Local California News Network Lays a Stake in OC

A burgeoning hyper-local online news network is making good on its promise to continue rolling out sites throughout California. Today, U.S. Local News Network is set to soft launch Orange County Local News Network, the third in a growing group of local sites intended eventually to stretch across the country.

As part of the launch, the network has linked up with The Los Angeles Times Media Group to supplement its content and advertising sales. USLNN will publish content from LA Times-owned community sites, while content from those sites will appear on the new OC site. The partnering publishers will also sell ads on one another’s sites. While both will focus on selling to local and regional advertisers, the OCLNN team will handle south Orange County, while The LA Times staff will focus on the north section.

“We think the partnership will drive traffic both ways, to our mutual benefit,” said Chris Jennewein, president of San Diego News Network. SDNN.com is the first of USLNN’s sites, launched last year.

Ad sales for the new site have only just begun, but at launch there are two advertisers running display ads on the OC site. Luxury spa Rancho La Puerta has a six-month campaign scheduled, while Clear Choice Hearing Aid Center has planned a four-month run.

“We’re going to do everything we can to keep them forever,” said Jennewein of the ad clients, calling Orange County an “underserved market.” He describes the network’s advertisers so far as “blue chip local and regional advertisers,” adding, “They want a high quality environment and they’re looking to make an impact.”

The publisher does partner with ad networks to sell inventory, but developing unique, integrated campaigns is what sets it apart. “You can’t build a local business on ad networks alone because the CPMs are not high enough,” said Jennewein.

Barona Resort & Casino, for instance, was featured in a casino guide linking to the casino’s online game, events calendar, and lodging information. “While every area casino was listed, it was only Barona [whose information users] had full access to,” said Jennewein.

The San Diego Workforce Partnership, a workforce development services outfit, sponsors the San Diego at Work blog on SDNN.com, using the forum to disseminate information to local residents. “They wouldn’t be a good candidate for traditional banner advertising,” Jennewein suggested.

Local theaters, events, or getaways are prevalent on the sites. Pechanga Resort and Casino advertised its wine festival this weekend on the Southwest Riverside News Network site – the second of the San Diego-area sites launched by USLNN. A gem and jewelry show in Temecula, CA, called BEAD was also a recent advertiser. Other advertisers on the first two sites have included the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Opera, the San Diego Repertory Theatre, and local engineering consulting firm Dudek, as well as cruise operators and attorneys.

The network has four sales reps for the San Diego site, one representing Riverside, and is looking to hire sales staff for the new Orange County site.

“Our model is to put journalists and sales reps on the ground from different markets, people who know those markets and have experience, but then do everything else from our offices in San Diego,” explained Jennewein. “Everything else” includes site hosting, operations, search engine optimization and marketing, and technology. “We centralize the things that you don’t want to duplicate in markets across the country,” he said.

There are plans to launch around 40 similar sites across the U.S.

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