This time of year is ripe for reflection and goal-setting. It’s a time when companies can look back and take stock of the past year: what worked, what didn’t, and what lessons can be applied to the year ahead.

Data still keeps marketers and advertisers up at night. And it’s an area that many advertisers (and their host of partners) will be assessing ahead of 2018. As data-driven advertising has grown up and swiftly moved from a nice-to-have strategy to table stakes, brands and agencies are becoming savvier when it comes to who they’re buying from and how they are measuring and quantifying the success of their data-driven efforts.

In fact, at a recent meeting of the minds among executives from NBC Universal, Facebook, Google, Twitter, and other digital players, a senior NBCU sales rep called for better transparency and was unabashedly critical of the “walled gardens” that exist within platforms like Facebook and Google. Transparency has remained a hot-button issue in the industry—and it is relevant to brand advertisers and consumers alike.
For advertisers, the allure of new data partners is hard to resist. They’re all attracted to the newest, freshest data to give them an edge over the competition. There are many potential sources for advertising data that promise to help reach in-market consumers and achieve marketing and business goals in an efficient manner. So how do we choose?

The use of data sources and providers is on the rise, with 95 percent of respondents in a recent Ad Age study indicating that they are employing first- and third-party data in their media plans. But here’s the rub: 64 percent said they are not fully clear on the origins of their data sources and three-in-four marketers are not fully confident their data is allowing them to reach in-market consumers.

The research indicates a tangible gap between the promise that data holds for the lion’s share of marketers and the reality of advertisers’ experiences with data and data providers. To that end, here are three resolutions for data-driven marketers to consider as we head into 2018.

Demand fresher data

The inherent power of data lies in its ability to precisely connect brands with the consumers that demonstrate the greatest propensity to convert, and thus deliver a return on ad spend. But what happens to this premise if an advertiser is targeting ads against “stale” data—that is, data that no longer delivers against this ideal. We’ve all experienced seeing an ad for a product we bought two weeks ago, and those of us in the industry share the same thought: “What a waste of money.”

Data providers might be able to razzle and dazzle brands with the expansiveness of their data sources or depth of their network, but it’s also important to ask the right questions around when the data was collected and, most importantly, how often it is refreshed. The more real-time your data providers are, the greater chance you will connect with in-market consumers who are seeking out the products or services you sell.

A good rule of thumb: Prioritize partners who are can refresh their data sources on a monthly basis. Not all data is created equal, and data from four months ago vs. data that has been updated within the past 30 days will deliver vastly different results for your business.

Revise your definition of “in-market” consumers

The phrase “in-market” gets tossed around quite often in marketing, but when is the last time you took a step back and revisited how you define the term in the context of your own data-driven advertising efforts? It’s up to you to determine where the threshold of in-market lies for you. Is it a single visit to your product page, or is it an algorithmically informed portrait comprised of multiple data points?
There are multiple dimensions from which data can reveal which consumers have the greatest propensity to buy. While advertisers used to rely on simple site retargeting, today there are multiple angles from where data can be employed to paint a more robust picture of each potential buyer and their relative in-marketness. The more sources, of course, the clearer the picture becomes.

This resolution is especially important when it comes to the way you and your teams view seasonality patterns. Advertisers should no longer think of holidays and major shopping seasons as one-time inflection points for shopping activity. With the growth of online shopping, shoppers’ timelines are much more nuanced and fluctuate across different categories. Partnering with a data provider than can provide vertical-specific insights into shopping behavior will allow you to not only target the right people, but also time those messages so they are surfacing at the best possible moments.

Shift your approach from myopic to broad-based (and forward thinking)

The beginnings of data in online advertising were short-sighted, but as the industry matures, advertisers must also evolve the way they buy and utilize data in their efforts. Given the advancements in artificial intelligence and data partners’ ability to provide more holistic and sophisticated insights from multiple first-party sources, marketers should see data as a well of customer insights and a bevy for long-term inspiration. Put a different way, it isn’t just about the short game anymore.

