Commentary

Can Local Newspapers Build National Scale In Ad Sales?

The Washington Post this week licensed its advertising techto McClatchy Co., opening up the possibility for mass marketers to place ads among the publisher's 30 local newspapers. The collaboration is notable as local news outlets look for ways to increase digital ad revenue.
Local newspapers have suffered immensely during the coronavirus pandemic, which led to lockdowns on some of their most important advertisers, including retailers, real estate brokers and various small businesses. It's an unfortunate situation, given that many publishers have seen a jump in web traffic among homebound readers.
Another challenge is having the scale to be worthwhile to national advertisers, such as carmakers that support local dealerships or restaurant chains whose promotions are coordinated with regional franchisees. Those bigger advertisers can find better economies of scale in national media outlets.
In announcing the collaboration with McClatchy, The Washington Post hinted there will be a possibility for major advertisers to achieve greater scale among the local publications that have adopted its technology framework. WaPo is developing a premium ad network called Zeus Prime as part of its suite of tools. They include Zeus Performance for faster download speeds and Zeus Insights for contextual targeting.
WaPo has ambitions to expand the adoption of its platform among local publishers, including a partnership last month with the Local Media Consortium to provide services for its 3,500 outlets among 90 media companies.
Ideally, the expansion will provide those publishers with a source of incremental revenue, not only during a period of financial distress but also during the recovery. Local news outlets are crucial in serving their communities, which are working to rebuild after the COVID-19 crisis and the ensuing economic slowdown.

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