NAA Study: News is ‘Limiting Factor’ Online

Online newspapers have made minor gains in usage and penetration, but they don’t drive their readers to advertising and ecommerce as effectively as traditional newspaper models, according to a new Power User study conducted for the Newspaper Association of America by MORI Research.

“News has become a limiting factor,” say the authors. “Newspaper sites remain as bit players as a destination among consumers who seek shopping and advertising information online. Store sites and search engines currently own this category.”

It’s not all bad news for newspapers. Twenty-one percent of Internet users now look at a local newspaper site at least twice a week. This breaks down to ten percent looking at newspaper sites daily, while 11 percent look at sites at least twice a week. Another 16 percent look at newspaper sites at least once a month, while 14 percent have looked at a newspaper site within the last six months. But 49 percent have not looked at a newspaper site in six months.

$5.8 Billion in Local Revs Projected for 2006

My friends (and former colleagues) at Borrell Associates are out with their fourth annual survey of local online revenues. As usual, the survey is a data goldmine, based on confidential reporting from 2,266 local sites- a very impressive count. Borrell found that local online revenues were $4.8 billion in 2005. For 2006, they’re projected to surpass $5.8 billion in 2006.

Borrell indicates that a perfect storm has kicked local up a notch. Traditional media companies have accelerated their efforts on the Web; the portals have ramped up their local initiatives; thousands of entrepreneurs are selling local advertising; and there is a natural migration of local advertisers, who are finally accepting the Web as part of their marketing plans. “It is no longer a case of artificial upselling,” says Borrell.

Major trends include a jump in local search revenues from five to nine percent, and the rise of targeted advertising, including paid search, lead generation, directories and classifieds. Display ads such as banners and popups are down to just 14 percent of revenues.

NAA: Google Eyes Six Newspaper Initiatives

In a conversation with Newspaper Association of America members this February, Google Local head Shailesh Rao and colleague Jim Kolotouros outlined six Google initiatives that they’d like to work with newspapers on. These include AdSense; a premium tier version of AdSense that enables online order entry for merchants; GoogleLocal; video; GoogleBase; and ongoing experiments with print ads in papers.

Kolotouros said that the initiatives are being developed on an adhoc basis, but that Google would like to put them into “one bucket” to streamline their use by newspapers. Separately, Rao said that Google would like to enable newspapers to act as sales agents for Google to upsell existing customers along the lines of “a model we’ve tested in the Yellow Pages business.”

Highlights of the conversation are transcribed as part of “Getting Serious About Search,” a new survey and report by the NAA’s Melinda Gipson that effectively updates my 2004 survey and report, “Paid Search and Newspapers: Issues and Strategies.”

Superpages Head Talks Google, New Directions

Verizon SuperPages will leapfrog the increasingly stagnant Internet Yellow Pages space by focusing on “co-opetition, personalization and risk-taking,” said Internet Division President Eric Chandler in a wide-ranging address at Kelsey’s Drilling Down on Local conference in San Jose.

It isn’t the first time that SuperPages has attempted to remake itself. Two years ago, SuperPages was hellbent on becoming the Web’s ultimate shopping portal. But going forward, Chandler acknowledged it would be folly to stick with an ecommerce strategy.

Chandler’s big news at the conference, in fact, was the announcement of a sales deal with Google – enabling SuperPages to join rivals such as Yellowpages.com and Dex as salespeople for the marketing behemoth. For the past couple of months, Chandler revealed that SuperPages tested a Google package on 400 advertisers, and saw an incremental spend of $173 per customer.

Austin American Statesman Gets Micro

The Austin American Statesman is going full hog to recruit its progressive, Web-savvy community into the blogosphere. Speaking at the recent SIIA conference in New York, Internet General Manager Jim Debth said the paper’s Website, Austin360.com has recruited 600 bloggers, who are writing 1,700 “reader blogs” on music, movies, TV , Food & Drink, and […]

How Real is WiFi for Local Ads?

There’s been speculation that free WiFi would be used by Google and others as a carrot to target users and seize the local advertising market. That’s hard to do under any circumstances. But assuming that all the stars align, how attractive can WiFi be as a targeted, local delivery medium?

It can be “very attractive,” according to Nitin J. Shah, Executive Vice President of Feeva Technology, a San Francisco-based software company focused on WiFi ad targeting.

Shah is the first to concede the real limitations of WiFi technology. But he argues that WiFi’s adoption in laptops, PDAs and cellphones, combined with the rapid proliferation of free WiFi hotspots, “clouds” and “zones,” creates real opportunities for local advertisers and other geo-targeters.

How ‘Review’ Sites Fit In

The next generation of Internet Yellow Pages will inevitably include user reviews and ratings of services, whether they scare away advertisers or not. Some people have concluded that such reviews will be an interesting “extra.” My expectation is that they’ll be a core service from which all the other features sprout, including maps, urls, professional ratings, phone numbers, and Yellow Pages “copy points,” such as brands stocked, photos, hours, credit cards accepted and nearby businesses.

User reviews and ratings aren’t new. Of the major services, AOL has probably been collecting reviews the longest. Reviews from 1998 still show up on AOL’s undernourished “local experts” site. Yahoo! Local’s reviews, however, overtook AOL some time ago.

Since then, a lot of startups have entered the picture, hoping to carve out their own niches. These are generally more focused on the reviews, and less on other Yellow Pages features. Strategically, most probably have an end goal of selling to a major player at some point. Such local service-oriented sites include Insider Pages, Judy’s Book, CitySearch, Tribe, Cox’s Kudzu, BackFence and American Towns.

Among the local-oriented review sites, I liked Judy’s Book for its ease of use and high level of community. By allowing users to comment on all their life interests, it builds a better sense of community and more thoughtfulness. The site also provides a unique window into who is actually looking at which reviews, and counts them up. I’ve apparently got 319 looks at my 16 reviews; 119 of those looked at my mixed review of a local Honda dealer. It is definitely interesting, and brings a much heightened sense of community beyond Craig’s List.