More Localizing

Two bits of research should have been included in yesterday’s posting on localizing online media: that newspaper web sites may already the big fish in their local ponds, and the notion that online local, directory and classified advertisements may offer a greater return on investment than competing options.

Both research bits are somewhat self-serving so, as always, consider the source.

The Newspaper Association of America reports that:

“Newspapers own 11 of the top 25 national news and information Web sites, and locally, newspapers provide the dominant information site in most of the top 75 markets … Data from Nielsen//NetRatings shows that unique visitors to newspaper Web sites in 2005 represented on average more than one-third (46 million) of all Internet users over the course of a month. Unique visitors jumped 21 percent from January 2005 to December 2005, and page views increased by 43 percent over that period. In November 2005, newspaper Web sites reached more than one-third (55 million) of all Internet users.”

The problem for newspapers is not getting readers — they are the information gatherers (if my own bias as a print reporter does not disqualify that assertion). Rather advertising dollars are leaking from print to the web, and each online reader delivers less in revenue. The market research firm Outsell recently noted that “news executives … have a three-to-five year window to transform their businesses to the new realities.” How and how well newspapers (and local broadcasters) adapt to online publishing will be dependent upon and will in turn influence local media startups, such as those I discussed yesterday.

In a separate but related study, the Center for Media Research offered a distilled version of a report from the Interactive Advertising Bureau the gist of which appears to be that the accretive impact of low-cost exposures to online advertising produces excellent returns for advertisers.

I say appears because the IAB press release is full of marketing gobbledy-gook that obscures its point. But from what I glean, IAB and comScore Networks looked at a number of markets served by classified, directory and local search advertising. These included: Automotive, Careers, Construction and Contractors, Financial Services, Hospitality, Professional Services, Real Estate and Retail. The study apparently factored in not just the immediate “click-to-purchase” responses, but the “click-to-learn-more” replies that were part of a longer process that led to an ultimate sale — and came to the conclusion that online advertising was cost effective.

Looking at the categories the study selected, this makes sense. Finding a contractor or buying a car is a bigger decision than buying a new ring tone for the cell phone or getting a new music download. It demands more research and time, and online advertising (coupled with word of mouth) may be best suited to targeting the right customers and nudging them toward a decision.

Tom Abate
‘Cause if you ain’t Mass Media, you’re Mini Media