Broadstreet, which provides ad services to news publishers, is offering a new ad unit called the “Selfie” — short, self-generated messages that businesses and anybody else can place in the middle of an article to catch the eye of searching users. Broadstreet co-founder Kenny Katzgrau says the Selfie aims to lure businesses that want to get their message out, but are resistant to buying more expensive display ads. Selfie targets also include engaged users who want to announce their silver wedding anniversary, salute a friend who’s retiring, or say something nice about the neighbor down the street who led the block cleanup or the coach of the newly crowned girls’ championship lacrosse team at the high school.
Katzgrau said 70 of his publisher clients are in one stage or another of working with the Selfie.
One of them is Michael Dinan, publisher of his recently founded New Caananite site in suburban Connecticut. Dinan was a regional editor at Patch before he and hundreds of other editors were terminated when Aol sold the community news network to Hale Global in January. He told Street Fight: “It’s working well and there’s a great payoff waiting for me if I make the Selfie ads even more of a priority. Check out the Selfie on this article (right after the first paragraph). We all know that nearly all news readers come in through an article page rather than the homepage — social share, emailed link, newsletter, search. So if you can give a heads-up to an advertiser who wants to capture the local readers of a specific story, it’s a good spend for them.”
Another Broadstreet client working with the Selfie is Uriah Kiser of Potomac Local in metro Washington, D.C.’s Prince William County in Northern Virginia: “We’re calling the service ‘Stickers’ and have placed them in the middle of each of our posts. In two weeks we have already seen success. Because it’s self-serve, I’m expecting more businesses and other potential users to familiarize themselves with it. For our sales team, it’s another added benefit we can show to clients as a low-cost way to reach even more of our readers.”
Kiser is charging $20 per week for his Sticker. Dinan is charging $10 a day, $50 week, $150 month and $1,000 a year.
Joe Hyde of San Angelo (Tex.) Live, who remains a strong believer in display ads — and reels a number of them onto his site — signed up for the Selfie, but says it will be a while before he knows if it will be a significant source of ad revenue. “Right now, it’s beer money,” he says. (Display ads and sponsorships now account for $30,000 a month in revenue at San Angelo Live.)
A progenitor of the Selfie is the “Biz/Org Briefs” feature that generates major revenue — $300,000 annually — at the three Village Soup publications in Midcoast Maine. The four- and five-line ads occupy a column next to news on the homepage and sell for $24.95 per week. The founder of the Village Soups, Richard Anderson, originated the briefs in the pioneering days of digital community news in the previous decade. Veteran Midcoast publisher Reade Brower kept and strengthened the briefs when he acquired the bankrupt Village Soups in 2012.
Broadstreet’s Selfie tool is designed to make it easy for both publishers to set up the Selfie for their business clients in a pain-free way that can produce an ad in minutes. For publishers, Broadstreet has a tutorial showing them how to use the Selfie, which can be programmed for manual or automatic operation.
“It’s especially designed for publishers who have a great audience but aren’t great at ad sales,” Katzgrau says. “Plus, it takes out all the overhead.”
I asked Katzgrau for a scenario on how the Selfie might work at one news site in an average market: “The site puts up five articles a day. After the Selfie gains some experience, each article should be able to draw at least three Selfies per day. At $50 a month per Selfie, that adds up to $22,500 a month.”
Or $270,000 a year. Just 10% less than what Reade Brower grosses with his pre-Selfie Biz/Org Briefs.
Tom Grubisich (@TomGrubisich) writes “The New News” column for Street Fight. He is editorial director of the in-development hyperlocal news network Local America that rates communities on their performance across a broad spectrum of livability — Local America Charleston launched earlier this year.