Local Online News: Still Up for Grabs

The online news space is getting crowded. Maybe it’s time to start throwing some elbows?

Digital marketing dollars of most small business, are still up for grabs. When you take these tiny but high volumes of mom & pop budgets, and combine them with the ‘asleep at the wheel’ efforts of traditional media, you can see why Reach Local, Google, Yellow Pages 360 and a slew of indie efforts are doubling down and are going for the kill.

When it comes to big media’s foray into this space, it’s full of well intentioned, but often misguided efforts.

  • Philly.com’s CEO; Greg Osberg once told Poynter: “His top focus initially, will be on building audience, especially online. While conceding the point that small growth in unique visitors and other measures may not greatly impact ad sales, I think we can get 100 percent more audience, and that would make a difference.” Whoa, hold on there big fella. Since revenue & profitability is likely the top priority of his bosses, (investment firm of Angelo Gordon & others) we are not in agreement with Osberg’s statement. Instead, we believe Philly.com (and most news sites) have a sales strategy problem, not a traffic and page-view problem. Driving zillions of page views = inventory glut = lower effective cpm. Even MSNBC declared: pageview ‘dead’. Osberg also hinted of  his plan to find local collaborators, especially in the suburbs where editorial coverage has been cut. We think this will be tough in the fiercely independent, Philly blogosphere, where some indie sites are getting bought up. (see next item)
  • A Philly sports blog called 700Level, was acquired by Comcast. Another local sports site called Beer Leaguer was also just snapped up by the cable giant. This should give local, independent site owners a much better sense of the value of their work. If your stuff is good, why give it away for peanuts? If your not sure how to value your site, contact us for assistance. Indie-sites like Philebrity.com, Philly2nite.com and SuburbanOneSports.com are not likely to sell out for the relatively small pay day and employee status that the 700Level & Beer Leaguer jumped on. (we think much too quickly). Kudos to Comcast Sports Net vp; Eric Grilly, for making this smart move, while the 2 sports Radio stations in town 610WIP.com, 975TheFanatic.com, as well as Philly.com, were snoozing.
  • The Washington Post hoped local bloggers would drop everything to work with the legendary site, for what some say, free. Read the laundry list of rules you need to follow, if you want to work with the WashPo.
  • SacPress.com is the self-funded news project that reportedly reaches more Sacramento online readers than the daily Newspaper (Sacbee), by leveraging their Sacramento Local Online Ad Network (SLOAN). The network is now over 40 sites strong, even repping the web inventory of 4 local Radio stations. (stations owned by digitally-challenged, Entercom)
  • Radio & TV taking a shot at hyper-local news. Some broadcasters admit their weakness, raising the white flag, and are outsourcing web strategy to DataSphere. Others do it themselves, and make clumsy mistakes and leave money on the table. But promising Radio efforts like WYDaily.com are a sign of things to come.
  • Sites like TheBatavian, AroundMainline.com and BrigantineNOW.com are gaining traffic and advertiser support. They use the not-so-secret formula of “running their sites like a business”. They spend less time with research and theory, and more time on the streets closing deals, and making sales calls.

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