Five reasons why traditional media advertising revenue is sloping towards zero

Journalists continue to search for a viable business model that supports online hyperlocal publications, but they won’t ever reach the threshold of revenues to maintain operations if they rely solely on traditional advertising fees from local merchants. That doesn’t mean local advertising is also poised to fall off a cliff. On the contrary, BIA/Kelsey states the prospects for online local advertising will double by 2015, but much of that growth will come from new mobile applications and daily deals category vendors. Here are five reasons why hyperlocal news faces hurdles to profitability:

1) Hyperlocal audiences are too granular to support traditional revenue models. Local banner ads aren’t economically viable. Traffic to online hyperlocal publications is inherently small due to geography, and total ad revenue based on CPM (cost per thousand views) won’t even cover the costs of the ad sales force.

Report on AOL’s hyperlocal network Patch.com’s traffic sourced from Business Insider “Leaked Reports on Patch traffic”

Article comment:
Chris L on Jun 24, 1:18 PM said:
If their page views really are only 783K for a month in So Cal, that translates to less than $5K in revenue for a month. I doubt they can build a sustainable business on that. Revenue = (783,000/1000)*3*$2 Assumptions: $2 CPM (generous) and 3 ad slots per page.

2. Local advertising alternatives are proliferating. Newspapers lost their classifieds revenue to Craigslist. The growing number of pay for performance business models including paid searchdaily deals and the new mobile ad applications are cannibalizing media spending. Advertising options will continue to expand for local merchants, leaving a smaller piece of the pie to hyperlocal news.

3. Hyperlocal media resources are proliferating. Traditional media has relegated the business community to being simply the “advertisers” and not involving them in content sourcing. Yet on the local social media, many committed bloggers are the business owners who want to discuss their industry and community, and by extension market themselves. Traditional media needs to incorporate the business community as journalistic partners instead of trying to sell to them all the time.

New community service business models are developing that focus on engaging the community around local news and providing free advertising to businesses, adding further pressure on traditional ad sales. Facebook and other social networks may also evolve into hyperlocal community platforms that center on community sourced and shared news. In sum, hyperlocal news resources will proliferate as alternatives to traditional local media, simply because it’s easier to build these properties now.

4.  Local merchants are learning how to self market using the social mediaRoost reports merchants believing it is four times more effective than paid search. Those merchants that can’t do it will be taught or be serviced by local social media / ad agencies, or even the traditional media publishers themselves. Gannett wisely set up GannettLocal.com to engage with local businesses as their social media marketing educator and partner.

5. There is a visible example of an unworkable local media model. Patch.com, AOL’s effort to build a hyperlocal news network from scratch even when local news revenues were falling, demonstrates and even confirms the high hurdles in building a profitable local ad model.

After a year and $150 million, Patch doesn’t seem to be gaining the revenue traction it needs to warrant further investment, and AOL is working with investment bankers on restructuring. The Patch exercise may shut the door on the idea of building a scalable hyperlocal network based on paid content.

About Pat Kitano

Patrick Kitano works with brands in developing hyperlocal engagement solutions and is administrator of the Breaking News Network, a national hyperlocal network devoted to community service. He is the author of The Local Network on Street Fight, and is reachable via Twitter @pkitano and email pkitano@gmail.com.

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