This resolution is all about looking beyond those walled gardens. Select longer term data providers that can provide ongoing insights into not only your own customers, but also consumers across other brands within your industry. To surface the partners that fit this profile, ask providers about their ability to deliver higher order insights that can help you put campaigns in market at the right time, with the right messaging, and yes, the right targeting against in-market consumers.

As the year winds down, stepping back and reflecting on what worked with your data efforts, and what can be improved, is important. Heading into 2018, advertisers should put more discipline and rigor around the way they choose their data partners and spend their ad budgets. Advertisers must identify and select the data that can provide fresh, in-market targeting combined with a broader, bird’s eye, view of customer activity at large.

If you follow these three resolutions, your ad dollars can work a lot harder and better help you achieve your 2018 campaign goals.

The 2018 midterm elections are already in warm-up mode with nearly 2,000 candidates registered for 33 U.S. Senate seats. Add to that the thousands of House seats, gubernatorial and other statewide positions, and local judiciary, School Board, and municipal seats and ballot issues, and you get an advertising bonanza that’s likely to total $8.5 million, up 2.5% from the last midterm election year in 2014.  The remarkable finding: More than half of the money is coming from Special Interest groups and PACs – all headed toward local or statewide markets.


When you finally get the opportunity to meet with a potential digital client in person, don’t waste it.  Here are 7 questions that will help you get the information you need to build a successful digital program.  These are not the only questions that may need answers, just a guide to help you navigate the digital conversation.

  1. Tell me a about your business
    1. Follow-up questions are great to clarify confusing statements.
    2. Get clarity around products or services.
    3. Make sure you understand what they do.
  2. How long have you been in business?
    1. Family run?
    2. Any historical info of value?
  3. Have you tried digital marketing before?
    1. Again, follow-up questions are OK to go deeper if the client has tried digital.
    2. If they have, it’s OK to ask if they did it themselves or used someone else.
    3. Also ask, “How did it go?”
  4.  Who are your main competitors?
    1. Try to get at least 3.  This will help with a Vendasta Digital Footprint report.
  5. What differentiates you from your competitors?
    1. Products? Services? Quality? Delivery? Special recipes/formulas? Facilities? Longevity?
  6. What measurable goals can we focus on to help your business?
    1. The really should be measurable.  Increased in store foot traffic?  Visitors to the website?  Click-throughs? Leads? More dollars per customer?
  7. What does success look like?
    1. Short-term vs long term – try to answer both as many digital programs take time to unfold. Make sure there are no mysteries to what the customer’s expectations are.

These questions are here to help you control the conversation.  Don’t let the client go down rabbit holes or reminisce to the point of wasting time.  Keep control and move through the questions.  At the end, make sure you have everything necessary to build a program that will win for the client, and win for you.

So much for the death of the newspaper industry. A recent Nielsen Scarborough study found that more than 169 million U.S. adults now read newspapers every month, in print, online or mobile. That’s almost 70 percent of the population.

The New York Times picked up 130,000 new subscribers last November — 10 times their average monthly growth rate. Subscriptions at The Wall Street Journal spiked 300 percent, the LA Times went up 61 percent and Vanity Fair picked up 13,000 new subscriptions in one day. The now-profitable Washington Post is hiring 60 new writers. NPR recently said that “Big Newspapers Are Booming.”

Sure, those papers can thank the incoming president for some of their new business, but this isn’t just a political story. All sorts of reader-supported publishers are enjoying a resurgence.

In the technology industry, for example, Jessica Lessin’s sharp, pointed (and subscription-only) The Information now has the second largest team of tech reporters in Silicon Valley. Ben Thompson has several thousand readers who are happy to pay him $100 a year for his excellent Stratechery newsletter.

Why are readers and publishers alike embracing paid subscriptions for content services over ad-based business models? There are several reasons, but the dismal state of online advertising is a big one.

