This week, Local Media Association hosted its annual Accelerate Local virtual conference. Approximately 200 local media executives participated in eight sessions with 24 presenters over three days. Following are some of the top takeaways from each session, along with links to watch session recordings on demand.
Ad Forecast 2032: Dramatic Changes Ahead
In the opening session, Gordon Borrell shared the Borrell Associates 2032 advertising forecast and answered questions from participants as well as LMA Board Chair and Graham Media Group CEO Catherine Badalamente. Borrell and Badalamente discussed what the numbers mean and what companies should be doing to prepare.
- Over-The-Top, or OTT, video is often the No. 1 digital advertising product. Video is emerging quickly and it’s the local media industry’s place to win or lose. But traditional media companies should not approach all digital video like OTT/Connected TV with 30- to 60-second spots. Advertisers are leaning into videos that are not classically linear TV — storytelling video, content marketing, short videos on niche topics with influence of expertise.
- Americans over 60 are not going back to radio or reading newspapers; 90% of information will be delivered via digital channels.
- Retailers are morphing into content and media companies. To them, eyeballs on site have been worth more than selling products. At local levels, they want to develop media and audiences.
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Technology Resource Center: Whom Do You Call When the Next Big Revenue Opportunity is Too Hard or Too Different for Your Core Team?
Guy Tasaka, managing director of the LMA Technology Resource Center, shared more about the new Google News Initiative-funded program that helps local publishers with technological and business strategy challenges.
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Meta Branded Content Project: Time To Make It Move!
A January 2022 report from Reportlinker shows that by 2026, video will account for an eye-popping 89% of all mobile data traffic. Panelists shared bright ideas on how to monetize this amazing opportunity with branded content.
- Look for alternative sources of funding, including government and private grants to underwrite long-form video programming and video series.
- Before developing a video series concept, seek out current advertisers and gauge what kind of programming they’d be interested in sponsoring.
- Videos are increasingly part of all ad spends for news organizations.
- Video outperforms other digital advertising formats and presents the quickest and most effective means of distributing information in a digital setting.
- Advertiser videos can be broken down into the following categories for engaging content:
- Explainers and do-it-yourself
- Solution providers and experts
- Cause and community
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Wooing, Winning, and Keeping Good People
Recruitment and retention have always been challenges for local media companies. Alexandra Phillips, chief executive officer of Alexandra Phillips Consulting, shared best practices to capture the kind of talent we all want and need, and what it takes to keep a modern workforce engaged.
- Most jobs can be done most of the time remotely. Be as flexible as possible to support the whole person.
- People need from their job to grow personally, grow professionally, or have joy. If you don’t have any of those, you’d better pay “ridiculously well.”
- It doesn’t matter that in “your day” it took x years to get a promotion or raise. Base people’s pay and advancement on their value today, regardless of the “olden days” of compensation.
- We’re asking a lot of our teams, and these are challenging times. Don’t compound it by wasting employees’ time with unnecessary meetings.
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Reader Revenue Wins
There are many key ingredients to a successful reader revenue strategy, from pricing to email strategy to checkout flow. It’s easy for small teams to be overwhelmed trying to know where to start.
Leaders at membership-supported news outlets shared how they successfully grew reader revenue.
- In surveys, readers usually say they are least interested in the most transactional aspects of a membership program, such as providing a tote bag as thanks to a donor. If you think your audience is signing up to get the tote bag, that’s a sign of the value you’re assigning to your product.
- U.S. households donate more to charity than any other nation in the world. News organizations need to remember that people will donate to support efforts they see as valuable.
- When executives share goals around membership with newsroom staff, they tend to get more involved because they know those members come for the content they are producing.
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Panelists from news organizations that are focused on digital subscriptions shared tactics that companies can apply right away to increase revenue, profitability and loyalty.
- Panelists said they chose a subscription route because people value something they have to pay for, and if a news organization believes it is providing a valuable product, it should require people to pay.
- For news organizations that have a digital subscription model, panelists found that content that people valued generated the most subscribers, not necessarily content that got the most page views.
- Advertiser-centric business models ultimately force a publisher to focus on pleasing the advertiser instead of the reader. The transformative power of moving to a reader-revenue model is it aligns the publisher instead with the audience.
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Journalism Funded by Philanthropy — New Revenue to Sustain Essential Reporting
Panelists including Liz White, publisher, Record-Journal; Judi Terzotis, president and publisher, NOLA.com/Times-Picayune/The Advocate; and Larry Lee, president and publisher, Sacramento Observer, shared core lessons learned from two cohorts of the LMA Lab for Journalism Funding about how philanthropy can be a sustaining funding pillar for journalism.
- Start with a strategic listening tour. Don’t assume you know what your community needs or wants from you. Ground any funded journalism project in a need identified from community listening.
- Build a pipeline and be willing to hear “no.” Don’t think of it as failure, or as asking for a handout. Take pride in the value and benefit your journalism has provided to the community, and invite others to partner with you to achieve impact on important community needs.
- Be patient. It takes time to develop funding for journalism projects. And don’t wait to start the work until you get funding. Early examples of reporting can help get funders on board.
- Look for “unity of purpose,” where good journalism, the needs of the community, and the interests of a funder align.
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Connected TV consumption is growing rapidly, but you must be on multiple platforms to capture the audience and revenue. Panelists in this session discussed the challenges and opportunities of having channels distributed across multiple owned-and-operated, vMVPDs and FAST platforms, and how broadcasters and service providers are managing the shift to measure audience and revenue.
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