Main Street Connect’s Tucker Responds to Criticism | Street Fight

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Main Street Connect’s Tucker Responds to Criticism

29 Comments 31 May 2011 by

In an interview published two weeks ago, Main Street Connect‘s founder Carll Tucker told Street Fight that hyperlocal Web sites need the efficiencies of scale to truly become profitable businesses rather than “passion or hobby” sites. He described how his network’s model works, and said “you can only paradoxically create good community news if you’re prepared to invest in the creation of a national company.”

His words clearly touched a nerve, sparking a slew of impassioned comments, as well as reactions on Twitter and elsewhere.

Ahead of his network’s Wednesday launch of 32 new sites in Westchester County (N.Y.), Tucker wrote a long comment in response to some of the criticism that was lobbed his way. It is reproduced below unedited:

The conversation sparked by this interview surprised me. So many readers got so angry. I was just saying what I thought.

A number of readers accused me of not telling the truth. Anybody who knows me knows I tell the truth. I’m not smart enough to keep track of lies.

I wish independent community news sites could be made profitable in a majority of markets, the way community newspapers once were. I just don’t see how. Technology is expensive. Talent is expensive. Advertisers typically want to reach more than a single town. If independent community news site proprietors are making good dough, why aren’t they propagating, sharing their news prowess with neighbor towns? That’s what we’ll be doing with our profits — reinvest, reinvest, reinvest, so our products and processes get more and more excellent.

I admire what I call passion or hobby sites. God bless their makers. I just don’t see any that make sufficient money to construct a durable business. There is no free press unless it’s a profitable press — that’s our mantra. Unless you earn enough to expand and invest in excellence, you’ll be trapped in a hand-to-mouth existence. Main Street Connect hopes to make enough money to pay lots of real journalists real wages, the way newspapers used to, and to expand throughout the country, reaching 6000 communities by the end of 2014. We share Patch’s aspiration. The big difference between our model and theirs is that ours makes money and theirs, based on published documents, is losing at a rate of $40MM a quarter.

Three days from now (sic), Main Street Connect, which launched its first site in March 2010, will be publishing 51 community news sites in three states, bringing news and information to 1.6 MM Americans. In most of the communities we serve, we will be the best community news source; in some of them, the only community news source. In a few of our communities, there are home-grown sites that are truly excellent. We may not compete well against them, but we will give readers in those towns a choice.

Bringing good news to dozens of communities — and visibility opportunities to local businesses — seems an honorable activity, not an occasion for venomous sniping. Would the world be better off if Patch or Main Street Connect failed? If the Main Street Connect experiment continues to thrive, what harm are we doing? Don’t we all care about community news? If one of us finds a way to produce it profitably, shouldn’t we all celebrate?

  • http://www.tucsonsentinel.com Dylan Smith

    Carll, since you’re so concerned about the truth: please clarify your previous statement and explain how you spent “many millions of dollars” on a free content management system for a small network of cookie cutter websites with limited functions. 

  • Anonymous

    There’s a sucker born every minute, but in local, you’re eventually going to run out of suckers. And by suckers I mean the business owners you’ve duped into paying $250 CPM.

  • Fairfield County Resident

    “There is no free press unless it’s a profitable press — that’s our mantra.” — and by “profitable press” you mean businesses paying Mainstreet Connect to have stories written on them.  That’s not the kind of press I want to read, I’ll pass on the advertorials and read real, honest, and unbiased news (ya know, the kind that legitimate news sources write about). 

  • Do you turn a profit?

    “Ours makes money”

    Yes but is it profitable? Also I suggest a major site redesign. I just counted 13 advertisers on the home page of your Westport site. I then counted the same 13 on the home page of your Greenwich site. (Led by a rather leering face of a Hometown Hero who looks like the 3rd witch from the Wizard of Oz). I can only imagine the dreadful CTR a client receives when sandwiched like a piece of meat among 12 other advertisers on a page that would get a failing grade at any parochial tech school web design class.

