Starting from Scratch: Trust and transparency could bring ad dollars back to local news.

Author:DeRienzo, Matt
Position:Industry insight

"The question for media at the moment is can we pivot to local engagement in time to take advantage of the collapse of scale?"

University of Missouri journalism professor Damon Kiesow, a former news executive with McClatchy and the Boston Globe, posed that question in January and it's an opportunity that every local news publisher should explore.

After suffering from steep declines in local print advertising, and what ad tech and the big platforms have done to competition for digital advertising, local news publishers are in a position to benefit from the big guys' overreach.

From Europe's GDPR law to Facebook's data-mining scandals, we are starting to see cracks in the system that has enabled a few big players to vacuum up almost all of the growth in digital advertising.

And what's still barely talked about, but would be of high interest to local advertisers, is the pervasiveness of ad fraud and viewability issues. That CPM rate might be low, but if no actual human beings are seeing your message, it can be a costly mistake.

Knowing how manipulative bad actors were in utilizing Facebook data, consumers should be more distrustful than ever about advertisers' messages.

And it's amazing that advertisers have not rebelled en masse in the wake of report after report about ad fraud and viewability.

Local publishers' message in the midst of this turmoil could start with "your advertising message will actually be seen by people who are potential customers."

But to really make that promise, we need a significant rethinking of advertising delivery, format and engagement.

A Wall Street Journal obituary for ad agency legend Lester Wunderman, who died Jan. 9 at age 98, praised his work on the simple concept that advertising is more effective if it's customized to and welcomed by the target due its relevance and quality: "Junk mail, he demonstrated, wasn't junk if written and targeted well enough to nurture long-term customers."

How much of our advertising is welcomed?

Banner ads aren't effective enough, so we've designed flashing banners, floating banners, autoplay video, and popups that try to hide the little x that allows you to remove them. Desperate for cash, we accept advertising from sources that make wild claims about products that don't deliver.

What if we sold on a scarcity model that was geared to a ratio that offered a better user experience for readers? Not only would it serve publishers' goals to diversify from...

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