Local Media Consortium’s ‘Legacy’ Members Make Big Moves in Content and Revenue

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It’s looking like 2015 could be a breakthrough year for the Local Media Consortium, whose newspapers and broadcasters have been struggling to succeed in the fast-changing, competitively wide-open world of digital information and news.

Meeting in private sessions in Dallas recently, the LMC agreed to two deals that will give the 1,600 digital operations of its 61 members more tools and better opportunities to assemble audiences that are bigger and more engaged and can be served up to advertisers in a variety of pick-and-choose consumer profiles.

Summing up the Dallas meetups, LMC Executive Director Rusty Coats told me: “There’s a new mood of optimism, driven by urgency.” Behind the urgency are the legacies’ bottom lines: Revenues from print and broadcasting have continued to shrink, and faster than they can be replaced by what the legacies are doing digitally.

First off, the organization has struck a content deal with ScribbleLive which could give newspapers and TV stations a badly needed editorial boost as they try, once again, to pull off the daunting transition to digital.  ScribbleLive can, among other things, help digital platforms seamlessly pull together sources for a breaking story. For a police or political press conference, the platform can pull in various media, including streaming video, the reporter’s blogging on what’s happening, user engagement via comments posted to the blog and tweets and other user reactions that ScribbleLive curates from across the full spectrum of social media. If the story has wide ramifications. ScribbleLive can also also help a site capture other contextually relevant articles from other providers and aggregate them into its package on a live event.

This means that a paper’s (or broadcaster’s) digital Web and mobile platforms can be kept fresh through the day, creating the potential for multiple visits by users. The richer content means that users are likely to spend more time on the site, which creates more opportunities to present messages from advertisers.

Lee Enterprises, a LMC member, has been using ScribbleLive for several years, and editors and reporters at its papers use the service’s tools for a variety of coverage.  Stephanie DePasquale, social media editor at the Quad-City (Iowa) Times, said in a reaction ScribbleLive posted on its site: “We’ve been using ScribbleLive to cover college and high school sports, court hearings and we’ll use it for a shopping live blog on [the next] Black Friday….I personally like the Q&A feature. It’s particularly helpful for trial coverage when emotions can get pretty heated. The feature makes it easy to separate useful comments and questions from inappropriate ones so that we can approve them when there is a break in the trial.”

Perhaps most important of all, legacy media, used to the closed worlds in which they used to operate — and dominate — will have the potential of competing more effectively in the fast-paced, fragmented world of digital information and news. Plus, they’ll be able to exploit more content from outside the newsroom — from their own users and the wide world of social media, where a tweet about news in one market may originate thousands of miles away.

In LMC’s original incarnation in 2006 as the Yahoo Newspaper Consortium, members weren’t able to get their act together much better than in previous, failed attempts by legacy media to go digital. But since Chris Hendricks, recently promoted to VP of products, marketing and innovation at McClatchy, became chairman of the reconstituted and renamed Local Media Consortium, the group has been functioning more cohesively and productively. Google came on board with its ad exchange and technological know-how in programmatic advertising, about which LMC members can get live support. A big help, too, has been on-the-ground management — including hand-holding when it was needed — provided by Coats, who, as co-founder of Coats2Coats, has been a longtime adviser to community publishers and has more than 20 years of experience in the digital space.

Surveying the evolution of LMC, Coats said: “Over the past year and a half, our members have really started to see what the next digital wave looks like. We’ve got 1,600 local titles brought together in one enormous interface.  Advertisers can now see local media as ubiquitous and easily to transact with.”

Later this week, I’ll examine the LMC’s new revenue-focused partnership with Worldnow, which grows the Consortium’s reach by 25%.

Tom GrubisichTom Grubisich (@TomGrubisich) writes “The New News“column for Street Fight. He is editorial director of hyperlocal news network Local America, and is also working on a book about the history, present and future of Charleston, S.C.