    • http://seoservicesconsultant.com San Diego SEO

      THIS IS THE KEY HERE.  THIS IS WHY HIS SITES ARE PROFITABLE…  (HE IS RIPPING BUSINESSES OFF)

      Businesses know nothing about online advertising – they see their ad on the homepage and think everything is ok, but in reality we all know that this is a very shady practice.  It’s like driving down the freeway and seeing 15 billboards all at once – good luck if anyone remembers your company.

      • http://www.facebook.com/howardowens Howard Owens

        I’m not here to defend Carll Tucker, but — if you don’t like 13 advertisers on the home page, you certainly won’t like 107 (what I run now).

        But facts are facts, and this model works better for small business owners than banner rotation.  I’ve had tremendous positive feedback from my advertisers and the vast majority renew their contracts.

        NewzJunky.com in Watertown has run the same ad model for many years ahead of me and when I was doing research before launching my site, I interviewed many NJ advertisers and they loved it.

        What is a shady practice and rips off SMBOs is banner rotation, and most SMBOs instinctively know this.  It is absolute larceny to hide a business owner’s ad in rotation so that 75, 80, 90 percent of site visitors never even see it.  

        The great advantage of running all the ads on the home page is it actually encourages people to look.  This is a constant bit of feedback we get from readers — our ad model works like a directory of local businesses.  Users can visit our home page — and they do — and scroll down through all the advertisers and see what local businesses are offering, or get an idea of were they want to go for dinner, etc.

        The other key aspect of our model is content adjacency.  Even if your ad happens to be at the bottom of the page today (It isn’t there every day), a fair percentage of readers will read down that far and your ad isn’t too far from their eyeball (which there is a very good chance it wouldn’t be seen by that reader  AT ALL in a rotation scheme).

        Finally, there is the fact of revenue.  If I did a typical limited inventory model, I might have four banner spots on my home page.  Even if I could successfully get 10 advertisers into each spot, that would be only forty advertisers under contract.  My revenue wouldn’t even be half of what it is  (and probably less, because there’s no practical way (once you factor in how unhappy advertisers would be) to sustain forty advertisers running through only four slots.   

        The limited inventory model, banner rotation, simply doesn’t scale to sustain a local news operation.

        Oh, btw, looking at the original post — it’s not about CTR, it’s about click throughs.  By surfacing every ad on every page, you drive more traffic to the SMBOs web site.  If you can get 50 extra visitors per month to an SMBOs web site, that owner is almost invariably thrilled.  The CTR might only be .02 percent, but it’s the raw number of referrers that matters more.  Our model sends from 50 to 300 visitors to an advertiser’s web site per month, and the vast majority of our clients are thrilled with getting those visitors to their web site.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_WZ3CJG2K7SUMSA5VOUYDUNNSLU Kevin Chuck

          107 ads on one page – that’s not a news site that’s a classified section!

          Ad rotation is a no-brainer for local sites. If your site is doing what it is supposed to you will have a high return ratio and a high page view per visit ratio – the perfect pattern of usage for rotation. You fundamentally misunderstand the way advertising works if you think that most of your readers won’t see an individual ad.

          Working Howard’s CTR ratio and clicks per client claims he is getting several million page views a month. He’d get much higher yields with fewer ads per page in a more prominent position and rotation.

          Looking through many hyperlocal sites I’m surprised how many owners use this tactic of dumping all their ads on the front page in a long line. It looks unprofessional and any research you care to read on the matter would suggest it is ineffective. Part of the reason people do it may be that the free software that they are using doesn’t integrate well with ad management software. Perhaps another reason is that with a client base who have never advertised on the internet before the first thing they will do is look for their ad and if it is on the front page they will be happy, at least initially.

          However it makes it impossible to differentiate ad packages in any meaningful way and makes it hard to set a high price point for premium advertisers. There also is a capacity issue – I would have said this had been reached a long time before getting to 107 but at some point a diminished return from the extra ad becomes a negative one if only in terms slow page load.

          If you feel that your users are utilising the front as a directory then they are telling you something – you need to implement a local business directory!