People hate ads. More than 80 million Americans will use ad blockers this year, costing digital media companies around $10 billion in revenue. And despite all the media industry talk about relevant “native advertising,” most of us are still drowning in pop-ups.

It says a lot about advertising that many publishers are pitching its complete absence as a way of incentivizing paid subscriptions. Even Google is doing it — take a look at YouTube Red. Ads have all sorts of other insidious effects, like turning content providers into clickbait factories. Ex-Politico president Jim VandeHei calls it the “crap trap.”
Given that ads are terrible, and that ad revenue is notoriously inconsistent, what else is going on?

Ev Williams recently touched on this when he announced the staff shakeupat Medium: “We had started scaling up the teams to sell and support products that were, at best, incremental improvements on the ad-driven publishing model, not the transformative model we were aiming for. To continue on this trajectory put us at risk  —  even if we were successful, business-wise —  of becoming an extension of a broken system.” Not surprisingly, Ev recently announced that Medium will be launching a consumer subscription product this summer.

Given that ads are terrible, and that ad revenue is notoriously inconsistent, what else is going on?

At the same time that publishers are giving the broken ad system a hard look, there’s a whole new generation of consumers who are comfortable subscribing for services — Spotify, Netflix, food boxes, productivity apps — as long as they stay timely, relevant and focused. A quarter of millennials now read newspapers on a regular basis.

“The number of people with access to the Internet is huge and lots of niches are underserved right now because they’re not broad enough for advertisers to care about,” says Ben Thompson.

All successful subscription services, from Adobe to Dollar Shave Club to the Weekly Standard, can take advantage of predictable recurring revenue to stay razor-focused on their audiences, create distinctive new features (The New York Times now has a sizeable revenue stream just from its crossword app) and avoid the commodification crap trap.

As Jessica Lessin says: “I still believe it’s much safer to build a business that doesn’t need any advertising to survive. Doing so forces you to focus 100% on your value to your readers. It’s the only way to make sure that what the news publishers deliver to readers in the future is smarter, more informed and more relevant than in the past.”

Sure, advertising is never going to go away, but as subscription services become the norm, readers and publishers alike are starting to appreciate the dividends of a direct consumer relationship. The behavioral insight that comes with membership plans and paywalls helps newspapers move away from empty calories like slideshow page views toward more valuable engagement metrics like time spent.

“Making advertising a secondary — though still vital — revenue source is the most important strategic goal for most news publishers,” says Ken Doctor of Newsonomics. “Reader revenue, if backed by sufficient high-quality content and good digital products, proves far more stable than advertising.”

Of course, the newspaper industry still faces headwinds as it shifts from a print ad model to one largely driven by digital subscriptions, but today’s consumers are increasingly comfortable with supporting smart services of all kinds. And that’s good news for a healthy, independent press.

Tech Crunch, Tien Tzuo – CONTRIBUTOR

We know from the numbers that local advertisers are increasingly choosing social media to place their messages. But they’re also turning out to be cautious businesspeople who like to maintain a balance in their placements among multiple media, as the new Borrell Associates survey of local advertisers shows.

Digital banners are supposed to be so “Web 1.0,” but, as the survey of 666 local advertisers documents, they ranked only 5 percentage points below social media in local placements in 2016. To find out why, and to get other answers about the “why’s” of local ad spending, I went to Gordon Borrell, founder and CEO of Borrell Associates.

Here’s the Q &A:

Based on your survey of local advertisers, banner ads were tied for third (with cable TV) among most-used types of advertising, but in return on investment (ROI), banners ranked eighth.  Why do advertisers use banners so often if their ROI is at the lower end?

Habit, mostly. Banner ads have been around for two decades and are easy to understand (for the advertiser) and easy to sell (for the media company). They also tend to be fairly inexpensive, and a lot of digital advertising that needs to be placed gets put on the programmatic networks as banner ads.

Should the digital sites of daily newspapers and “pure-play” news sites put more emphasis on revenues sources beyond banners – like, video ads, sponsorships and subscriptions? Or should they assume that advertisers would keep using banners as often in the future, despite their lower ROI?

