If you were doing a Hollywood style elevator pitch for GrowthSpur you might say something like: Federated Media meets Adify for local. Mark Potts, who was one of the founders of Backfence and now this venture, would probably not completely agree with that characterization and it doesn’t entirely do the effort justice. Here’s how BusinessWeek’s Jon Fine describes it:
GrowthSpur, will drape an ad network around the chaosphere of local online markets. Its networks will allow advertisers, local or national, to buy ads from sales reps across a wide array of sites, choosing among them (yes to the local parenting blog, no to the local beer-geek site) to assemble ad buys in a new and more painless fashion. For an undisclosed cut of ad revenues, GrowthSpur will string a bunch of sites into a network and automate the buying and selling of ads across said network. It will also teach inexperienced bloggers the finer points of selling ads.
Here’s how GrowthSpur itself describes the tools and services it offers:
GrowthSpur will provide training, tools, services and networks that will allow local sites to grow and become successful businesses. More than 2,000 local sites and blogs have been started over the past few years, mostly as labors of love, and there are many more to come as newspapers founder and journalists and community leaders look to new ways to provide news, information and forums to their neighbors.
But starting a successful local site is very hard. And many of these startups don’t give enough thought to revenue and business models needed to sustain a site or blog after the first blush of excitement or funding wears off.
That’s where GrowthSpur comes in. The company will provide a suite of tools and services that will take a lot of the guesswork out of starting or running local sites and turn them into successful, sustainable businesses, including:
- Providing tools that local sites can use to manage and enhance their businesses, from ad-serving to analytics to mobile delivery
- Organizing networks to bring local sites together to sell ads amongst themselves
- Enabling “citizen ad sales” efforts that can provide additional sources of ad revenue to local sites by letting local entrepreneurs get into the ad-selling business
- Training local sites how to set up multiple revenue sources, including best practices in ad sales
Behind the site, in addition to Potts, are an array of journalists and media professionals who are seizing on an opportunity but also partly trying to help out colleagues and friends cast into the journalistic diaspora by the downsizing of media and newspapers in particular. Here’s the target audience for the service:
- Hyperlocal startup sites and blogs
- Local vertical sites (sport sites, hobby sites, issues sites, etc.)
- Existing local media sites
- Entrepreneurs who want to earn extra money selling local ads
The model is revenue share with no upfront cost to the publisher/blogger. There’s clearly a need and opportunity here but Potts, who’s very familiar with the challenges of the local market, will be hearding cats in a different way again with this venture. I haven’t yet had a chance to speak with him over the phone about GrowthSpur — we’ve exchanged emails — but I’m looking forward to hearing more.