          I suppose telling people they will be on the front page is an easy initial sale but it detracts from the overall value of the site and limits the revenue potential.

          There is no doubt that there are a lot of great hyperlocal sites in the US with fantastic content. When it comes to revenue I hear ‘we are making money’ or ‘we cover our costs’ with no mention of specific numbers which leads me to believe that revenues remain small. This isn’t because it is impossible to monetise local content in a meaningful way – other sites have done it already – but because commercialisation and ad inventory management has been half-hearted or inept.

          • http://www.facebook.com/howardowens Howard Owens

            Kevin, I started in local online news publishing in 1995, probably before you got your first AOL account.  There were fewer than 100 of us doing it at the time.

            My ad model isn’t something I just arrived at willy nilly.  It is based on experience, solid research and empirical results.
            I was one of the first advocates in the industry for what is now known at the “limited inventory” approach, is what just about every newspaper web site in the country now uses.

            I came to reject it because it simply doesn’t work for advertisers. They hate it.  It doesn’t deliver results. It leads to high churn. 

            “Part of the reason people do it may be that the free software that they are using doesn’t integrate well with ad management software.”

            Which shows how little you know about content management systems.  

            I use Drupal and Google for Publishers. It would actually be MUCH, MUCH easier to use this set up in the limited inventory model.  It takes a bit of work and aggravation to force these tools to deliver ads the way I want rather than the way some smartypants programer thinks I should deliver ads.

            We’ll soon be switching to OpenX will improve matters somewhat.

            As for the long line looking “unprofessional.”  That’s merely a matter of subjective opinion.  The fact of the matter is, the consistent feedback we get from users is how much more they love our site design over our newspaper competitor (which is the typical newspaper, headline-and-link with limited inventory design model employed by most newspaper sites).

            If the model we’re pursing wasn’t working, wasn’t delivering results for advertisers, wasn’t pleasing readers, we would change.  But since it is working, since it is popular with both advertisers and readers, we’re not changing.

            There’s a big difference between my opinion and yours, Kevin. Mine is based on evidence, research, experience and proven results.

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_WZ3CJG2K7SUMSA5VOUYDUNNSLU Kevin Chuck

            It is just possible I suppose that everyone else involved in internet advertising is wrong, that decades or research by highly skilled professionals missed an obvious point and the most effective structure for online ads is simply to dump as many as possible on the front page.

            A reasonable yield on your 600k page views given the location specific nature of your audience would be around $4,000 per month. You could boost that further by rotation during a session to increase your saleable page views. If you are doing better than that already I would put that down to your sales skills as opposed to the format you are using.

            The major flaw in your structure is that every ad you sell from this point diminishes the value of the ads of your existing customers and puts a ceiling on the returns you can make and probably reduces client retention over the longer term.

          • http://www.facebook.com/howardowens Howard Owens

            Kevin, first see the comment I left in response to  San Diego SEO.

            Second, yes, “everyone else involved in internet advertising” is wrong.  If such an “everyone else” exists.

            Also, take $4K per month and multiple by three and you get close (but not quite) to our monthly revenue.

            I’m at best an average sales person.  Companies buy our ads because A) our audience reputation is strong; B) we have a reputation for delivering results.

            In the past 18 months, I’ve made fewer than six actual sales calls.  The other 40 or 50 or so new advertisers we’ve signed in that time were business owners who called me.  

            I say that to emphasize two points: 1) it’s not my sales skill making the sales; it’s the site; 2) advertisers prefer our ad model.

            As I said before, I’ve been involved in sites (even designed the ad models and sales models) that use the “page view” model you seem to advocate.  I just don’t think you’re getting how much advertisers HATE banner rotation. 

            At some point, you’ve got to stop banging your head against a wall and give your customers what they want, which is what we do — ads they can see on every page view, so they know ALL of their potential customers are seeing them, and a proven track record for delivering results.

