales hacks, best practises, sales materials from other publishers, advertising benchmarks and inspiration for new sales products and tactics directly into your inbox.
100% focussed on digital advertising sales for publishers.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

💡1.000s of newspaper executives already joined

September 8, 2022
5 min read

Digital Advertising Edge: How Publishers Outshine Meta & Google in SME Market

Newspaper executives often discuss the digital advertising shortcomings of regional news publishers compared to global giants like Google and Facebook. However, I strongly disagree with this notion based on both theoretical and practical observations, supported by examples from small and large news publishers who have embraced competition and focused on their strengths.

Christian Scherbel
LInkedIn Logo

This article appeared first on inma.org


With increasing frequency, I encounter newspaper executives expressing concerns about the challenges faced by regional news publishers in the space of digital advertising, especially when compared to global giants like Google and Facebook. These concerns often revolve around issues such as data management, technological advancements, the vast scale of these corporations, their government support and their user-friendly self-service advertising platforms.

In this post I am going to counter this prevalent notion, drawing not only from theoretical and intellectual perspectives but also from real-life examples. These examples showcase both small and large news publishers who have risen to the challenge, embracing competition and leveraging their unique strengths.

By examining these cases and dissecting the arguments against these digital advertising giants, it becomes almost surprising that local (as opposed to national) news publishers manage to generate any advertising revenue at all. Join me as I delve into this topic and explore how local publishers can effectively compete in the digital advertising landscape.

Google and Meta Lack the Personal Approach

When examining the level of "personal care" that behemoths like Facebook and Google provide to their customers, it becomes evident that this aspect is nearly non-existent. Beyond the occasional $50 or $100 voucher, these platforms offer minimal personal interaction for advertisers. There's a lack of direct help, onboarding, training, or any form of support, unless you're a national giant spending above $100,000 with them.

This is where local publishers have a significant advantage. Local advertisers highly value direct contact, support, mentoring, and a sense of partnership. As a local publisher, you can capitalize on this by making personal engagement a key part of your pitch. This approach not only supports the "buy local" argument, but also sets you apart from the competition.

However, the question arises: Why does "self-booking" work effectively for companies like Meta and others? It's a common desire to launch a self-booking tool and let advertisers work their magic independently. But remember, this success is not just about great user experience (UX) and technology; it's also about scale. For instance, if Facebook targets all 212 million small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) worldwide and secures 10 million active global advertisers, that's a conversion rate of 4.7% based on their global reach. For a regional publisher focusing on approximately 15,000 SMBs, this would mean only about 707 advertisers might use a self-booking tool, assuming you match Facebook's effectiveness and regional dominance. But what about the remaining 14,293 advertisers in your region? This highlights the need for a more tailored, personal approach in regional digital advertising strategies.

GAFA Offer Poor Traffic Quality

When analyzing the traffic quality on platforms like Google, Amazon, Facebook or Apple, it becomes clear that a) the quality heavily depends on the specific parameters set for each campaign, and b) generally, these platforms exhibit high bounce rates, emphasizing a quantity-over-quality approach. This means investing a bigger budget, conducting numerous A/B tests, utilizing advanced technology, dedicating time to optimization, and allocating funds for specialists and agencies. These tech companies do everything possible to push the advertisers to spend more money. For example “limited by budget” messages or pop ups advising the user to double their daily spend to get more clicks or conversions are quite common.

However, this approach doesn't align with the needs of the typical local advertiser. They aim to precisely and accurately reach a few thousand individuals within their target demographic, which is just a fraction of a potentially larger audience. They're not interested in engaging in endless A/B testing or tolerating high bounce rates and low click-through rates.

This is where local publishers have a unique selling point. They can offer high-quality traffic and a "good neighborhood" for ads. This means placing ads in the right contextual and regional settings, which often results in significantly higher click rates compared to other sites. More importantly, these clicks tend to convert better on the advertiser's landing pages post-click. However, the challenge lies in demonstrating this value, especially if the advertiser has limited or no analytics on their page. My strong recommendation is to utilize a service like Smartico, which automatically creates banners and landing pages for each local ad campaign. This allows for tracking of engagement metrics such as "time spent on landing pages", “scroll depth” and more. The difference this makes in the sales narrative for your local sales representatives and advertisers is remarkable compared to other digital campaigns.

No “bad neighbourhood advertising” with your trusted local newspaper

Full Service in Local Digital Advertising

Facebook and similar platforms excel at making "their game" synonymous with "the advertiser's game." They emphasize the importance of well-designed websites, digital KPIs, and A/B or audience testing. However, local advertisers, such as restaurants or car dealerships, often have little interest or intrinsic motivation to maintain a high-traffic website. Their primary goal is to increase "foot traffic" in their physical locations, and they prefer having experts manage their online presence rather than spending their evenings learning various web design and conversion tactics, which yield questionable results.

