National efforts at hyperlocal media seem to consistently face the same
challenge: how to find hyperlocal advertiser willing to pay enough to support
the content with a few bucks left over for profit.
Unfortunately, this has been a challenge for a number of reasons.
How did we get here? I’m pretty sure the evolution of local media went something like
the Earth cooled. And then the dinosaurs came. A few years later, a guy
named Robert (disputed) started chiseling
out a news tablet. It turns out that some of the local traders (let’s call them
all Hank) wanted publicity alongside the
news, so Robert started taking ads.
traders who took ads found that they paid off since
Robert was distributing his news-tablets
to a hyperlocal community. Robert’s news
tablets were published so regularly to such a predictable audience that they
often became the advertising venue of choice for local traders (and service
folks like wagon towers). Robert’s readers
found the ads valuable as well, since it made it easy for them to find someone
local to call them their roof leaked.
Fast forward a disputable number of years: A guy named
Al (disputed) invented the Internet, and
he guys like Robert – why by now had
switched to driving trucks full of paper around their towns rather than hauling
tablets – had the option of publishing their news on this Internet thing.
It turns out that it wasn’t particularly difficult for guys like
Robert to move their media to the part of
the Internet called the Web since they were already using computers to create
UNFORTUNATELY, local traders like
Hank (and folks like roofers,
real estate agents, and restaurant owners) were a bit slower to make the move to the Web. They didn’t use computers in their day to day work and didn’t have web sites. If they did have
websites, they weren’t proud enough of their sites to justify spending money
driving traffic to them.
That’s where things broke down. Hank
wasn’t in a position to spend similar dollars on online advertising as he’d
previously been willing to spend on paper or tablet forms.
Robert’s distribution costs are now lower,
but he still needs a lot of ad dollars to cover the costs of his staff.
If you were advising Robert, what would
you tell him to do? How does Robert create
an online media site that deserves a similar level of advertising investment
from Hank as
Hank’s used to paying? How does
Robert recreate the value his offline
newspapers online, both from an advertiser and consumer roll.
Robert knows his readers find the ads
valuable in the print edition, but hasn’t figured out the formula for recreating
it on this Internet thing.