Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Can Local Bloggers Replace Local Newspapers?

According to BusinessWeek's media critic, Jon Fine, one of the problems facing advertisers -- and I'd add PR functions -- is that the demise of local papers makes it much more difficult to reach local markets.

In "Taming the Web for Local Advertisers," Fines' focus in on a company, GrowthSpur, that aims to connect businesses with fragmented audiences.

Fine makes the point that what's replacing local media are local bloggers, but that they're often one or two person operations for whom blogging is a hobby.

What's more, the problem with the fact that a "zillion local blogs have popped up" is that "some of them have real value. But the thing is, there's a zillion of them, and few have followings of any size, so you have to amalgamate ad buys across 10 or 15 blogs to get anything resembling a decent audience."

This fragmentaiton of local media is a significant challenge for organizations that want to reach local markets. GrowthSpur aims to assemble a network of local bloggers for advertiser. That may work nicely for advertisers, because they're paying bloggers for ads, that doesn't work as well for PR efforts since we don't pay for coverage.

And while some bloggers do expect swag or payments from companies to blog about their products or services, that's not appropriate or acceptable for many organizations, including our clients. Even if the bloggers disclose the fact that they've received payment or gifts in kind in exchange for a positive mention in their blogs.

In PR, we've got the same problem: We've got to target more local bloggers than we once had to when we targeted only local newspapers. Clients sometimes think that social media is a ticket to quick and inexpensive buzz -- but it often takes more effort to reach a similar result to a media campaign a few years ago.

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