That One Thing That Just Might Save Your Local Newspaper


Attention All Digital Marketing Snobs: local newspapers are still doing a good job of driving value for local businesses looking to get their messages in front of local consumers. Yes, ad revenue is down, but so are ad rates. And it’s these lower rates that now make it attractive for everyone from car dealers to florists to grocery stores to carve out a few bucks from their respective marketing budgets for a newspaper advertisement they can see and touch (and even track when done right). 

Interestingly, it’s in monetizing their digital editions where most local publishers struggle to gain traction today. To oversimplify the issues with making money on the digital front, it usually comes down to (A) local advertising sales teams that don’t know exactly how to sell digital advertising, who then (B) create ineffective digital ads that provide little more than branding for the digital advertiser.

Needless to say, when the advertiser fails to find tangible ROI from these online branding campaigns, they quickly move their dollars away from spending directly with the local newspaper website. They look for bigger players who can put their ineffective branding ads everywhere… using ever larger budgets.

The funny thing is, for local advertisers, it often makes more sense to buy their digital marketing directly from their local players (like newspapers) and develop better creative than it does to throw thousands (or tens of thousands) away every month into the abyss filled with fraud and middlemen and fraud.

(Yes, I wrote fraud twice on purpose.)

Online Ad Fraud is Real and It’s At Least a $7 Billion Business

When I review the ad spending of my automotive clients I am no longer shocked when I see large budgets being thrown away on worthless digital marketing (especially Search Engine Marketing) and ineffective Search Engine Optimization services that border on the criminal.

Just last month, a dealership that sells fewer than 100 units a month in a smaller than average market asked me to look at their digital ad spend with a company that provides these services to dealerships nationwide. The result? This dealership was throwing away over $12,000 each month to drive no tangible returns. Nothing. (Also important to note: this dealer was spending nothing on their local newspaper’s digital edition.)

They fell for the big words that the slick, national digital marketing salesman used when he walked through their door. (Snake Oil Salesmen will often defend their ineffective digital products by making you feel like you’re just too dumb to understand how “all of this” works.)

Why wasn’t this dealer spending at least a small portion of their budget with the local newspaper on their highly-trafficked digital edition? Because, the local newspaper’s rep doesn’t know any of the big words and concepts necessary to sell digital marketing, I suppose.

Local advertisers, like this small dealership, are often getting screwed because of ineffective campaigns (run by slick, national firms), banner blindness (where consumers have trained their eyes to avoid banner ads), ad blockers (92% of consumers say they would consider using an ad blocker according to the 2016 Meeker Report), and outright digital marketing fraud.

For local advertisers, it’s important to understand that online ad fraud is a $7 billion annual cost borne by the advertisers. In fact, just a single ad fraud “bot,” dubbed Methbot, was recently discovered draining $3-$5 million a day from advertisers.

Of course, with all this known fraud, surely the big ad networks are looking out for the local advertisers, right? Nope; as Forbes reported recently “… because of the way the online advertising market is structured, with several layers of middlemen and ad networks, there is little incentive to stop it.”

The Answer for Local Advertisers? Get Local!

Of course, for the local car dealer or florist or grocery store to use some of their digital budget on the local newspaper’s website, the newspaper’s digital salespeople (A) must learn how to sell digital, (B) must offer products that can deliver a tangible ROI, and (C) must be able to help their advertiser-clients get the most out of those products.

There is little doubt that effectively driving advertising revenue from their digital editions is the future for those local media websites that hope to be relevant in a decade. Unfortunately, between market-driven solutions (like Craigslist) eating away at their classifieds business, and vendor-driven products that seem so much slicker than anything a “crusty old newspaper” can deliver, attracting and keeping that ad revenue has proven difficult.

Local Newspapers Must Make a Difference in 2017

2017 is a pivotal year for local publishers. With digital ad spending being questioned at every turn and Google punishing websites for delivering mobile interstitials and pops, local newspapers need to find ways to deliver ads that cannot be ignored, but that don’t interfere with the visitor’s experience. Once they have these tools, they need to equip their sales teams with better digital expertise, and the ability to help advertisers create ads that drive ROI. 

Digital marketing sales prowess starts with understanding the average advertiser’s goals. Simply put, understanding what your local car dealer or florist or grocery store wants from their digital ad spend will help you present your solution using verbiage that matches the advertiser’s needs; and help them design an online ad that delivers on those needs. For the most part, the average digital advertiser is looking for some mix of:

  1. Online Exposure or Branding
  2. Website Visits, Specific Page Views or Social Media Likes/Followers
  3. Leads, Phone Calls or Store Visits
  4. Sales

The further down this list a solution can be tracked and measured, the more valuable that solution becomes to the advertising client. So, if your digital marking solution – let’s say it’s a traditional banner ad – only drives online exposure and branding, it’s very hard to prove your value to the advertising client. Moreover, you will eventually lose that client to the next shiny object that’s presented to them.

