What's the best way for national or regional players to advertise locally online? Topix.net thinks it has the answer in its new geographically-targeted ad format. In conjunction with ShopLocal.com, the local news aggregator is offering an ad unit that displays ZIP code-targeted offers from store circulars on appropriate Topix content pages. Walgreens is the first advertiser to use the format.
"Really, any nationwide retailer that's localized this type of ad unit is a great fit for them," said Topix VP of Business Development Mike Markson, who suggested that advertisers "can really pinpoint local ad impressions" through the geo-targeted CPM-based ads. The drugstore chain is running ads throughout the site that are targeted based on every locale in the country.
Though search marketing has become the big success story online, traditional publishers excel where search falters, noted Markson in a blog post on the Topix site Tuesday. The way he sees it, "there is no way to localize [search] activity" and users typically don't search for local deals on food or small packaged goods items. "Who goes to a search engine to find out where they can get the best deal in their neighborhood on Diet Coke? No one," wrote Markson. He also believes that content sites are more conducive to branding than search advertising.
While the new format clearly does things today's search ads don't, even back in 2004 a study by BizRate.com and the Kelsey Group found that 74 percent of respondents were performing local searches, or searches based on ZIP codes or specific locales.
However, when it comes to searches for discounts on specific brands at the nearby grocery or department store, users may find search engine results to be less than fruitful. For instance, a search for "Diet Coke Jersey City" on Ask.com resulted in a couple links to local restaurant pages mentioning the fizzy drink by name, along with an array of unrelated listings. A search for the same keyword phrase on Google Local brought up sponsored links for Shopping.com and eBay.
In comparison, a user visiting Topix who searches on Jersey City's 07304 area code is served news content related to the area, along with an ad promoting this week's deals at the local Walgreens on Pepsi brand 12 packs, Huggies diapers and General Mills Cereals.
Newspaper publishers Gannett and Tribune are partial investors in Topix.net and ShopLocal.com, so there's certainly a chance that the new Topix format will appear on Gannett and Tribune sites in the future. Markson indicated that this is a possibility. The benefit to advertising on Topix using the new format, he noted, is that the site reaches people looking for a "one-stop shop" for news stories from a variety of online local media sources rather than just one newspaper site. Topix crawls over 50,000 sources for its content.
Markson expects that as additional advertisers show interest in running the new ads, Topix won't overrun its site with different advertisers using the format. "We don't want to overwhelm our users because it would detract from their experience and the advertiser experience," he continued.
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Kate Kaye was Managing Editor at ClickZ News until October 2012. As a daily reporter and editor for the original news source, she covered beats including digital political campaigns and government regulation of the online ad industry. Kate is the author of Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media, the only book focused on the paid digital media efforts of the 2008 presidential campaigns. Kate created ClickZ's Politics & Advocacy section, and is the primary contributor to the one-of-a-kind section. She began reporting on the interactive ad industry in 1999 and has spoken at several events and in interviews for television, radio, print, and digital media outlets. You can follow Kate on Twitter at @LowbrowKate.
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