The newest online ad format being used by newspapers is the Flyerboard, described as the online equivalent of community bulletin boards found in coffee shops and laundromats.
Introduced by PaperG, an ad tech startup founded by recent Yale and Harvard graduates and supported by the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute, Flyerboards were launched last fall, and used first by Boston.com and Chron.com, the Houston Chronicle’s site. Last week, Hearst Newspapers, which owns the Chronicle, announced it will deploy Flyerboards across its 15 newspaper properties, including SFGate.com, TimesUnion.com and MySanAntonio.com.
Flyerboards are standard and custom size display units that appear on the left side of the page and contain an array of small ads within them (Example here). When clicked, the small ads expand into a larger unit that provides detailed information on the business, a link to its Web site, and a map. There’s also a “send” box in the lower right hand corner that viewers can use to send the ads to friends, post them on their Facebook and MySpace pages or embed them on their blogs.
PaperG offers Flyerboards to newspapers and other publishers on a rev share basis, so there’s no cost until they sell ads, according to Roger Lee, PaperG’s chief operating officer.
Flyerboads are being used by newspapers for a variety of online executions, from local town to classified pages. Boston.com has launched 10 town pages and will add two more this week, all of which use Flyerboards. “They’re ideal for small to medium sized businesses that are looking for a small targeted audience with a limited budget of under $1,000 a month,” said Jim Bodor, Boston.com’s director of product development. The site uses two different size Flyerboards, a Skyscraper and a custom size that’s 1000 pixels long. Six to eight ads appear in each unit, all the same size. The ads are sold for three months, six months or a full year, he said.
Bodor says Flyerboards are preferable to standard banners for some advertisers because they are easy to create and use. Advertisers can create them with text and simple graphics from past print ads and post them directly to the publisher’s page.
Sam Brown, executive director of online sales and business development for Chron.com, says his paper has rolled out Flyerboards across all Web properties. First came 29-95.com, the local entertainment site, “where it’s been a great way to get advertising up for concerts and bars,” he said. Then it was rolled out to neighborhood sites, special interest sites like Momhouston.com and Houstonbelief.com and classified sites, including automotive and real estate pages.
Chron.com offers Flyerboards for as little as three days to accommodate local advertisers that want to announce weekend events, like a movie opening or a club date. It runs as many as 20 different ads in a single Flyerboard, rotating them every time the page is refreshed.
Newspaper sales staffs have traditionally dealt with large accounts and haven’t sold to small businesses. The growth of online properties has led to “a new sales strategy,” according to Ken Brown, a news industry analyst for Outsell. “You no longer go after a hundred big advertisers but tens of thousands of smaller ones, and products like the Flyerboard make sense,” he noted.
Hearst was the most likely newspaper publisher to make the first move with Flyerboards because “it has embraced the concept of user generated content a lot faster than the average newspaper publisher,” he said. The company also uses community bloggers to write content for its local pages.
The introduction of Flyerboards comes at a time when newspapers are struggling to overcome huge ad sales challenges. “The problems with the economy combined with the fragmentation of the media has everyone challenged,” Brown said. “The best way to combat that is to arm yourself with as many products as possible and package them in a way that provides results to fight revenue erosion. Flyerboards have shown results and allowed us to go after small advertisers we never sought before because we had nothing to sell to them.”