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Why publishers should be confident about their USPs in digital advertising for SMEs compared to Meta & Google

Why publishers should be confident about their USPs in digital advertising for SMEs compared to Meta & Google

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With frightening regularity, I hear newspaper executives talking about the shortcomings of regional news publishers in digital advertising versus global giants like Google & Facebook. If it is about data, technology, sheer size or their user adoption of self-bookings versus ones from the local publishers.

Today I would like to answer back to this notion that I see very differently in theory and intellectual but also in real life with examples from small and large news publishers that accepted the competition and worked on their strengths.

Looking at those cases and the arguments against the behemoths, it’s almost a wonder they make any local (not national) advertising revenues at all J …. please follow me:

Personal Care

Looking at the “personal care” Facebook and Google offer to their customers, you will notice that this is close to “none”. Except for the $50 or $100 voucher here and there, there will be no personal contact for the advertiser, no help, no onboarding, no training, no anything … as long as you are no national giant yourself and spend $100.000+ with them … at least.

You know for yourself how much value local advertisers put into the direct contact, the support, the mentoring and the “good feel”. You as a local publisher – on top of the “buy the local argument” – can really expand on it. Make it part of your pitch and differentiate actively!

But why does the “self-booking” then work with Meta and others? I know, everyone wants to put out a self-booking tool and just let advertisers do the magic. But please don’t forget this magic happens – once based on a great UX & technology – only with sheer size: if Facebook targets all 212M worldwide small and medium-sized companies (SMBs) and reaches 10M, active global advertisers, this is a conversion rate (based on their global dominance) of 4,7%. For our regional focus and potentially 15.000 SMBs that means only 707 advertisers would book via a self-booking tool at all if you do it “at par with Facebook” and are regionally as dominant as they are global. But what happens to the 14.292 other advertisers in your region?

Facebook and others just cover a “small piece of the cake”

Traffic Quality

Looking at “traffic quality” at Facebook, Amazon and Google you will learn that this a) depends a lot on the parameters of each and every campaign but b) overall bounce rates are high and it’s a numbers game. More is better. More budget, more A/B tests, more tech, more time spent in optimizing, more budget for specialists, agencies, etc.

But for the usual local advertiser that is just not their game: They want to reach the few thousand people in their target group out of your potentially much bigger reach with precision and reliability. No A/B tests, no 90%+ bounce rates and 0,x% click rates.

What local publishers can offer is traffic quality and a “good neighbourhood”. The ads appear in the right contextual and regional surroundings but also show much higher click rates than on other sites and – this is crucial – convert much better on the landing pages of the advertiser post-click. But the challenge here is to prove that if your advertiser uses no or very limited analytics on their page. Here my strong recommendation is to use a service like Smartico that automatically build banner + landing page for each and every local ad campaign to track attention and interaction metrics like “time spend on the landing pages” and more. The difference in the sales narrative for your local sales reps and the local advertisers compared to any other digital campaign is astonishing.

No “bad neighbourhood advertising” with your trusted local newspaper

Full Service

Facebook & others are great in making “their game” the “advertiser’s game”. They focus on good websites, digital KPIs, A/B tests, etc. but the local advertiser – e.g. restaurant or car dealer – has absolutely no interest in that or no intrinsic motivation to have a great website and a lot of “website traffic”. They want “foot traffic” in their store and they want you to take care of it instead of using their evenings to familiarise themselves with different web design and web conversion tricks.

With local digital campaigns as a news publisher, you can make the difference by offering the full campaign “out of the box” – based on the last printed campaigns, social media posts, Google places data, homepage data, etc.

Make the advertiser happy and include a best-practise built-in ad impression bundle with the right geo- and context-targeting plus a banner and landing page and the local advertiser gets value-for-money, he/she will never get from the global anonymous giants. Sure, don’t overload your organisation with the operational overhead of hundreds of those small campaigns … but just use services like Smartico to let is done by them.

Intuitive Results

As I already mentioned, Facebook & Google try to fully convert local advertisers into digital marketers. If that works (4,7%) good, if not they are not for them. The local advertisers that do not go with CTRs, Bounce Rates, A/B tests, etc. are terribly lost there.

But you as a local contact person can not only explain those numbers, you can also introduce numbers that make a difference for the advertiser like “how many slides of my ad were shown”, “where were my ads permanently shown and not only in rotation”, “how much time did people spent on the ad and the landing page”, “what did they do on the landing page”, ….

This is a much more compelling story for the local SMB (not a national or regional digital-first key account) than any CTR. Please ask your sales reps what story to better sell to a local restaurant: “You made a 0,2% CTR with your $99 campaign” or “You got 73 people spending 101 minutes on your landing page for $99”?

Based on this, I am not afraid of this huge competition for the local advertising budget because news publishers have clear advantages. We just have to work on showing and communicating them better. And if we don’t have the right local $99 packages for digital yet that include the banner and the landing page as well as a visual reporting dashboard, we should talk.

I am happy to share more details about business cases, publisher names & contacts, supplier names, sales materials, links to creatives, etc. Just reach out to me and get the full package: 



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In Smartico´s blog and newsletter we inform you about the latest trends in local and regional advertising. We present best practices from over 200 publishers, and share ideas, inspiration and recipes for success on which advertising concepts can be used convincingly and profitably for you and your SME advertisers.