The model that focused on selling banner ads around a newspaper’s, pureplay’s, or TV station’s “owned” local news content was the first step in a very long discovery process. Selling banner ads on “my site” hasn’t and won’t lead to riches by itself. It’s just one revenue stream that has gotten quickly overtaken by more viable advertising opportunities coming from search, social media, streaming video, and mobile apps.

If you want to generate enough money to support a content play, you’ll have to redefine yourself as a marketing company, not a “media” company that merely offers display-type exposure to a limited audience of news readers.

A second Borrell survey – on advertisers’ spending plans for 2018 – shows digital will get far more spending than any other kind of media. Do you know whether local news providers will share with other kinds of sites in that spending increase?

Unfortunately, no. I don’t know of any advertiser dying to put a message in front of people who read local news. The industry needs to get away from this news-centric mentality when talking about ways to generate the funding to support local news sites. They’re going to need to become first-class marketers.

The only way to do that is to become savvy at using all the various marketing tools now at anyone’s disposal, and then to sell that ability to local businesses. That’s why you see companies like McClatchy, Scripps, The New York Times, The Washington Post, GateHouse Media, Gannett, Graham Media and so many others creating these digital agencies.

A number of local news providers are participating in the Facebook’s Journalism Project’s Local News Partnerships, which includes Instant Articles as a monetization driver. News providers are also interacting more with Google, like Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP).  to improve the mobile experience. Are these initiatives with the big platforms good for local news providers, or should they be more focused on their own direct relationships with users (and advertisers) in their backyards?

I think Instant Articles and AMP are good for local news providers who see them as another conduit to expose readers to their news products. There are some news providers who think otherwise, but withholding content from Facebook or Google is kinda like those standoffs we’ve seen when a TV stations refuses to deal with the local cable system and gets its signal yanked.

I’ve never seen a TV station win, nor have I seen a cable system collapse, in those cases. Google and Facebook aren’t going away anytime soon, and unfortunately, they’re also in control of their own programs. All we can do is work with what they’re offering and perhaps try to influence that offering through groups such as the Local Media Association and the Local Media Consortium.



Quarterly Top Newspaper: Kingsport

The Kingsport Times News team receive their trophy:  Teresa Hartgrove, Rhonda Givens, Heather Harwood, Billy Kirk, Rachel Rogers, Anita Bright, Jennifer Rasnake and Halie Bradley

Digital Guru for Q3 is Jackie Hughes with $23,494 in digital revenue for the quarter.  She was followed closely by Cheryl Fellers with $21,702 and Anita Bright with $20,547.  These three were the “best of the best” for the quarter, finishing over $20K each.

Congratulations to George Coleman and Wesley Ritter on their joint effort to win the Quarterly Top Sales Manager Award.  Lebanon achieved 84.3% growth quarter-over-quarter.  SNI finished second with 31.9% growth and Kingsport was right behind with 28.4% for the same period.

With a per-quarter average of $18,333 per sales rep, Kingsport becomes the top newspaper for the quarter and will receive the inaugural “Top Newspaper” traveling trophy.  Pizza and drinks will be taken care of for the team during a lunch celebration.  Honorable mention goes to Norwalk with $17,887 per rep for the quarter.

Congratulations all!


Local advertising revenue is predicted to see a slow and steady uptick for the next four years, with a compounded annual growth rate of +4% by 2021. That will result in an increase from $148.77 billion this year to $174 billion, according to new figures released by BIA/Kelsey.

For 2017, local ad dollars are expected to rise 2.4% over 2016.
In July, as Inside Radio reported, BIA/Kelsey estimated direct mail would continue to have the biggest share of local advertising at $37.1 billion, with local TV at $20.9 billion; online/interactive at $18.6 billion; newspapers at $16 billion; and mobile at $16 billion. Local radio’s share totals $15.6 billion.

