Ad Sales Life

Impressions to impact

Reinventing digital advertising in local news media


I have always been intrigued by the stark difference between the impact of print newspaper ads in local news media organizations and their online digital counterparts. The tangible and realistic experience of a printed ad has consistently held greater perceived value compared to the various shapes, sizes, and functions of digital display ads. Achieving equivalent revenue online for local news media has proven elusive, potentially due to limited inventory, traffic, space or the perception that digital advertising should be cheaper. This phenomenon has been on my mind lately, highlighting the unhealthy competition between print and online that has hindered revenue growth focus and advertising dynamics for some time now.

Throughout my career in revenue generation, I have analyzed this situation from various perspectives, encountering both benefits and challenges. The print versus digital argument in local news media revenue has posed challenges for decades. However, one positive aspect has been the ability of any advertising to generate desired outcomes, including customer conversions, business transactions and income generation for local advertising sponsors. It is crucial to incorporate more impactful digital advertising that can replicate the sense and experience of a print ad.

If you are navigating the digital landscape for your organization’s advertising strategy or seeking ways to make significant progress quickly, it is vital to identify and restructure your approach. Translate the elements of impactful print advertising into digital formats, ensuring alignment with the goals of your sponsors and advertising partners.

Consider this: If you could reimagine the approach to digital advertising, how would you determine the ideal size for standard digital ads? If you were to construct a local news media website today, where and how would you strategically position ads to maximize their size and impact while minimizing disruption to readers? Now, envision a world where digital advertising is not constrained by specific dimensions and delivery standards. Transforming advertising within the realm of local news media demands a laser-like focus on profoundly influential concepts that generate awareness and conversions for advertisers. It is imperative to shift the perspective on value, simplicity and positioning for easier comprehension, product quality and financial gain. For example, instead of delivering 100,000 digital impressions with typical industry-standard banner ad sizes, imagine offering one full-day takeover of your homepage along with a quarter-page-sized ad and, if legally compliant, an advertiser-centric email sent to your subscriber database, all at a bundled price. Rather than solely focusing on volume impressions, emphasize the impact and reach of digital advertising solutions. Develop digital products that rival the effectiveness of print ads in driving business traffic. Consider bundled packages that offer comprehensive and impactful advertising options.

I believe email marketing, large online digital display advertising, branded content, newsletter advertising, social media and pay-per-click advertising remain at the forefront of high-impact online advertising. I believe this is because they can reach the right audience with the right message as visible, impactful position products. Looking back, a significant aspect that stands out is how we bundled packages and pricing to appeal to the sales department, focusing on volume impressions rather than the overall impact and reach of the solution. In hindsight, developing digital products that rival the effectiveness of print ads in driving business traffic for our advertising sponsors would have been more effective.

This always reminds me that newspaper media ad sellers excel at selling the moment and the campaign's value proposition, delivering results based on the impact, reach and power of the local audience within the community. Customizing campaigns to meet their specific needs and generate desired outcomes, such as customer conversions and business transactions, is crucial.

In many instances, I have observed sales representatives engaging in discussions about print reach only to abruptly transition into a digital advertising conversation with entirely different metrics and KPIs, such as impressions, click-through rates and website traffic. However, I believe the holistic approach to effectively generating new business for sponsors and advertisers was missing in yesterday's conversation. This objective can be accomplished by harnessing impactful advertising tools that are comparable and capable of reaching highly targeted audiences within the community.

At this point, I must acknowledge that I understand the ideology of selling out the inventory and the administrative workload involved with ad operations management and scheduling. The focus is to enhance the overall experience on behalf of the advertising partner and concentrate on creating digital ads that can replicate the tangible and realistic experience of print ads. Explore interactive and engaging formats like digital display ads, branded content, and immersive storytelling techniques.

This topic is essential and enjoyable because I've always supported holistic local media advertising solutions. These solutions positively impact news media organizations across the country and contribute to the vibrancy of communities nationwide. If you ever need help in this area, I know of great organizations ready and willing to contribute and aid in this concept. At its core, it requires creativity and a commitment to breaking the mold of traditional standards that, in my opinion, haven't yielded adequate results regarding digital advertising revenue. Achieving success in this field is not far-fetched or unattainable; it simply requires a little consistency, courage and confidence.

Richard E. Brown is a News Media Alliance Rising Star recipient, the former director of renewals and digital sales strategy at LPi, and the former director of digital operations and sales of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He recently served as the head of digital subscriber churn for Gannett | USA TODAY NETWORK and is now the senior director of retention for The Daily Beast. He is a member of the board of directors for the Wisconsin Newspaper Association Foundation and is the owner of RE Media Holdings, LLC. Richard is available for consulting and can be reached at


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