Web Revenue Strategy for Hyper-Local Media
If you’re a journalist or working in some capacity in a media organization, it’s likely you’re aware of the current challenges facing the industry.
Traditional organizations are scrambling to re-invent themselves with a variety of online revenue and business model strategies. Those who figure out the formula become a part of the new media elite, while those who fail will fall by the wayside.
Unfortunately for some, this potentially means the end of a career and the loss of income. For others, it’s an exciting opportunity that will be incredibly rewarding.
Recently, Mel Taylor posted a comment on my Hyperlocal101 site. His comment was specific and to the point about hyper-local monetization. I could tell right away that he clearly understands the evolving revenue models of hyper-local. More importantly, he knows how to apply it.
For the past 10 years, Mel Taylor Media; a Philadelphia-based consultancy, has been helping local media with online sales and strategy, along with a variety of other web training services. In addition to working traditional companies, Mel has increased his workload with independent online publishers & hyper-local bloggers. Recent clients include: Philly.com, FOX-TV, Clear Channel Radio, and Tribune Newspapers. Mel also conducts educational seminars for local businesses looking to better understand web marketing.
Mel recently shared his experiences with the team here at HyperLocal101.com. We asked him a few questions:
Can you tell us a little bit about the work Mel Taylor Media is doing? Who’s hiring you and what solutions are you providing?
For the past few years, I’ve been mainly working with traditional media properties looking to ramp up their local online sales. Newspapers and TV companies are the most aggressive in this space, while Radio is still struggling to catch up. But recently, I’m getting more calls from hyper-local bloggers, and other indie web publishers looking for help in monetizing their online efforts. Most are starting to realize that just relying on Google Ad Sense or a 3rd party ad network, is turning out to be a poor income stream.
If I’m already a journalist or thinking of becoming one, what question should I be asking myself right now?
Ask yourself this: Am I willing to keep up-to-date with the fast changing online environment, even if it means that I must also understand sales and business?
Can you share any success stories from those currently involved in hyper-local?
Yes, but there’s only a handful at this point. While some hyper-local efforts are growing traffic, investor interest & critical acclaim, most of them are still struggling to grow real, scalable revenue. Even if they are growing sales, far too many have large operating costs & overhead that keep them from achieving true profitability. Over time, if these efforts don’t substantially ramp up sales, most of these sites will likely go dark, or simply be run as a hobby or non-profit concern.
One prime example of early hyper-local success is Howard Owens of www.TheBatavian.com. Howard’s a former Interactive executive from Gatehouse Newspapers. He recently set out on his own to start an independent online news/info operation in the town of Batavia, NY. In addition to covering the town’s local news, Howard also keeps himself busy with the high volume of advertiser interest in his site. This guy is truly a pioneer in the space.
Another success story is www.BaltimoreBrew.com, which attracts over 10,000 readers per month and was voted best blog of 2009 by the City Paper of Baltimore. This fast growing site was founded by Fern Shen; a Washington Post veteran who I recently assisted with developing a realistic sales model for the site. Fern was an excellent, quick study in all things sales & business. Quite frankly, she had to be in order to smartly respond to the growing interest from local advertisers. She’s really doing a great job with quickly picking up these critical new skills.
Here in Philadelphia, we’re preparing to launch the first revenue-focused, hyper-local network of indie-journalists and bloggers. This could be described as a co-op that primarily provides sales help, but also offers tech, tools and other critical services that local online community needs. These sites are wired together, forming a formidable ad & content network. We believe this is the hyper-local business model to watch. The key distinction between what we’re doing, compared to other hyper-local initiatives, is that we focus on sales and profit first, followed by operations, then editorial.
Can you talk a little bit about why hyper-local websites need to be run like a start-up, and why it’s critical for journalists to think in entrepreneurial terms?
Plain and simple: if you can’t pay the bills, you can’t share your journalism. With revenue being small or non-existent in the beginning, you really need to boot strap everything, just like a start-up.
Many hyper-local efforts are also top heavy with editorial salaries; we think this could a main reason why most struggle to gain financial traction. Some surmise that hyper-local startups might do better if they were run by executives with a proven business & sales background. We tend to agree. Just as a Newspaper publisher thinks about profit first, then operations, and then editorial…this priority list needs to also be applied to the web. Even the best award winning journalism will never see the light of day without the ability to make money and pay the bills first. Most would agree, once the business model is solid, online journalism will then have the best chance to grow, succeed and thrive. At the end of the day, journalists will be best served by acting entrepreneurially, and understanding the basic tactics of online sales.
What type of training is Mel Taylor Media doing?
Much of it: basic web sales 101 for traditional reps and management. I share the best ways to overcome common objections, manage online inventory and pricing, and other tools that help reps close more business.
Recently, my business is seeing increased demand for the training of newsrooms. At many papers, editorial staffs are now required to understand the basic tenets of online business and revenue strategy. Cranking up commodity page-views is no longer seen as a viable way to run a site. It’s all about figuring out sales models now. Even for editorial staffs!
Also keeping me busy: sales-based uses of online video, advertiser-friendly web design and custom training for upper management.
Do you see hyper-local markets as a better opportunity for individuals, or traditional media?
How do your ‘Web 101 for Local Business’ seminars work?
When a local business understands basic web marketing, they start investing in it. That’s why I’ve been so focused on teaching local business the first steps to take in online advertising. In this one hour session, they have a much better grasp of basic web vocabulary, common ad units, best practices, and other web strategies that are easy and simple to execute. Newspapers hire me to help them put on these events. These local business events not only pull in immediate sales, but they work better than a cold call, and they build a superior, lead database. That’s why these seminars are the quickest & most effective way to grow online revenue. I love doing them. So do my clients.
Books you recommend for those interested in understanding the new media landscape, and how it might be monetized:
Any last thoughts or comments?
I think I will share some of my favorite quotes with you:
“It’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. Rather, it’s the species that’s the most adaptable to change that survives.” – Charles Darwin
“In times of change, ‘learners’ will inherit the earth; while the ‘learned’ find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”- Eric Hoffer