I've spent a lot of time over the past 15 years working with local media companies, particularly newspaper companies, as they built and scaled their digital media businesses and as they tried to make themselves more attractive platforms for national advertisers. Over those years, I have attended dozens and dozens -- maybe even hundreds -- of conferences and meetings on local online media. As everyone knows, this industry is never short of meetings and conferences. And, as people who know me well know, I really like to attend industry conferences and meetings. This week I attended Centro's Local Media Publisher Summit 2007. Centro, the leading aggregator of local online media for buyers, hosted 200 folks in its first conference to bring together the buyers and sellers of online media. Centro's objective -- which it reached -- was to raise the awareness among local media companies about national advertisers and the work of their agencies concerning planning, buying and executing locally-focused online buys.
The Summit included a number of panels of advertisers, agencies and service providers talking about, first, how much they want to move more money to local online media -- and second, about how many challenges they face in making it work. Their challenges are:
Lack of scale. Lack of sophistication. High pricing relative to the portals. Need for aggregation. Need to focus on ROI.
Their opportunities are:
Providing the very best local environments for content and context. Their ability to deliver more than just "cookie-cutter" geo-targeted programs that they get from the portals. Centro, MediaSpan, WorldNow and others are all working toward resolving these challenges. With relationships with well-established local media brands (like radio and TV stations and newspapers) all have the ability to deliver national ads, tailored for local markets in trusted contextual environments. All are scaling very quickly. In fact, next week MediaSpan will announce it has grown to record size with relationships with 1,300 local media outlets. There is significant demand in the marketplace for effective local targeting by national advertisers. They see the waste inherent in offline local media buys and look forward to working with companies that can overcome the challenges I heard about at Centro's Local Media Publisher Summit 2007. The portals know this and are hard at work on solutions. Let's see which companies win this horse race.