          • http://seoservicesconsultant.com San Diego SEO

            Howard,

            I think a lot of the arguments here come from the fact that you have a new and “non-standard” approach to selling online ads. 

            Taking a step back and looking at the big picture, if this format actually does work for the SMBs then great… 

            But, I think what’s really going on here is that these business owners don’t know if these ads are working or not (you said it yourself that they don’t know / understand SEO or Gads).  How do they know that your ads on your site are somehow converting, but these naughty rotating banner ads are not?  Do they understand some forms of online advertising, but not all?  Do they know when a customer comes from your site, but not a site that ha a banner ad?  That is very difficult to quantify.

            Also, with regards to your last statement:

            “give your customers what they want, which is what we do — ads they can
            see on every page view, so they know ALL of their potential customers
            are seeing them, and a proven track record for delivering results. ”

            The fact is that you can’t see their ad on every page, but their ad “appears” on every page.  Does every page get read to the bottom? Answer: NO!  That is a big distinction.  Their ad might be at the bottom of a 100+ ad pile suffocating, and gasping for air…

            Unless of course your local demographic features individuals who scroll to the bottom of every page.  In that case, you might be right.

          • http://www.facebook.com/howardowens Howard Owens

            Enough scroll to the bottom.  For example, we had an ad that ran the entire month in the very bottom slot (long story as to why).  It got 50 clicks.  That may not sound like a big number to you, but many SMBOs are thrilled to get 50 additional visitors to their site. (typically, we manually move ads around the page on a daily basis — OpenX will automate this process).

            The point being, even the ad at the bottom of the page doesn’t go unnoticed and can deliver results many advertisers are pleased with.

            When discussing this with potential advertisers, my explanation is that “Obviously, the best place to be is at the top of the page, but what I’ve found is that rather than rotate several ads through a single top ad slot, I can get you better results by ensuring your ad is on every page view.  There’s just a better chance that the customer you really need to reach will see the ad even if it’s at the bottom of the page than if it’s not there at all.”

            You ask how I know the ads are working — there’s a testimonial from one of my advertisers right on this site — look up Present Tense Books.  That’s a completely unsolicited (by me) testimonial.  Erica was one of our first five or six advertisers nearly three years ago and she’s still with us and still happy.

            Three months ago, I had two new advertisers tell me that they had enough business off their ads in the first two weeks that it was up to pay for and justify their entire one year run.

            I get testimonials like that all the time from advertisers.

            The best way an advertiser knows an ad is working is when it makes the cash register rings, not clicks.  And I’ve got the testimonials that give me the confidence I’m on the right path (at least in this size and demographic of a market).

            As for it being “non-standard” — well, I admit that.  I’ve explained that I’ve been down the traditional path.

            About two years ago I met a self-made multi-billionaire and we had a couple of beers together and talked quite a bit about business. One of the key things he told me was, “always make your own observations.” He said, don’t do something just because an “expert” tells you to do it, or because “it’s what everybody else is doing.”  If a strategy or tactic isn’t validated by your own observations and study, then it isn’t worth doing.  That, in a nutshell is one of my overriding business philosophies.  I’m not saying the experts are wrong; they’re only wrong if my own data contradicts their conclusions. I see most of the managers doing the “traditional” banner advertising as doing it just because they’ve been told that is the best way to do it, not because it is the best way to do it.  Few if any of them could statistically validate the strategy.

          • http://www.facebook.com/howardowens Howard Owens

            One thing I meant to include as a matter of full disclosure, if I’m talking about successes: There have also been failures.  At least four advertisers have told me they didn’t get any results.  One of them I really worked hard, too, to come up with the right ad campaign.  Typically, the more niche the advertiser, the harder it is to produce results. (though one of the successes I mention above is probably the most niche of any advertiser I ever had).

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_WZ3CJG2K7SUMSA5VOUYDUNNSLU Kevin Chuck

            If I’ve got your numbers right you are generating a CPM of $20 which most internet sites in the world can only dream of. This is much higher even than other hyperlocal publishers I’ve looked at.