As a news publisher, you can create a significant impact with local digital campaigns by offering comprehensive, "out-of-the-box" campaign solutions. These can be based on the advertiser's previous print campaigns, social media posts, Google Business Profile data, and homepage content.

By providing a package that includes a best-practice ad impression bundle with precise geo- and context-targeting, along with a professionally designed banner and landing page, you offer local advertisers a value-for-money proposition that they simply cannot get from global tech giants. It's crucial, however, not to overwhelm your organization with the operational demands of managing hundreds of these small campaigns. Instead, leverage services like Smartico to handle these tasks efficiently. This approach not only streamlines the process but also ensures that local advertisers receive the attention and results they deserve.

Intuitive Results Focused on Relevant Metrics

As previously mentioned, platforms like Facebook and Google aim to transform local advertisers into digital marketing experts. If these advertisers are part of the 4.7% for whom this strategy works, that's great. However, for those who are not well-versed in digital marketing, these platforms can be overwhelming.

This is where you, as a local publisher can shine and make a significant difference! You have the opportunity not only to explain the complex performance metrics, but also to introduce more relatable and impactful KPIs that resonate with local advertisers. Metrics such as "the number of times an ad was displayed," "specific locations where the ads were consistently visible rather than just in rotation," "the duration people spent engaging with the ad and the landing page," and "user activities on the landing page" are not only more understandable, but more meaningful as well.

For a local small and medium-sized business(SMB) that isn't a national or regionally-focused digital-first key account, this approach is far more compelling than traditional digital marketing metrics. Consider the narratives your sales representatives can use: Compare telling a local restaurant owner "Your campaign achieved a 0.2% CTR for$99," with, "Your ad engaged 73 people who spent a total of 101minutes on your landing page, all for just $99." The latter story is likely to be much more effective and appealing to local businesses seeking tangible, understandable results from their advertising investments.


While global giants like Google and Facebook dominate with their vast resources and technological power, they often lack the personal touch and tailored approach that local advertisers value. Local publishers, by leveraging their intimate understanding of the local market and offering personalized, full-service campaign solutions, can compete effectively. By focusing on relevant metrics, quality traffic, and intuitive results that relate with local businesses, regional publishers can provide a compelling alternative to the impersonal, one-size-fits-all approach of the larger platforms. This strategy not only supports local businesses but also reinforces the importance of maintaining a strong, community-focused advertising ecosystem.

Based on all of the above I am not afraid of this huge competition for the local advertising budget because news publishers have clear advantages. We just have to work on showing and communicating them better. And if we don’t have the right local $99 packages for digital yet that include the banner and the landing page as well as a visual reporting dashboard, we should talk.

I am happy to share more details about business cases, publisher names & contacts, supplier names, sales materials, links to creatives, etc. Just reach out to me and get the full package!

Share this post

Subscribe to our blog!

Thank you – we added you to our Smart Insights newsletter.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Get more digital ad revenues with SMB clients - Book your Free DemoGrow your business with Smart Ads - Book your Free Demo

Start now! It’s easy

Get your free Smart Ad

Upload failed. Max size for files is 10 MB.
Thanks for your request – we deliver your demo ad within 24 hours!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Build Great Banner Ads + Landing Pages at Scale Now!

A link to your advertiser’s website, social media post, Google My Business Profile or print ad is all it takes to get your Free Demo Ad within 24 hours.

Get more digital ad revenues with SMB clients - Book your Free Demo

Free Smart Ad demo for everyone!

Please use your official agency or publisher email address and not @gmail.com or similar.
Upload failed. Max size for files is 10 MB.
Thanks for your request – we deliver your demo ad within 24 hours!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Consent Management
We use cookies and other/similar technologies (together: cookies) on our website. Some of them are essential, while others help us improve this website and your experience.
These items are required to enable basic website functionality.
These items are used to deliver advertising that is more relevant to you and your interests. They may also be used to limit the number of times you see an advertisement and measure the effectiveness of advertising campaigns. Advertising networks usually place them with the website operator’s permission.
These items allow the website to remember choices you make (such as your user name, language, or the region you are in) and provide enhanced, more personal features. For example, a website may provide you with local weather reports or traffic news by storing data about your current location.
These items help the website operator understand how its website performs, how visitors interact with the site, and whether there may be technical issues. This storage type usually doesn’t collect information that identifies a visitor.