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September 15, 2022
5 min read

Redefining the Narrative: How the Shift from Print to Digital Shapes Local Newspaper Advertising Today

Local newspapers are facing a challenge in transitioning their small print advertisers to digital platforms, which rely heavily on large accounts and programmatic advertising. The complexity of digital advertising and the lack of full-service solutions tailored to local advertisers have hindered their adoption of digital advertising.

Christian Scherbel
LInkedIn Logo

This article appeared first on inma.org

The Current State of Local Advertising

In numerous countries, the local newspaper industry has experienced a significant decline. This downturn is often attributed to a decrease in local relevance and interest, or to the dominance of global giants like Google and Facebook.

However, a closer examination of the types of advertisers that local newspapers attract in their digital formats compared to their print editions reveals a more complex and distinct challenge. This challenge is one that local publishers have yet to effectively address.

In the digital realm, revenue is predominantly generated from large accounts, both direct and indirect sales. Conversely, in the print sector, small accounts, primarily through direct sales, have historically constituted a significant portion of revenue. Unfortunately, these small accounts are often overlooked when digital strategies are outlined.

Since the advent of the internet, there has been a persistent notion of freely accessible content, a concept that has been extensively debated and critiqued within the industry. Additionally, the internet promised global accessibility, leveraging the power of algorithms and technology.

The concept of "Glocal" advertising emerged, where large campaigns by global brands would automatically appear in local newspapers, facilitated by programmatic advertising. This approach required minimal effort from the sales team, but promised spectacular results.

However, nearly two decades into the era of programmatic and indirect sales, it's evident that companies like Google, with their Google Display Network, have reaped substantial profits. Google takes a significant commission, often around 30%, and spreads ads across the internet, with Cost Per Mille (CPM) rates ranging from $1 to $5.This applies to websites of varying quality that can incorporate a simple Google ad remarketing tag.

In contrast, the print industry has traditionally focused on direct sales. This includes not only regional key accounts and national advertisers but also a vast array of local advertisers. During the peak years of print in the 70s and 80s, reliance solely on indirect sales, agencies, and large global accounts would have significantly diminished the profitability of most newspapers.

This analysis underscores the need for local newspapers to adapt and innovate in the digital age. By embracing SEO strategies and digital marketing techniques, local publishers can enhance their online presence, attract a diverse range of advertisers, and ultimately secure a more sustainable future in the rapidly evolving media landscape.

The Gap in Local Newspaper Advertising

Why do we need to address this issue at the moment? The dominant global strategy relies heavily on Google for filling digital ad inventories, large agencies for booking prime advertising spots and global brands for their national campaigns.

However, there are still a lot of local advertisers who remain loyal to print. In my discussions with numerous publishers, a consistent pattern emerges: the proportion of local advertisers with print ads under $1,000 who also invest in digital remains disappointingly low, typically between 10-20%. This is the case despite the efforts of internal and external agencies, dedicated digital sales teams, and a general push towards embracing the digital Zeitgeist.

To bridge this gap, it's crucial to develop tailored digital solutions that resonate with local advertisers. This might involve creating more accessible and cost-effective digital advertising packages, offering personalized support and guidance for digital transition, and demonstrating the added value and reach of digital platforms. By understanding the unique needs and concerns of local advertisers, we can craft strategies that not only encourage their shift to digital but also enhance their overall advertising effectiveness. This approach not only supports the growth and sustainability of local businesses but also strengthens the relationship between publishers and their key local advertising partners.

Local Ads in Digital can look so beautiful when done right

Why Are Local Newspaper Advertisers Not Engaged?

Having observed numerous local advertising turnarounds recently, my conclusion is this: simply reducing the options available to national advertisers—offering fewer ad impressions but maintaining the same level of complexity in terms of formats, targeting options, and industry jargon does not solve the problem. Consider small advertisers, such as a local craftsman. After a long day at work, they return home at 8 pm and have to navigate self-booking platforms (like Facebook). They need to come up with a creative idea for a banner design, enhance their landing page, or figure out a report showing a 0.x% Click-Through Rate (CTR), while trying to understand how this whole thing relates to their Return on Investment (ROI).

This scenario highlights a significant disconnect. Local advertisers often lack the time, resources, or expertise to effectively engage with complex digital advertising platforms. To fix this, it's essential to simplify the advertising process for them. This could involve offering more straightforward, user-friendly advertising tools, providing templates for ad designs, and delivering clear, concise reports that easily translate into tangible business outcomes.

It can be so complex to book a simple campaign online as a local advertiser with an MBA in digital advertising

The Smartico Way

We have already established for a fact that the existing approach is too complex for local advertisers and they eventually decide not to deal with it. That’s why the solution is to offer a comprehensive, full-service platform, something that big players like Facebook and Google typically don’t provide. This service would involve creating banners automatically, using existing materials from the advertiser's print ads, website, and social media, along with a corresponding landing page.

In addition, the ads should be displayed only in local areas, on prominent spots within a credible environment, such as your local news site. Instead of focusing on click rates, the reporting should emphasize the attention and interactions on the landing page. This approach tells a more complete and appealing story for the local advertiser.

The new model needs to be introduced without adding an extra burden on advertisers, sales representatives, or back-office staff. This is where Smartico comes in – we deliver end-to-end services, including landing page and banner automation as well as sales trainings. Our strategy not only simplifies the advertising process for local businesses, but also strengthens their digital marketing effectiveness, leading to a better ROI. Learn more about our innovative Smart Ads to see how we can make a difference for your business.

Reach out to me when I may show you a few turnarounds Smartico was fortunate enough to accompany. Believe me, there’s “money on the table” with publishers on average suddenly doing $15+ CPMs at scale and $100.000 per year already in the first year.

I am happy to share more details about business cases, publisher names & contacts, supplier names, sales materials, links to creatives, etc.

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