            There is clearly something in your approach. There is no doubt that selling a simple product to businesses that aren’t internet savvy is the best approach and the first thing they will do is look to find their ad and if it is on the front page they will be happy. Your readers may not scroll down but if the client does then this isn’t a huge problem.

            It seems to me you are selling sponsorship rather than advertising with businesses happy to pay to be associated with your site and be seen to support it.

            The problem you face is how you grow from here – every ad you sell diminishes the response existing customers get and growth in traffic won’t fully mitigate that.

            On your numbers you have been amazingly successful so you have a right to dismiss the view of experts but you don’t need a huge amount of industry experience to know if a large proportion of you visitors don’t see an ad you are not maximising potential responses for clients. You may hate rotation but there is no viable way for you to accommodate growth without it.

          • http://seoservicesconsultant.com San Diego SEO

            Actually Kevin, according to Howard, he can add unlimited ads because all of the readers scroll to the bottom ;)

            lol had to say that…

            I think you’re correct – its more of a sponsorship scenario

          • http://www.facebook.com/howardowens Howard Owens

             I never said all of the readers scroll.  I said readers do scroll and it’s a myth based on outdated research (and there is newer research) that they don’t scroll.  Obvisously, they don’t all scroll.  Please don’t mistake my position.

          • http://www.facebook.com/howardowens Howard Owens

            Also, Kevin, you’re not far off on the flaw part and that may require some day we throttle back to a set amount of ads allowed on the page  (probably 100 or slightly fewer ad slots) and starting to bring up rates, but I’m not willing to do that until we diversify our revenue streams, which I’m hoping my new ad/marketing person can do for us.

            There’s a road map of sorts in my head for navigating these issues, but there are plenty of twists, turns and forks along the path before we clearly see where we’re going.

          • http://seoservicesconsultant.com San Diego SEO

            Howard,

            From my initial research, most sites are doing much better financially utilizing Google (Double Click) for Publishers…

            Why the switch to OpenX?

            ~~~~

            Also, I think you might not be taking into effect that removing ads from the homepage may lower ad revenue, however you can make up for it (not sure to the extent) by charging premiums for a non-cluttered homepage with less ad spots (possibly 10X’s).

          • http://www.facebook.com/howardowens Howard Owens

            SD (why not use a real name)?

            In some ways, Batavia is unique.  It’s a rust belt community with demographics that may never excite a company like Patch.   We set rates initially at prices I have success with in other markets and got repeated “that’s too expensive.”

            There simply are not enough businesses willing to pay a premium price for web advertising (not at this stage, at least).  10x?  I did well to open up prime spots at 2x my top standard rate.

            If the typical ideal market for a “hyperlocal” site is 60K to 100K population for a DMA, then I think a truly “hyperlocal” site is going to be hard pressed to achieve the kind of sales volume necessary at the rates you’re proposing to be profitable.  The math simply doesn’t pencil out.

            Further, the model of high-priced web advertising doesn’t fit a disruptive approach (it’s a sustaining model, not a competitive advantage model in a disruptive environment).   It’s important while building market share to be priced lower than all competition, including the local shoppers.  That’s a strategic necessity for building market share.

            That was the same model used by early cable network channels, offering very low rates while establishing audience and credibility.

            Finally, strategically speaking, it’s not enough to offer just a “hyperlocal” content model.  It’s critical to have an advertising model that matches, which means only local advertising and a mix of ad rates that ensures even the smallest business can afford placement on your site.

            I hope the point I’m getting across to both you and Kevin is that I’m not some yah-hoo who decided to set up a blog news site and throw up a bunch of ads just cause I could — the process of launching The Batavian was years of experience, months of planning and a clearly articulated strategic vision.

          • http://www.facebook.com/howardowens Howard Owens

            BTW:  I’m not sure how Google can deliver better financial results than OpenX.  They’re both just ad servers.

            Unless, you’re referring to using Google Ads on the site — which we won’t do.  We do not accept non-local advertising.

            (btw: writing the response was interrupted to take one of the handful of calls I’ll get this week from a business owner asking about advertising).

