Why NewsCorp Barely Registers in Local

Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp. would seem to be a great contender for driving the local Internet. The Fox TV stations , in particular, have local reach across the U.S., and could theoretically anchor all manner of online and offline promotional and directional advertising. They could sell it, too.

Riding the fringes of any TV efforts would be Newscorp.’s opportunistic assemblage of Internet sites. MySpace, for instance, is being positioned as a teenage Craig’s List, with city-by-city ads focused on wheels, guitar amps, and housing. Scout.com has a different kind of potential, and is currently seeking to sell local online advertising for its network of high school sports sites.

The present reality, however, is that Newscorp. barely registers in local – and the problem starts with its inability to lasso the TV stations, including both its affiliates and owned- and-operateds. This was really brought home last week, when Newscorp. announced that it would quell affiliate concerns that their local TV audience would be undermined by Fox’s direct sale of programs over the Internet.

Roadmap for How TV Sites Can Beat Newspapers

TV stations generally take a back seat to newspapers on the Web. But they can fully compete on the Web for local classifieds, localized national advertising and vertical services, according to Broadcast Interactive President Timur Yarnall.

To Yarnall, TV stations have been too modest in their efforts on the Web, often playing a supporting role to newspapers that have plied more money and resources into their Web efforts. Some TV stations, for instance, provide weather and sports video clips to newspaper sites, in hopes of keeping the local newscast front-and-center.

But stations don’t recognize that the local Web space is a free-for-all. Stations need to play to win in an era where key markets have surpassed 70 percent broadband penetration, and video on demand is as accessible as online articles.

Yahoo News Focuses on Local

Yahoo has re-envisioned and enlarged its local news service. The new service, which has over 400 content sources in 82 markets, reflects the ease of RSS feeds, and Yahoo’s long-term desire to better engage local media companies. While still unbranded, it basically replaces a local tab that had hosted content from 32 markets, including Knight Ridder and Tribune properties.

In its current beta form, the new local news service grabs multiple headlines from each source via RSS; runs article summaries; and segregates content by media outlet. Many of the featured markets have eight or more media outlets. So far, these include newspapers, TV stations and radio stations.

Project director Elizabeth Osder, a 15 year veteran of interactive journalism, says she hopes the content offerings become even more granular, perhaps to the level of high school newspapers. At the same time, she says a key focus is to become a better partner of the major media outlets in every city. “We’re looking at ways to highlight local media. We need (outlets like) The Cleveland Plain Dealer to continue to be important in Cleveland.” The differentiator here, she emphasizes, is Yahoo’s ability to leverage RSS and personalization.

The Impact of AT&T/BellSouth on YP

AT&T and BellSouth is a $67 billion telecom rollup, but local advertising is involved too. The telcos’ respective Yellow Pages will be impacted by the rollup, as well as their ties with Yahoo, vendors and the Yellow Pages trade associations.

For starters, the deal makes the selloff/spinoff of the Yellow Pages units all-but-inevitable. The telcos needs tens of billions to install fiber-to-the-curb for IPTV, and it has made sense to sell off the YPs to produce some of the revenue. But this seals the deal.

As for side effects of the deal, some fallout is likely at Yahoo. Both companies sell for Yahoo Yellow Pages and Yahoo Local. And in return, Yahoo doesn’t sell against them. But maybe the arrangement has run its course.

Borrell Survey: Focus on Local Video

In the many unsettled areas of new media, including local, the questions can sometimes be more interesting than the answers. This is especially the case in the new executive survey by our friends at Borrell Associates.

This round, the latest in a continuing series, focuses largely on the potential of online video advertising by TV stations and other local media channels – something that I think is often overstated by Borrell, but cannot be counted out. One question, for instance, postulates that “Virtual tours of stores, restaurants and other advertisers using streaming video become the preferred format for local TV website ads.”

Broadcast Interactive Evangelizes for TV Websites

It’s no surprise that TV station websites remain underwhelming in most markets. They still think of the Web as a promotional platform. But since 2003, a number of stations have begun to remake themselves, leveraging their local presence with content and advertising. Some are making a dent in the local advertising market, with earnings running from $300,000 to over $1 million in larger markets.

Station groups like Clear Channel are doing it on their own. Most, however, have signed partnerships with TV website specialists, whose ranks include WorldNow, with 147 stations; Internet Broadcasting Systems, which has 70 stations, including many top markets; and relative newcomer Broadcast Interactive Media. Broadcast Interactive will have 70 stations by the end of the year, but mostly in smaller markets – the disadvantage, perhaps, of starting after WorldNow and IBS.

BIM Chief Timur Yarnall shared his sense of where the marketplace is going with The Local Onliner. The best situations for TV Websites are when they go local and create new revenues from new customers, rather than bundling in existing contracts with car dealers and other traditional TV advertisers, says Yarnall. Homebuilders, real estate brokers and mortgage advertisers are examples of new customers who haven’t previously worked with TV stations. “The website clinches it. Otherwise, these guys would not have gone near TV.” More from our discussion is below.

Infinity Adds AOL Local Content

Viacom’s Infinity Broadcasting is focused on ramping up its Radiomat streaming network for all 183 stations in 22 markets, and will add AOL Local content. At the same time, however, it will pull out of AOL Radio, where it has streamed seven of its major stations since 2003.

Infinity’s pullout of its stations may have something to do with AOL’s recent tie to XM Radio, which now handles most of AOL’s radio programming. Infinity is currently developing a competing subscription service, HD Radio, in partnership with other key radio players.