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Can local newspapers win online?

How can local newspapers leverage their 'trusted brands' online? The debate rages on, in particular at the Kelsey Local Interactive Media conference in Philadelphia this afternoon.

How can local newspapers leverage their “trusted brands” online?

The debate rages on, in particular at the Kelsey Local Interactive Media conference in Philadelphia this afternoon, where regional newspapers and online service providers to the newspaper industry analyzed interactive advertising “opportunities and challenges” for local newspaper Websites.

Centro says it “has one goal: to make buying local online media easy for agencies.”

Shawn Riegsecker, CEO, Centro, put forth a case for why the Websites of local newspapers trump portals and advertising networks in “running local marketing messages.”

Most local buying has been done via geo-targeting at search portals and ad networks… including mail sections, chat rooms, forums, or far away corners of the Internet to reach a local audience, according to Centro. For Riegsecker, such placements represent “crap inventory.’

Riegsecker noted disappointing stats for newspapers online: Newspapers account for about 18% of the offline ad spend, or about $47 billion, but newspaper Websites only represent about 4% of the online ad spend.

The traditional local newspaper value proposition--reach and efficiency--has been usurped by online portals, notably Yahoo, Reigsecker said. He believes, however, that newspapers do have a rightful destiny online to capture more ad dollars from advertisers seeking to place their local messaging in trusted editorial and contextual environments.

Newspapers are at a perceived CPM cost disadvantage, Reigsecker put forth. On average, portal CPMs are significantly lower than local newspaper Website CPMs, because lower quality inventory is included in the portal mix. All of the online newspaper inventory, however, is currently of high-quality.

Reigsecker believes newspapers are at a pricing disadvantage by not having any “throw away content” and suggests a diversification of the inventory mix. By bringing down their average CPMs, local online newspaper Websites can put forth more competitive offers to advertisers.

How can newspapers diversify their ad inventory? User generated content is a low-cost, low-risk way to provide for more ad inventory at a lower CPM basis.

Jeremy Woodlee, Director Online Classifieds, Los Angeles Times and GM, Recycler.com, embraces user-generated content.

For Woodlee, classsified ads are an example of structured user-generated content. By soliciting unstructured user-generated content--photo uploads, blogging--newspaper Websites can not only create new, lower CPM ad opportunities, but increase user engagement and the entertainment value of the destinations as well.

Woodlee is not discouraged by Craigslist, he is inspired.

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