          • http://www.facebook.com/howardowens Howard Owens

            Also, “Working Howard’s CTR ratio and clicks per client claims he is getting several million page views a month. ” … not sure where you’re getting that from.  A .02 percent CTR on 600K page views would be 120 clicks.   That’s a long way from several million PV.

  • Give Me a Break

    Carll, I don’t think most people are outright opposed to building a sustainable community news site. Done well, that’s a fine endeavor.

    What they (or at least I) object to is this orgy of self-congratulation over a shoddy, unscrupulous, and generally eye-gouging product. Your sites look and read like death, you pay your writers peanuts, and apparently your greatest innovation is accepting cash for bootlicking business profiles. But here you are, trashing every other outlet in the market and thumping your chest like you’ve won the Super Bowl. Next time, maybe build a product worth bragging about first?

    I’m not prepared to say that MSC won’t succeed (crazier things have happened), but if this is the future of community journalism, I’m prepared to say that’s really depressing.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_WZ3CJG2K7SUMSA5VOUYDUNNSLU Kevin Chuck

    Although some of Carll’s claim may be a bit overblown his basic point is probably right – scale is probably going to be necessary for long term sustainability of any hyperlocal news organisation. The same visceral and often unjustified hostility to networks is a feature of the hyperlocal scene in the UK – companies like Local People and Neighbour Net are seen as the spawn of the devil by the hyperlocal community. However, they do seem to be the only ones at this stage that are developing something that looks commercially sustainable. The difference in the US is that single area independents like WSB have actually managed to gain a decent audience and some revenue and can claim to be a credible alternative.

    The ultimate problem for WSB and similar sites is that if they prove an area can sustain a local web site then new players will come in that have economies of scale, better CMS and ad presentation and even if they don’t offer the same quality of news provision they will have a negative impact on revenues.

    Personally I can’t see Main Street Connect ever attracting the funding it would need to build out a national network that is staffed by its employees. The way for it to go could be the franchise route.

  • http://www.alderleyedge.com Martin Reeves

    If you ask what most local small businesses want (most of which are not net savvy) then most of them would probably say a permanent position on the home page, which is no doubt what has led Howard to the model he is running. I just can believe for a split second that loading a home page with 107 ads is the best way to deliver value to your advertisers. Eventually advertisers will come to the same conclusion. 
    In my personal opinion, hyperlocals need to educate local small businesses rather than just delivering what they want. A Henry Ford quote comes to mind regarding the first car he ever built: “If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have said a faster horse.”

    Getting hyperlocal advertising right is a balancing act of generating enough revenue, delivering value to advertisers and providing a compelling user experience. Whilst Howards model might well deliver the most revenue in the short term for me it fails it terms of advertiser value and user experience.

    • http://www.facebook.com/howardowens Howard Owens

       ” it fails it terms of advertiser value and user experience.”

      Martin, you obviously haven’t spoken to my advertisers nor  my users.  Your opinion throughout above is pure speculation. 

      Nice quote from Ford, but it ignores the idiocy of trying to force on customers something they don’t want.  If you have to “educate your customers” (something I don’t think Ford was addressing), then you’ve already lost the game.

      • http://www.alderleyedge.com Martin Reeves

        Its not a case selling my customers something they don’t want – its case of selling them (the majority of which are advertising online for the first time) the advertising solution that will provide them with the best ROI (based on my personal experience of 15 years of online advertising). As an operator of a hyperlocal site I could take the short term view and make a fast buck but I want the same local advertisers to still be advertising with me in 2/5/10 years time when they have a much better understanding of online advertising.

        As for you saying “if you have to educate you customers then you’ve already lost the game” that is completely ridiculous. 

        • http://www.facebook.com/howardowens Howard Owens

          I’ve got just as much experience as you (actually, got you beat by a year, I believe), and as I said in other post, banner rotation is a scam. It’s a flim-flam game that delivers zero ROI.  

