Traditional media appear resigned to the fact that the current ad supported model is not built to last. Attempts to monetize online content have been disappointing. Local sites are often hampered with several issue—scalability, segmentation, standardization and lack of knowledge by both sales reps and advertisers. Now it appears that many local media are on the verge of implementing “Local Online 2.0” which positions them as experts in the digital space for small businesses.
Many traditional media outlets hope that Main Street will turn to their sales staff to launch and maintain paid search campaigns, develop landing pages, create Facebook fan pages, populate local directories, manage SEO and just maybe run some traditional print/tv/radio ads.
Exactly how does this happen? Well, it’s actually a complicated mix of partnerships using various revenue sharing models and platforms. The lynch pin is the local sales staff that is expected to understand, recommend and sell these online solutions. There were lots of speeches from consultants and managers about the evolving role of the media rep from sales person to marketing consultant. Deborah Esayian stressed that data driven solutions usurp transactions for advertisers and strong partnerships trump fast revenue hits. Mike Blinder advocated that today's media sales force needs to be trained, versatile, and held accountable and that management sets the tone.
My question is—can this happen? It sounds like a strong proposition. Local business owners will clearly tell you that they are overwhelmed by all the online options—even the “free” ones. Managing search, Twitter, Facebook, directories and YouTube can quickly over run a business owner who is also managing inventory, taxes, utilities, payroll, invoicing, etc. Putting on my agency hat, I know how complicated and labor intensive these tasks can be which makes me wonder—can media outlets effectively maintain these accounts and sustain an acceptable profit margin in this space?
Local media, especially radio, have burned through sales reps faster than Jennifer Anniston through boyfriends. Newspaper reps tend to look a lot like Bret Michaels—a bit past his prime but trying to pretend like he still has it. If local reps really do intend to reinvent themselves as local marketing consultants it is going to take a serious commitment of hiring, training and meaningful compensation.
If they do succeed, should agencies be worried? “Local Advertising 2.0” sounded a lot like the traditional agency model except the bag of tricks is limited to those marketing options a station partners with. Given this, how can any rep truly be a strong, unbiased marketing partner?
I applaud the traditional media for attempting to reinvent themselves and leverage an asset—local sales staff, but I must wonder—is this the right asset to stake your future on?