5 Tools to Help Automate Local Advertising

    by Andria Krewson
    December 8, 2009
    The PlaceLocal tool lets publishers and advertisers create custom ads

    Promises of whiter teeth, IQ quizzes, and digital dancing people clutter online ads these days. At the same time, experts at future-of-journalism conferences are declaring that news will never again be solely supported by advertising. Neither one tells the full story of the present and future of online advertising for hyper-local and other news websites.

    Experiments with new advertising technology are popping up everywhere. Websites are trying to reach smaller, local advertisers that have been underserved for years by legacy media. This local and hyper-local ad market will be a significant part the future of journalism, says Jeff Jarvis, author of “What Would Google Do?” and associate professor and director of the interactive journalism program at the City University of New York.

    Even Twitter is dropping hints about its advertising plans. Founder Biz Stone said the company is not considering text and display ads for Twitter’s home page, but he told Reuters on November 25 that the company plans to make money with “non-traditional” advertising. Stone didn’t define what non-traditional ads will look like, but here are five examples of new tools that websites can use to make money from advertising.


    5 Tools for Automating Local Ads

    1. PlaceLocal: A new, hosted solution that allows publishers to automate local ad creation and sales. It’s operated by PaperG, a startup led by Victor Wong, who is taking time off from Yale to develop his business. PlaceLocal automatically builds customized ads for any local business using just its name and address. The tool can even create a landing page for a small advertiser, Wong said in an interview during which he demonstrated the tool.


    Victor Wong

    The technology builds an ad using algorithms, and by searching databases and the web for reviews, photos, or entertainment listings. It also filters out any content that has a negative tone. The tool allows advertising representatives or publishers to easily build ads on spec and use them as a sales tool, Wong said.


    “Some of our partners are using it to crawl their own databases,” he said. The tool can be deployed on a publisher’s ad servers or run separately, and payment to PaperG is based on a revenue-share basis, he said. “If customers aren’t buying ads, we won’t make money,” he said. “If they are, we will make money.” Several media properties are testing the software, Wong said, and a public launch is planned this month. PaperG raised $1.1 million in its second round, from people like the former Boston.com publisher Steve Taylor and Mark Potts, CEO of GrowthSpur, according to paidContent.

    2. Dynamic ads: Offered by TheDigitel in Charleston, S.C., this tool allows advertisers to change ad content dynamically via a text message, Facebook or blog update, or using a Twitter or Flickr photo feed. “If you can feed it, our thing can eat it,” claims TheDigitel’s website. Advertisers fill out a form to create the ad and designate which parts are static, and which are dynamic.

    3. Flyerboard: A virtual bulletin board that enables small, local advertisers to create flyers that are then distributed to hyper-local websites. This is another offering from PaperG. The tool, which lets readers share the flyers on Facebook and Twitter, is deployed at sites like the New Haven Independent, Boston.com’s Newton, and some of Hearst’s local sites, like The Woodlands in the Houston suburbs. Flyerboard is a permanent widget installed on local sites, and revenue is shared between the site and PaperG. Wong said Flyerboard has generated 1% clickthrough rates for ads on some hyper-local sites, outperforming traditional advertising.

    i-ab421058d8d938f9192102320d78a2d3-minnpost realtime.jpg

    MinnPost real time ad

    4. Real time ads: These are delivered at MinnPost.com, a non-profit site covering Minnesota. Joel Kramer, CEO and editor of the site, showed off the concept during a panel at the Online News Association conference in early October. MinnPost champions the ads as a simple way to avoid creating specific messages just for one website. Rather, small advertisers can harness an RSS feed from an existing blog or business tweet stream. The text is displayed on a widget at MinnPost.com, with a link to a pop-up page displaying the text with images and links to originating websites.

    5. Self-serve ads: Multiple examples of self-service ad vendors exist for print and the web, such as the Instiads offered through Neighborlogs, a placeblogging platform based in Seattle, and PageGage. Also, AdReady is used by The New York Times. A partnership for a self-service ad network was announced in September between the Tribune Company and MediaSpectrum.

