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Why digital will save newspapers

We all know that the newspaper industry has been challenged by numerous factors in the past 10 years, thanks in some small part to the growth of interactive. But, did you know that the peak of newspaper readership occurred in the 1980s? By at least that measure then, newspapers have been challenged for nearly a generation. Yet, their power remains unsurpassed in one major category: Newspapers are the ones driving the bulk of the reasons more Americans go online for the news because newspaper journalists are the ones creating the bulk of the content online, too. Despite all the problems faced by the newspaper industry in the U.S. today, the fact remains that the best, most influential content comes from newspapers.


So, how can they capitalize on this?


Newspapers have long been "giving it away" online -- is that a bad thing?
Take a look at every portal you visit and see where the content that drove you there came from. Then examine how much of the local content you crave comes from the same portal. If you’re like most Americans, chances are that you rely first on your local newspaper, its website, and local alternative newspapers and broadcast outlets for local news far more than you do on any portals. 


But, portals made buying local advertising so much easier than buying from numerous, disparate news outlets. The rise of interactive networks is owed, in part, to the need for a one-stop shop as an alternative to portals. Newspapers have had little choice but to make their content available online for free to drive reach -- reach being perhaps the best value proposition in the print format. But, the content generation engine that makes newspaper advertising work in print loses something when accessed through a portal -- it loses its shirt!


Newspapers are beginning to close the gap online now, thanks to increased technological innovation and largely because they're investing in their online editions.


Online revenues at newspapers in recent years have been growing at an average rate exceeding that of interactive as a whole. When you pick up your local newspaper, most of those national ads were all placed nationally, not locally. Until recently, those national advertisers had no simple way to reach those digital newspapers. But that’s changing, bringing national brands to branded local media, which is the most trusted news source of all.


Pick up a copy of your local print newspaper any day of the week, and you'll see full and half-page advertising throughout the most widely read sections from national brands like Verizon, Sprint, Visa, Wachovia and other blue-chip companies, as well as movie listings that may take up an entire entertainment section. These blue-chips, along with retailers, have long been the backbone of newspaper revenue generation. But, until the advent of platforms like ours, there was no way for advertisers to reach branded local news outlets online. 


What these outlets have needed is a digital platform to efficiently facilitate the buying and selling of online advertising among the hundreds of national, regional and local agencies who buy online and the thousands of local online publishers. For example, Centro works with more than 150 Fortune 500 brands along with hundreds of other businesses, both large and small, through their respective agencies and more than 6,000 local interactive publishers to simplify the complex process of buying local online media.


Seriously, do you want to make all those phone calls when you have a 19 market, 54 outlet media strategy to build? Of course you don’t.


Why Lions Gate took the local train
How would you want to launch a movie toward a big first weekend? Lions Gate Studios sought to create buzz and awareness for the movie "3:10 to Yuma" in 17 major markets and numerous smaller ones. In part, by utilizing high impact creative units on leading newspaper and alternative weekly sites that we were able to place strategically on homepages, entertainment and sports section fronts, the western film opened No. 1 at the box office its first week. Do you think that a buy with similar reach on any of the portals would have performed that well? Do you think it would have cost less than three or four times as much to execute?


Think again. Local works, and local generally is far more cost-effective. Now that it’s simpler, look for local -- especially digital outlets for traditional local publishers -- to continue to grow at a rate exceeding that of interactive as a whole.


Shawn Riegsecker is CEO of Centro.

Shawn Riegsecker leads Centro’s vision and strategic direction as the Founder and CEO. Before forming Centro in 2001, Shawn worked at Real Media helping advertising agencies place campaigns across thousands of local sites. Prior to Real...

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