Marketers must join media to get slice
of online pie
By JEFF CORNWALL • November 2, 2008
The media and consumers are moving into the digital world at
a dizzying pace.
For the media, this means offering their content in digital
form, whether that content originally was in print, on TV or on
the radio. All media outlets, especially local media, need to
get better at monetizing the digital expressions of their core
properties. (Translation: They need to make money online.)
Marketers who depend on those local media need to grasp this
The media's expansion of effort — and the resulting ad
dollars — beyond their traditional business models is not a
short-term fix for currently declining revenues. Instead, it's
a long-term strategy that could be required for survival.
Why? Because the trend toward online has reached a tipping
point. Consumers are moving away from traditional
"In 2008 consumers will spend more on media than
advertisers," according to James Rutherford, managing director
of private equity firm Veronis Suhler Stevenson.
What are they spending it on? Consider your own outlays for
cable or satellite television and radio, music downloads and
entertainment media such as video games. Projections say the
average American consumer will spend more than $1,000 a year on
media by 2012.
In this sea of digital change, there is good news for local
media companies. Consider a study of U.S. online consumers done
by the Online Publishers Association.
The OPA study gauged consumer activities and attitudes
toward local-content Web sites. The type of sites tracked
included city guides such as City Search; classified
advertising sites like Cars.com and Craigslist; local
newspaper, radio, television and magazine sites; local channels
of national portals; yellow pages directories and user-review
sites such as Angie's List.
Consumers were very satisfied with the local coverage
Portals, local newspaper and local TV station sites led the
list. Ads placed on local newspaper and TV sites were rated
most trustworthy. In fact, local newspaper sites outranked
user-review sites by 19 percent in trust for local
Visitors to local media sites do more than look; they take
action. When asked whether they buy, research or visit a store
as a result of Web surfing, they ranked local newspaper,
television station and magazine sites as their top motivators.
Almost half of all local newspaper site visitors are taking
further action after viewing online ads.
Local site users like to buy
Local media sites also perform strongest with the heaviest
spenders. Almost half of local magazine site visitors spent
more than $500 online in the past 12 months.
So what types of businesses are consumers looking for when
going to local sites? Restaurants and bars lead the list.
Grocery stores, banks and financial services, department stores
and physicians and health facilities round out the top
Consumer electronics stores, auto dealers and auto service,
real estate, furniture and appliance stores and legal services
complete the top 10 sites.
Marketers and agencies must accept the new media reality and
understand the options available to communicate with their
customers. It may sound ironic, but while the World Wide Web
helps us think globally, it allows us to act locally.
Jeff Cornwall is director of the Belmont University Center
for Entrepreneurship and the Massey Chair in Entrepreneurship.
He writes a column exclusively for The Tennessean every other
Sunday on issues facing new business owners and would-be
owners. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His daily blog can be seen at http://forum.belmont.edu/cornwall/