News Leadership 3.0

June 29, 2009

At MinnPost.com, an advertising experiment

The Minneapolis online news start up brings a Twitter sensibility to serve small, local advertisers

As Paul Gillin pointed out, local news organizations can do much more to serve small local advertisers—a $24 billion market nationwide. So it’s exciting to see MinnPost.com experimenting with a new service that enables small local advertisers to post short feeds on all pages of the Minneapolis news site for a modest weekly fee.

Here’s how Kramer describes the goal of the service, Real-Time Ads, in his blog:

Very simply, our goal is to create a fast-paced marketplace, full of advertisers’ messages that are newly posted and thus up-to-date, so that readers will want to keep coming back to check out what’s happening.

Imagine a restaurant that can post its daily lunch special in the morning and then its dinner special in the afternoon. Or a sports team that can keep you up-to-date on its games and other team news. Or a store that could offer a coupon good only for today. Or a performance venue that can let you know whether tickets are available for tonight. Or a publisher or blogger who gives you his or her latest headline.

Real-Time Ads looks like it offers a few things that have often been missing from the advertising portfolios of news organizations:

- It’s easy to post. Anyone who is already sending out promotional messages on Twitter or via RSS can push them out on MinnPost.
- It’s cheap. The service is free during a four-week beta test. After that, MinnPost Editor Joel Kramer expects to charge each advertiser under $100 a week for the service.
- It likely will not require a great deal of labor on the part of the news organization if it catches on.

Kramer notes that other sites are trying similar models, including Chicago’s news www.windycitizen.com.

The service is very Twitter-like, with the most recent ad appearing at the top of the list. It does not look like it will lend itself to comparison shopping the way a good online classified service might.

Still, it’s a promising piece of the advertising puzzle. Perhaps most importantly, the service recognizes that small is the new big. Local news organizations are unlikely to a return of anything remotely resembling the traditional advertising portfolio dominated by relatively few very large accounts. Instead, news organizations must build portfolios of small local accounts and give them diverse ways of reaching the public.

Bill Mitchell at Poynter Online discusses Real-Time Ads and Zachary Seward has a video interview with Kramer at the Nieman Journalism Lab.

Do you think this model would work for your site? How are you capturing local advertising dollars online?

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Exploring innovation, transformation and leadership in a new ecosystem of news, by journalist and change advocate Michele McLellan.

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