Among categories, automotive—radio’s top spender—remains tops for all media, commandeering nearly 11% of total U.S. local advertising money in 2017. At radio specifically, auto accounts for 11.4% of local spending, totaling $1.85 billion. BIA/Kelsey says that 68% of the local automotive advertising spend goes to traditional media.

The automotive vertical will represent an estimated $16.3 billion of local advertising spending for the year, comprising the following: auto dealers & manufacturers, other motor vehicle dealers, auto parts & accessory stores, tire dealers, and gas stations & auto repair.
BIA/Kelsey estimates the home category, which includes home furnishings stores and paint and wallpaper stores, accounts for almost 1% of the total local advertising spend, representing an estimated $1.34 billion of local advertising spending in 2017 ($1.12 billion for home furnishings and $221.3 million for paint and wallpaper). Radio’s share of the category’s local ad revenue is 9.6% for home furnishings and 9.5% for paint and wallpaper.

Health care advertisers are expected to spend $10.85 billion on local media in 2017, according to BIA/Kelsey. Included are hospitals, physicians, dentists, optometrists, chiropractors and residential care facilities. The category will remain robust in 2018, thanks to strong local marketing budgets. Residential care facilities, hospitals and physicians are forecasted to spend $2.5 billion, $5.05 billion and $2.6 billion, respectively, on local media.

Other strong local categories, according to the report, are retail (12.3%), restaurants (11.3%), general services (10.2%), technology (8.3%), financial services (5.3%) and leisure/recreation marketers (4.2%).

Our nonprofit organization was in need of a website overhaul. We received several bids; most were more than we had budgeted for. The Standard Examiner’s bid was within our budget, but I was skeptical they could provide a quality product at that price point.


My first meeting with the website team was productive. We outlined what the website needed to do for us, what it needed to look like and how it would function. It took approximately 6 weeks from our first meeting to going live with our website. During that time, the developer was in regular contact with me as we created and fine tuned each page.

I am more than pleased with the results of our website. They listened and transformed my ideas into a clean, striking, well functioning website. I believe they went above and beyond as issues appeared that complicated the transfer from old to new websites.

I will definitely use them again in the future if the need arises.

Kathi Engelby
Family Promise of Ogden

Marketers remain committed to increasing their spending on digital ad formats. One recent survey of traditional small business owners and employees finds that traditional media may be poised to recapture some lost ad revenue. The trend is likely linked to the belief that the ROI for traditional media spend is only slightly lower than what digital is delivering.

Researchers at surveyed 376 of its clients regarding marketing plans this year. These marketers will increase digital ad spend in most categories, but a few formats stand out because of the high percentages of businesses that will either maintain or increase budgets:

Social media marketing 95%
On-site content marketing 94%
Link building 87%

Business owners are sometimes willing to try something new. This year, the topic of influencer marketer has generated plenty of buzz. In the survey, 30% of marketers are currently using influencers and plan to increase investment in this effort. And, 44% who are not using influencers plan to start using them.

Researchers also found marketers are open to using formats they may have been skeptical about in the past. About 20% of businesses in the survey are not currently using traditional media like print, radio or TV, but they plan to in the future. This number is a significant jump from the 14% of businesses who said the same last year. In addition, another 17% of marketers say they’ll continue using traditional media at their current levels, while 16% of current traditional media buyers will likely increase such purchases in the future.

We all know that business owners struggle to find time for tasks like marketing. On a scale of 1 to 6, the business owners in this survey say the following formats are the most challenging – in terms of execution or finding a competent vendor.

Influencer Marketing 5.09
Off-site Content Marketing 4.91
Link Building 4.84
Local SEO 4.41

Interestingly, about 45% of surveyed businesses do not work with an online marketing agency, which is a big jump from the 33% who said the same last year. Media sales reps who are selling digital marketing services may find opportunity in these numbers. Keep in mind that 75% of businesses will either increase or keep their ad spending the same as last year.

By Kathy Crosett
Media Sales Today