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    How Can Ads Support Community News?

    by Mark Glaser
    March 26, 2008

    I’m going to be posting weekly questions here on Idea Lab to spark discussion by the various authors, as well as our community of readers. This week I’d like to follow up on the recent theme of new business models for local news sites. Many small hyper-local community sites start up with Google AdSense ads and other automated, quick ways of bringing in a small revenue stream. Eventually, though, they need to make more money than that, and must turn to local businesses to advertise. But it’s difficult to entice small businesses online, as they are more likely to employ Google AdWords if they do anything at all. So how can community news sites get local businesses to advertise, and is there something they can offer the businesses beyond just a display ad or a place in an online directory? Is there a more creative partnership they might have, where reader/contributors could give the business honest feedback on the site — positive and negative?

    Share your thoughts on this in the comments below, or if you’re an Idea Lab blogger, write up a whole post on the subject. If you run a community site, tell us what’s worked and what hasn’t.

    Tagged: advertising business models community news hyper-local news
    • Rich Gordon

      Quite a few local newspapers think there is potential in a “yellow pages + social networking” model. Two papers that are working on this are:

      * The Bakersfield Californian’s Inside Guide:

      http://people.bakersfield.com/home/Businesses

      * The Lawrence Journal-World’s business directory:

      http://www2.ljworld.com/marketplace/

      Both combine user reviews and services that businesses can pay for to promote themselves.

      I think a self-service advertising model will be critical to making this work — to keep the cost of sales as low as possible. Our Knight News Challenge colleague, Richard Anderson, provides self-service advertising tools on his Village Soup sites in Maine. One that I like allows the business to change its “bizOffers” (special deals or promotions) on the home page as often as it wants to:

      http://knox.villagesoup.com/

    • Dan Schultz

      Didn’t Geoff Dougherty do something interesting with local advertisements for ChiTown?

      http://www.pbs.org/idealab/2007/12/its-all-about-the-maps.html

      “Basically, we’re making it easy for you to see the news and ads that are relevant to you because they take place near you.

      If you’re a registered user on the site, you’ll have the opportunity to give us your address. Our frontpage will then display a map centered on that location. It’ll show you the recent news that’s closest to you.

      Similarly, you’ll get ads from local merchants — people whose businesses you’re most likely to want to support.

      For advertisers this represents an amazing opportunity to pay for ads that reach people in a particular neighborhood. And they’re cheap — $50 to get started.”

      Personally I won’t even try to talk about business models (seeing as how I am in $40,000 of student loan debt and haven’t even graduated yet, my net income is in the negative!)

      I will say that I’m an idealist and feel that if a service is truly excellent, the money will come naturally… Basically the potential is so huge that I don’t have the model to drive the ideas, I let the ideas drive the model. Something tells me that I’ll soon realize that such a mentality is blissful/unprofitable ignorance :(

    • Paul Lamb

      Another approach that is a perfect match for community news is place-based advertising that leverages the power of mobile phones and devices. Not locally relevant advertising through Internet searches or Google Adwords on the Web, but ads that are fed to a mobile device when you are in a particular location. For example you might get a discount coupon fed to your mobile phone as you walk by a local coffee shop. The offer is “redeemed” by clicking on the ad and showing it on your phone to the clerk when stepping in to purchase your coffee. Not too far down the road, and as mobile devices are enabled for direct bank or credit card purchases (as in Japan and other places), such location-based “feed and purchase” mobile systems will likely offer significant opportunities for community news distributors.

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