Many newspaper companies (and YPs etc) are transforming into digital agencies before our very eyes in order to make their sales forces relevant in the local markets they serve. It’s true they usually have the largest and most trusted sales forces and relationships within any of these local markets which is a huge asset. With demand for print on an inexorable decline they need to do something to replace those lost print dollars and most have figured out that is digital – websites, mobile sites, deals, coupons, SEO, SEM, Display, Rep Management, etc. (As John Paton from Digital First Media is fond of saying, “replace print dollars with digital dimes.” I think the dimes could be much bigger than the dollars someday and much higher margin).
Help the local business drive customers to their mobile optimized websites and landing pages and generate more calls – that is the goal. You can no longer say placing an ad in xyz paper will get the job done and local business owners have figured it out. All they have to do to look for proof is pull out their own smart phone. So it should become an easier and easier sell as time goes on.
Some of the larger newspaper groups are attempting to sell their digital agency services to other newspaper companies thereby expanding their reach beyond where their own dailies operate. Smart.
Tread carefully however. The danger is that technology is an ever evolving beast so make sure you have a long term outlook out of the gate and make sure all your products work together (it should not be like Oz behind the curtain cranking levers! That could get real messy over time!) Rushing to market with something half-baked or strategically flawed is worse than waiting. And the local business owner is already weary from the 5 calls/day they get from xyz digital rep at the Acme daily deal company.
Speed to market cuts both ways and first mover does not always win. Newspaper companies have a big asset in their local presence. That’s a great opportunity. How will they play it?