          Customers want to see their ad when they visit your site and if they don’t see it, then you’ve sold them something they don’t want and don’t trust. You’re ripping them off.

          I used to try to explain banner rotation to potential advertisers like this: Take a deck of cards — your ad is all the suit of hearts. Every time a heart pops up, it’s you’re ad popping up.  You’ve got a 1-4 chance of being seen by any single visitor.  Of couse, we have lots of repeat visitors, so eventually your ad will be seen by almost all visitors.

          There’s a couple of lies in that though — you can go through almost the whole deck sometimes without seeing a single heart.  Second, there’s simply no guarantee that the one customer who is really in the market for hearts is going to see your heart.

          The fact of the matter is — and advertisers that have shared their referrer traffic with me proves this — our model delivers more traffic to an advertiser web site than a site that puts that same ad in banner rotation.

          If you’re driving more traffic, you’re driving more attention.

          But it’s more than just clicks.  It’s also cash registers ringing, and I’ve got the customer success stories to back that up, too.

          The fact of the matter is, you’re arguing rhetoric with me.  I’m arguing facts. I do this. It works. I’ve got statistics, empirical data, validation, testimonials, proven success.  What do you have. You’ve got, “it doesn’t work because I say it doesn’t work.”

          I’ve seen banner rotation fail advertisers (having run those programs at multiple locations) and lead to high churn of customers over and over again.  I’ve seen what I do work for advertisers, work for readers, and lead to a high degree of satisfaction.

          Keep arguing with me if you like, but in more than 16 years of online publishing, I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t and I’m sticking with what works.

          • http://www.alderleyedge.com Martin Reeves

            Howard, at no point have I said “it doesn’t work”. I just do not believe that it is the best approach for the reasons I outlined in my initial post.

            I suggest we agree to disagree – only time will tell which approach works best long term. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/howardowens Howard Owens

    Reply to Kevin Chuck’s last comment, moved to a new thread because the old thread is getting RIDICULOUSLY narrow.

    Kevin wrote:

    You wrote: “It seems to me you are selling sponsorship rather than advertising with businesses happy to pay to be associated with your site and be seen to support it. “There’s something to that.  I do in fact call it sponsorship, but that goes back to how I initially decided to position The Batavian as “part of the community” with an “we’re all just supporting each other as local businesses ” sort of attitude.

    And certainly, early on, there was a good number of biz owners who signed on more because they liked the site and believed in it rather than looking for quantifiable results.

    But as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, we now have the data to show our ad model get results.  

    I still see in your comments a tendency to dismiss the ad model because of the scroll, and I still maintain that people do scroll far more often than you seem to give them credit for.  

    We do take a chance adding more ad slots to the page — something I’m going to do anyway (20 ad slots ago I thought about not adding more, but have and have seemed to get away with it).

    And one thing I remind myself of quite often — we’re still in the start up/experiment phase.  This whole thing could just blow up in my face some point (the fact that older sites such as West Seattle Blog are still going strong doing essentially the same model gives me hope that it won’t, unless I personally blow it).

    The main point I want to drive home is that small publishers shouldn’t just accept the conventional wisdom about banner rotation and run with it.  It’s CW that should be questioned and examined by each and every publisher.

    Too many hyperlocal publishers get excited about covering their corner of the world and think just about the content and then append the handiest advertising model.

    If you aren’t thinking comprehensively about your business strategy — a hyperlocal content model AND a hyperlocal revenue model that is thoroughly considered and planned — then you are diminishing your chances of success.

    My message to other hyperlocal publishers isn’t necessarily, “do it as I do it” (though if you really study the issue, that’s where you’ll wind up, IMHO).  It’s more, be strategic and comprehensive in your thinking about your revenue model.  This isn’t a “build it and they will come” enterprise.  A solid revenue strategy requires thought, effort, planning and execution. And thought the focus of this discussion has been ad slots, a site’s revenue plan is much, much more than just placement and number of ad slots.  It’s a comprehensive approach that melds ad model with sales and marketing model and the brand you want to project to the community.

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