Ideas and discussion from BxB2010 Summit

Write-Up: “ABC’s of Advertising”

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The issue of how to make hyperlocal advertising work was resolved in 90 minutes this morning.

Far from it, the session weaved through a number of hotspots, including partnerships, bartering, sponsored content, coupon deals, and selling remnant ad space.

It boiled down to this nugget from moderator Mark Potts (CEO and Co-Founder, Growthspur): Local ads are a $100 million billion business.  You want a piece of it.

(Video after the jump.)

With a hat-tip to a recent Knight Digital Media Center training, he told the crowd that your audience is not readers – it’s your advertisers.  They’re paying your bills.


Polly Kreisman (, believes community publishers need to “reframe our relationships with advertisers”.  That means figuring out how sites can help advertisers grow their business, she says, and to her, becoming collaborators makes that happen.

She’ll bring advertisers into the tent with traditional banner ads, and then, once advertisers see the value, they evolve into more interesting options.  For example, she’ll include tweets from advertisers on her front page and write sponsored stories about them.  “I’ll do a feature about them.  I’ll make it a little different from an infomercial,” she said, but it generates traffic because the advertiser will share it, increasing new traffic for her site.

Same for Patricio Espinoza (, who writes features about advertisers:  “They are profiles that may never be told by traditional journalism.  I feel okay with it, so long as its labeled.”


So how do you start?  Make a rate card, says Potts.  His formula: “Pick a number.  And by the way, pick a number higher than you think.  Your site is worth more than you think.  Pick a number and see what happens.”

Include in your rate card reader comments and media recognition, says Liz George (

Conference participants, like Peter Sklar (, offered another approach:  A simple, one price banner ad.  It’s $100 a month.  That’s it.  No sizes, no CPMs, no takeovers.  And he says it’s working.

Lots of local advertisers don’t know or understand CPMs, noted Potts.  So why confuse them?

The team at Pegasus News ( actually built a behavioral tracking tool, so the site could parse out bluegrass fans in a particular zipcode.  But, says founder Mike Orren, that was too much for their advertisers.  They were actually “complicating” themselves out of sales.

In another example, he explained how a test campaign for a car dealer outdid all other tools by a factor of eight.  Ready to seal a year-long deal, the dealership owner hadn’t heard of Pegasus News, checked with another person, and came back to the ad buyer with: ‘Well, I don’t know this Pegasus News, so put us back in the newspaper.’  Overcoming that is a challenge, but Orren has found that former radio sales representatives are up for it.  They’re used to figuring out ways to engage readers and encourage them to come down to visit an advertiser.

Pegasus News also dropped to the bottom of their page Google Ads that were running in remnant space.  Their paying advertisers felt, rightly so, that it was diluting their ad unit.  But Pegasus will use it as a source to find new clients: They’ll local advertisers and then contact them directly.

With revenue of more than $50,000 a month, Orren can now pay his ad sales team a combination of base salary, plus commission, plus bonuses.  “Don’t be stingy in compensating people who are bringing in your revenue,” he said.  “You want them to be excited each morning when they wake up.”

As Polly Kreisman pointed out, the reality is that most site operators are one-man-bands.  Publishers are trying to keep up with technology and a thousand other things – the last thing they want to do is sell ads.  But collaborating with others down the road makes sense, she says.   It’s about creating ecosystems.

BaristaNet partnered with traditional media, namely, the New York Times, for their recent local experiments.  While that project went belly-up, it resulted in the site receiving traffic from three of the sites from the Times.

One of the fastest growing revenue areas is the deal space, where large companies like Groupon are selling half-priced certificates to local advertisers.  Not everyone can build their own Groupon, noted Potts, but there are other ways to do it.  One site will integrate ongoing deals contextually, so if you’re reading a restaurant review, deals will run in close proximity.  Those that have found success selling these deals say they often revolve around restaurants, not for a product that someone has to invent.

Potts, whose Growthspur is building an ad network for in Washington, D.C., gave the example of what happens with big media tries to inflict their policies on bloggers and hyperlocal publishers:  “The Washington Post said we want to use your copy, reserve the right to edit it, not link to it, and not pay you for it.  Sound good?!  It was the best thing to happen to TBD.”


The “gorilla in the room”, as Potts put it, are sites like AOL’s, coming into markets and scaring some people.

Kreisman, a competitive person by her nature, says she’s made peace with it.  There’s room for everyone.  But she describes the Patch sites as drive-in McDonald’s, and considers sites like hers as comfy diners.  It looks the same in every market and can’t push the envelope the way her site does.

There was much more covered in the panel.  If you would like to add any points, please feel free to do so.


Written by andrewpergam

September 24, 2010 at 7:24 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , ,

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