As newspaper sites join networks to rake in national ad dollars, they cannot forget their primary mission is to serve local audiences and local advertisers. Like other innovators in the online newspaper industry, Tribune Interactive’s LATimes.com and The Seattle Times Co. have developed new features and products to work toward that goal.
LATimes.com generated $6 million in display ad dollars in 2005, and is on track to bring in closer to $25 million in online display revenue this year, according to Rob Barrett, SVP interactive media and GM at LATimes.com. He expects the Web site to represent 20 percent of LA Times cash flow by 2011, and appealing to local audiences by building content representative of LA’s local flavor is part of the path towards getting there.
“We’re trying to create the best targeting machine to the Los Angeles DMA,” said Barrett, speaking at this week’s Kelsey Group local media conference in Seattle. Recognizing LA and California are identified with certain topics such as environmentalism, Hollywood, car culture, and immigration, they are central to his content redevelopment scheme. That entails a locally-focused travel section redesign and a behind-the-scenes film site set to launch soon called HollywoodBacklot.com.
“We’ve already sold many of these pages,” said Barrett of the upcoming site, which will feature sharable photos from the sets of movies and TV shows. Though he wouldn’t name specific advertisers, he said ads from film studios are likely; standard display units and video overlay formats are among the ad offerings on the new site.
Last year’s travel section redesign took a distinctly local approach, involving more research-friendly navigation and content related to regional destinations. Now, travel destination categories include Pacific Coast favorites like Mexico and Hawaii, as well as closer locales such as San Diego, California wine country, and Lake Tahoe.
“We opened it up to regional advertisers for the first time,” said Barrett of the revamped section, which has promoted advertisers like Vegas.com and Hawaii travel outfit Mauna Lani Resort.
The Seattle Times Co. has gone beyond regional to the neighborhood level with its NWSource, a local city guide and community site broken into 30 Seattle neighborhood categories, in addition to others aimed at areas of interest such as pets or parenting.
Those neighborhood pages are sold out, primarily to local builders, according to Seattle Times Co. VP New Media Patricia Lee Smith, who acknowledged the real estate downturn has yet to hit Seattle. Banners for NoMa Ballard Condominiums can be seen in the Ballard/Crown Hill site section, for instance. (NoMa stands for North of Market Street.) Lee Smith manages the publisher’s seven resource related sites, which also include NWHomes, NWJobs, and NWAutos.
“NWSource is monetized three times more effectively than our newspapers are,” she said, explaining the site generates an effective CPM rate three times higher than that of The Seattle Times and The Seattle Post-Intelligencer sites. “That’s because we are building an environment that advertisers want to be in,” added Lee Smith.
Still, the local community site drives far less traffic than its branded newspaper site brethren. Now the goal is to bring more users to NWSource to take advantage of its revenue-generating capability. The site is going beyond the Web for that; animated ads promoting the city guide that feature area businesses can be seen locally in Seattle — on television, in addition to the Web and other media.
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