For years the buzz of newspapers and the yellow pages has dominated local ad budgets; however, search engines and portals have given advertisers additional opportunities. Advertisers and marketers are faced with the dilemma of trying to reach a local audience, but many are still trying to figure out the best strategy. In addition, measuring a local audience is a lot like measuring a moving target, since there is no easy way to detect a visitor's true location online. After sitting through a panelist discussion, I see that it is clear there is no such thing as the perfect integrated local media strategy. An integrated local media strategy is not a "one size fits all solution"-- thus the discussion is sure to continue in the future.
Fred Lebolt, vice president of new media with The Sun Times Group, set an optimistic tone about print and online newspapers pointing to strengths in local content and strong business relationships. Fred went on to talk about the importance of deep metrics to better understand the local audience. He believes that a blend of technology and "old school" marketing analysis could be a good way to get a handle on your audience. Fred pointed to a campaign with U.S. Cellular that targeted recent graduates with a combination of print and online advertisements. The campaign leveraged the major metro newspaper brand, zip code specific local papers and messaging that complimented the print campaign.
Marc Barach, chief marketing officer at Ingenio, believes we are still early in the adoption and evolution of the online advertising era. He expressed interest in finding ways to entice businesses to advertise online since it is going to take the entire industry to develop and innovate in the space. Marc pointed to the "pay-per-click model" as a powerful model of the future, since advertisers are paying for performance.
Marc pointed to expanding the types and number of products for the pay-per-performance model in hopes that they could be synthesized into one unified dashboard, thus improving the advertising management process.
Shawn Riegsecker, president of Centro, discussed strategies that his company employs while working with advertising agencies to buy publisher ad spots online and in print. Centro looks at local publishers first, citing that you cannot buy national websites like MSN for just visitors from Denver, but you can buy the Denver Post. However, Shawn believes you cannot live and die with the local publishers and instead need to diversify the strategy by also using national sites like Yahoo! and MSN.
Warren Kay discussed the Yahoo point of view on the local marketplace, which consists of examining the consumer and advertiser perspectives to ensure both are satisfied with the experience. Warren highlighted how the Yahoo Local and Yahoo Yellow Pages products could be used to construct a customized strategy for advertisers. For example, Best Buy might want to run a campaign that targets both specific store locations and national sales initiatives, and Yahoo may feel it can compliment both with its suite of products.
In summary, reaching a local audience is not a new endeavor. The quest for the perfect integrated local media strategy is far from over and will probably be debated for the next few years.
Frank Gruber currently is the product manager for Classified Ventures' Apartments.com, where he focuses on product development and strategy for the consumer website. .