The Journal writes a good primer on marketing online via blogs and search and such. Buried in there is a gem of an anecdote that shows why newspapers and yellow pages are in deep trouble with local advertising — unless they find new ways to serve them and compete with Google:
It’s hard to engage in any public relations, of course, if the public doesn’t know you exist. In early 2004, Kenny Kormendy says he was on welfare and struggling to make ends meet as a taxi driver in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. He had tried to reach the public through typical means, such as ads in the telephone book or handing out cards at the airport, but says there “were so few calls, it was unreal.”
Mr. Kormendy was decent on computers, he says, and so he built a rough Web site for his company, Gopher State Taxi, figuring travelers coming to town might locate him when searching for transportation. But he never popped up front and center in search-engine results until he stumbled upon Google’s AdWords service, a cost-per-click advertising program that rotates advertisements on the right side of Google’s search page based on the specific keywords a user types. He decided to give it a shot.
It paid off. In recent months, Gopher State Taxi has routinely popped first on Google’s sponsored link for core keywords, including: “Minneapolis, airport, taxi.” Mr. Kormendy says his business has grown to a network of nearly three dozen cabs and he is off welfare. He estimates his total payout to Google is about $175 to $205 monthly, based on how many clicks his ads get. “People with cellphones on planes can find me,” he says. “Almost every time I ask someone, they tell me it was on the Internet. And nine times out of 10 it’s from Google. I don’t have $50,000 to compete with [bigger taxi companies]. But with what I create off the Internet, I can blow them away.”
Increasingly people turn to the Internet instead of phone books or newspapers to find restaurants, office-supply vendors or any kind of service. In addition to advertising opportunities, companies including Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Amazon Inc. and Time Warner Inc.’s America Online unit are tailoring their search products to include maps, narrowed neighborhood searches and storefront images to court small businesses with local audiences.
Douglas Fisher offers quite an impressive cookbook for building a hyperlocal citizens’ media service.
Chris Anderson, the Columbia grad student, gives us a topology for citizens media: Part I and Part II.
Roy Greenslade points to Chorley, an English town suffering from the lack of an official map. The local paper, the Chorley Guardian, used to produce one but it started a campaign to get the borough council to Give Us a Map.
But why not make a networked map? Start with Google Maps to satellite view of Chorley from above (who needs cartographers when we have satellites?). Then use a social mapping application like Platial to have local folks come in and fill in addresses and names; you don’t need everyone to do it, just that fabled 1 percent of nosy yet helpful neighbors. And they can add more than just names and addresses; they can review restaurants and warn you away from mean dogs. Or you can include dynamic information: report a pothole here. Google Maps will soon allow you find coupons for the local businesses. Then look at data applications like ChicagoCrime.org and layer on more information: arrests but also perhaps home prices. And, of course, because the UK has better mobile phones than we do, you’ll be able to see it all on your cell. While you’re at it, why not add on local tour podcasts (on your left, they’re having a nasty divorce….). By God, Chorley could end up with the best damned map on earth.
: And as a commenter points out, I should have included Up My Street.
And with GPS and a phone, people could leave voice or SMS annotations for any location in town.
LATER: More good ideas in the comments and here, too.
GoogleMaps is offering local merchants the chance to add free, printable coupons to their listings there. Google will make money later by offering with keyword search ads. And they’re priming the pump with ValPak coupons.
This is a stake in the heart of local newspapers. Mind you, most of these small, local merchants never could afford to advertise in newspapers anyway because they are too big, too inefficient, and too expensive. But one of the promises of online was the opportunity to go hyperlocal — not just for content but, importantly, for advertising, to be able to target ads so finely and to eliminate the costs of sale and production so that these small guys could finally advertise with a newspaper company. That was one hope papers had for replacing the advertisers who have disappeared in classified, thanks to the internet, and retail, thanks to consolidation, Wal-Mart, and the internet, too. Strategically, some on the newspaper business understood this. But tactically — take it from me — it was nearly impossible to implement because newspaper business people are incapable of thinking small. They’ve spent so many years just maintaining big accounts that had nowhere else to advertise that they don’t know how to replace them with hundreds and then thousands of smaller accounts.
We tend to concentrate on the editorial side of newspapering when we lament the lack of progress to update the institutions. But editors are catching on. The problem is that publishers often are not. And they don’t have bloggers and consultants and professors and other obnoxious people pestering them at every turn. They just keep going to golf tournaments while Google steals their business. It’s time to pester the publishers. Wake up, gentlemen: You have a new neighbor.
LATER: And here‘s Peter Krasilovsky on the Google gambit.
This is how hyper local will work — when people care. From today’s Times:
When a state agency released plans for studying the environmental impact of the proposed Atlantic Yards project, a vast residential, commercial and arena development near Downtown Brooklyn, the response from critics was swift, brutal — and largely online…. But Atlantic Yards may well be the first large-scale urban real estate venture in New York City where opposition has coalesced most visibly in the blogosphere.
Check out this cool German yellow pages: an aerial photo-map application in which you can zoom in on any ‘hood and pinpoint businesses and then make a free phone call to them. Very local and nicely done. [via Fabian Mohr]
Go read this wonderful essay about life in the hyperlocal lanes from Debbie Galant, the Baristanette.
Now, on the other hand, I dwell in the journalistic equivalent of a roadhouse – a neighborhood newsblog – where I stand behind the counter, a dirty dishtowel over my shoulder, barking at the rowdies in the corner to keep it down, serving up mugs of draught and occasionally pulling up my skirts to show a little ankle….
I pictured it more like a cafÃ©, hence the name “Barista”–the job of one who serves cappuccino–”of Bloomfield Ave.” I pictured recapturing the readers I’d lost when the New York Times decided to offer my column to another writer. Which I did. I pictured making a ton of money. Which I may. I saw the product, quite clearly, but I didn’t yet see my readers. I didn’t see how they would emerge as individual personalities, with opinions of their own, and how this would alter both the product and my experiment.
When I try to explain Baristanet to someone who’s never heard of it before, I often say “it’s like your weekly small town newspaper meets the Daily Show.” …
The question was, how would that attitude play in our own backyard? And a second, related, question: would it alienate advertisers? In other words, could you do a Wonkette or a Daily Show in the same place where you live, shop and take your kids to school?