Understanding all of this makes it easier for you to design ads that deliver all the way to the bottom of this list. So, it’s important to look at what you’ve built (or what your client wants to post) and ask yourself “Does this creative assist the client in reaching their online advertising goals?”

To help illustrate this point, let’s look at two sample car dealer ads (these are anonymous mocks of actual 1000 x 600 pixels ads that two different car dealers used as part of their Instant Retargeting campaigns on their respective local newspaper websites):

Sample A (An Awareness Ad):

Sample B (An Action Ad):

As you can guess, Sample A (we’ll call this “Smart Payments”) delivered no measureable ROI for the client, since it generated nothing more than lots of ad views. (Ad views, per se, are not bad; as they do deliver the exposure and branding many advertisers seek.)

Sample B (we’ll call this “Uncle Sam”) delivered better than a 5% click-through-rate (because of its strong call-to-action) and many of those clicks delivered leads (because the ad was linked to the client’s trade-in appraisal form) and sales (because the trade-in appraisal form was set up properly to deliver leads into the client’s CRM).

Moreover, when we more closely examine these two ads, it’s clear that “Smart Payments” has very limited appeal (as it appeals only to consumers who might be in the market for a vehicle), while “Uncle Sam” could appeal to anyone who currently owns a vehicle (about 94% of US households).

What’s Old Can Be New Again

The original versions of both of these ads were delivered as full pages to local consumers on newspaper websites, but without interrupting the visitor’s browsing session. If you’re trying to sell digital ads for your newspaper’s website you should ask yourself “How would the local car dealer or florist or grocery store like it if our website could deliver a full-page online ad that enjoyed a 5% or better click-through-rate without interrupting the user’s session?”

Do you remember the old-fashioned pop-unders? What if your paper could deliver one of these as a full page through DFP (Google’s DoubleClick for Publishers) that could not be blocked by pop-up blockers, and the accompanying ads not blocked by ad blockers? If you included the right creative on these (“Uncle Sam” instead of “Smart Payments”) do you think your advertisers would see value and do you think they’d stay with you over the long term?

The Instant Retargeting used by many local newspaper websites today is not your Grandfather’s pop-under. It’s reliable, unobtrusive and effective at delivering everything from a full-page ad view that performs to webpages or sections of your own website that need love.

Want to drive awareness of the classified ad categories where you can still win (like Garage Sales, Pets, Guns or Real Estate)? Use Instant Retargeting.

Want to deliver your site visitors directly onto your Autos Section after they’ve left your website? Use Instant Retargeting.

Why Instant Retargeting for Local Newspaper Websites?

Today, publishers large and small use DFP to track and manage their banner ads and remnants; and they can easily adapt this platform to do the same with higher revenue-generating Instant Retargeting ads.

As publishers know, remnant ads pay squat, some of the interstitials that deliver views are hated by consumers and/or are in danger of violating Google’s latest attack on anything that blocks the user’s view. So, the answer to driving value for advertisers and real revenue for the publisher lies in the ability to deliver full-page ads that don’t annoy, while they provide valuable information, a marketing message, or even something as old-fashioned as a coupon.

What about Mobile Ad Revenues?

Instant Retargeting software, as offered by pladoogle and others, can create a full-page “leave behinds” for the mobile consumer to discover later; or can fire an intrusive, full-page pop-up (after a user action, so within Google’s newest guidelines).

Just like with desktop Instant Retargeting, mobile ads designed properly allow the advertiser to easily track and measure real ROI metrics.

“Wait! Can’t I just add some old-fashioned pop-up or pop-under script to my website and fire these myself?”

You could, but your pops (during the 5% of the time they are not blocked) will be forced to the front window by many desktop browsers. This creates a bad user experience when you generate a full-page pop-up intended to be a pop-under; and creates a bad advertiser experience when their ads generate 95% fewer views and interactions because they are perpetually blocked.

“Yeah, but we have this really cool wipe or interstitial or slider or…”

Instant Retargeting might not seem as cool or as slick as some of the options out there, but it doesn’t annoy visitors (like your sliders and interstitials and auto-play videos) and the providers of Instant Retargeting aren’t trying to steal your visitors from you.

If You’re a Publisher, It’s Time to Watch Your Back!

Many of the third-party applications you’ve added to your website are not your friends. They want you to create awareness for their online circulars or listings or whatever, and then they want to syphon your traffic away from you and drive their own views from their mobile applications. Quick question: are these third-party applications sharing all the revenue they gain from your local market with you or just what your website delivers?

Of course, Instant Retargeting by pladoogle does not compete with any other ad-delivery software. In other words, you can keep your sliders and other interstitials, and still use Instant Retargeting.

If you’d like to see a demo or are interested in a truly no-cost, no-obligation trial of Instant Retargeting by pladoogle, please contact us.

Good selling!