    Most of these services offer hosting and billing assistance in exchange for a percentage of revenue. Other companies, such as Trafficspaces, offer advertising software-as-a-service with monthly fees. Trafficspaces has also launched a free version with sponsored ads. Another ad management company, isocket, is in private beta with TechCrunch, and recently received $2 million in seed funding. Mobile self-serve ad tools have sprouted up as well, such as Zeep Media, which sets ad prices via auction, and Mojiva.

    Sharing Space

    Beyond the new technology offerings and platforms, traditional media organizations have begun sharing ad space with smaller publishers, borrowing the ad network concept from digital natives like the Blogher network of independent blogs for women. The Miami Herald, a McClatchy newspaper, has launched a Community News Network and is partnering with local websites for content on the Herald’s site and sharing ad positions on those pages.

    Andria Krewson is a freelance journalist and consultant from Charlotte, N.C. She has worked at newspapers for 27 years, focusing on design and editing of community niche publications. She blogs for her neighborhood at Under Oak, writes occasionally as a Tar Heel mom at The Daily Tar Heel and covers changing culture at Crossroads Charlotte. Twitter: underoak.

    Tagged: ad network advertising automation hyper-local self-serve ads technology

    11 responses to “5 Tools to Help Automate Local Advertising”

    1. That’s a great list. And thanks for mentioning MinnPost’s Real-Time Ads! I wanted to mention that the system is flexible and allows for different ad widget designs. For example, you have highlights our ROS (Run-of-site) Widget. We also offer a targeted Real-Time Ads widget in our Book Club Clubs section (See the ad widgets in the left column) We intend to roll out more targeted Real-Time Widgets (Think Politics, Restaurants, etc) that have different inventories, designs, and price-points.

    2. Tim Cox says:

      Nice round-up, Andria. I thought you and your readers might like to know that Krillion is today announcing a new form of e-circular, designed for use on online news sites and other high-traffic websites with a ‘local’ flavor. The initial deployment is on local online news leader, Topix, and displays great deals on products in-stock at local retailers. See here: http://pitch.pe/36957
      Tim (ZingPR for Krillion)

    3. Andria, I always enjoy reading your contributions! Great to see TheDigitel in here, hope to see you in Charlotte soon :)


    4. Andria, I always enjoy reading your contributions! Great to see TheDigitel in here, hope to see you in Charlotte soon :)


    5. Andria says:

      Thanks, Karl and Tim.
      Love that the new forms can serve people like book stores and libraries.
      And thanks, Tim, for adding the information about Krillion. I tried it out and discovered a Waring Blender available in my ZIP code. Now I’m humming Warren Zevon.

    6. Lief Larson says:

      How about BusinessCard2? Your business card as an ad that contains data, files, videos, slideshows, and links all in a self-contained unit.

    7. Hey Andria, like some of the others have already mentioned, this is a solid list of businesses that are offering all types of publishers various solutions that allow a more direct (and local) ad sales approach.

      At isocket our immediate focus is to create a direct ad sales and management tool that will make all types of online publishers’ lives easier.

      So, even though we’re going to have a product that will allow publishers to create one-to-one relationships with would-be advertisers, we are also packing in the tools that will ease the overall management of these campaigns as well.

      I think that’s about all I can tell you about for now, but I’ll be sure to keep you updated on any other news that I think you might be interested in knowing about.

      Thanks again for the love and I’ll be in touch!

      Ryan Hupfer
      isocket customer bff

    8. Andria says:

      It’s great that y’all are working on the management of ads, helping new publishers keep costs low in a traditionally resource-intensive area. I’ll keep watching.

      And Lief, thanks for adding BusinessCard2 to the list. Oooh, shiny.

    9. Faye says:

      I’ve been looking for a list like this… some gret options here. thanks!

    10. Tim Davids says:

      great info…thanks.

      I own several hundred Geo targetted domains and I see big opportunities for these ad companies in that channel.

    11. David says:

      Hi Andria,

      Local advertising is definitely an exciting new trend.

      When you combine with new geo-aware devices like the iphone 3GS and Android phones with location-sensitive ad managers that also do contextual and demographic targeting, you’ve got one really powerful ad campaign.

      Thanks for compiling this list and checking out Trafficspaces.


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