Mike Orren of Pegasus News has an interesting and thoughtful piece in the Online Journalism Review about local called “Lessons from the Launch.” It’s based on practical experience and covers a range of topics from user-generated content to monetization.
There are lessons here for online newspapers and local startups in general. Here’s an excerpt:
On the local level at least, data is what drives visitors. Stories bring additional pageviews, but more than 75% of our traffic is data – interactive calendar listings, band profiles, restaurant listings, political campaign contributions, drink specials and the like. Most of our listings aren’t found on the other local city guides – something for both traditional media and upstarts alike to think about. We’re always gratified when people dig deep into stories or blogs, but we know that the reason most people come in the door is to find out where to go and what to do. It’s our job to compel them to stay longer with good narrative content.
Local advertisers are hard to reach, but easily impressed. Local retailers, many of whom may not even have websites, are a huge class of business that is not flocking to pay-per-click ad services. And while that presents a huge opportunity, it means the hard work of picking up phones, knocking on doors and feet on the street – just like with traditional local media. However, once you get them on board, local advertisers are amazed at the precision, flexibility and business intelligence provided by online advertising. Restaurants used to paying a flat fee for ad space in a weekly are shocked that their bill is lower if you deliver fewer pageviews. Stores are aghast that you can change their sale ads every day. And entertainment venues love that you can tell them exactly which bands draw traffic on a site – and presumably to their venue.
Given all the “learnings” (positive and negative) going on right now there will ultimately be a set of local best practices that emerges. Mike is starting to get at that with his post.