Self-Serve Ad Automation Is the Answer, According to E&P Webinar Panel

An "E&P REPORTS" webinar, broadcast on Wednesday, April 7th, 2021 ,


For many media companies, self-serve ad automation programs are a significant revenue generator that fits their streamlined operations while delivering excellent value to local advertisers, resulting in maximum retention.

Such was the focus of an April 7th Webinar hosted by Mike Blinder, publisher of Editor & Publisher. The panel discussion centered on the successful use of self-serve ad automation programs at three local media companies in partnership with iPublish Media Solutions. It serves hundreds of publishers daily with easy-to-use platforms “to create and sell any print, digital or social advertising campaign.”

Michael Fibison, VP Inside Sales at Advance Local, with 24 newspapers and other information channels in 20 markets, explained how its publications were using an iPublish platform for obituaries. He said the one-stop, self-serve process delivers more value to families by using the rich data from obituaries to reach more people who may have known the deceased. The system creates a print and digital obit, Targeted Obituary on Facebook, and a keepsake plaque for the family.

“What was traditionally a free service is now a revenue generator, not just the cost of placing an obituary, but the added value the platform can offer families, seamlessly and automatically,” said Fibison. 

Dennis Sheely, Classified Advertising & Research Director, Sonoma Media Investments, shared a similar success story using an iPublish program to automate the press-release process for the companies’ various California weeklies, dailies and magazines. Sheely explained how press releases were submitted and published during the past doesn’t serve local businesses well today and is too convoluted and time-consuming for publications. 

“iPublish develop a new template for us, so our staff can create a press release within an hour,” said Sheely. “After just a few months in operation, our average transaction is $400, generating approximately $4,000/month in revenues and we’ve reached a close ratio of 60% to 70%.”

The third partner, Bay Area News Group is utilizing a platform branded as LeadHax, developed by iPublish, to target real estate agents, and especially middle-level agents with a competitive advantage to gain more listings, according to Eric Bloom, Director of Real Estate. He said the value proposition for agents is their ad follows homebuyers during their Internet searches and 90% of all home sales begin with searches. 

“The automated features of LeadHax is a one-stop ad building system that distributes an agent’s listing across multiple channels, including social, Website, programmatic and print media. Plus, his or her ad is automatically viewable within a 15-mile radius of a ZIP code,” said Bloom. The typical campaign is very affordable for the average agent at $179 and generates approximately 20,000 impressions and 40 clicks compared to the industry average of 10 to 12 clicks.”

Bloom added that the platform has helped to minimize the ad churn/attrition rate. Based on a company study during the pandemic, the churn rate among agents utilizing LeadHax was single digits, compared to a much higher rate among those without LeadHax exposure.

Fibison added that Advance Local is experimenting with a similar system in Portland, OR. A local real estate association is investing in approximately 240 listings to generate interest and as a beneficial lead-generation tool for members. The local, personal service and trust in the newspaper provides better options than some national “dot coms” with no local expertise.

Brian Gorman, Co-founder & Chief Revenue Officer at iPublish Media Solutions, emphasized during the discussion he believes his company’s self-serve ad platform has proven successful not just because of the revenue they generate. He and his team listen carefully to understand exactly what customers are trying to achieve, so the systems iPublish creates for them match their unique market conditions and potential advertiser base.

“As we developed our software and systems, we discovered publishers were operating a traditional print model and then adding a separate digital model to increase their revenues, but they were trying to insert the digital component into their traditional process,” said Gorman. “Looking closely at those models revealed they weren’t very automated and too many people had to touch the process. Our initial goal was to help publishers sell and build more ads, but then we added the goal of improving the automation of the process. Almost total automation is necessary to maximize revenues for publishers and their advertisers.”

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