The Local Media Consortium and the Local Media Association have teamed up for an awareness campaign urging advertisers to support local news. Funded with $15 million from Google, they hope to boost ad revenue for member news organizations.
While ad revenue for local newspapers has been decreasing in recent years, the COVID-19 pandemic caused further devastation for the industry.
“On the advertising side, we’ve seen dramatic declines,” said Fran Wills, CEO of the Local Media Consortium. “We’ve seen anywhere from 40 to 60 percent declines in advertising [since COVID19 closures began].”
With the goal of boosting local news ad revenues, LMC and the Local Media Association launched an awareness campaign in partnership with the Google News Initiative.
Wills said both LMC and LMA have worked with Google in the past, and the decision to launch the Support Local News campaign emerged rather quickly, in the wake of the pandemic closures. “They reached out to us and said they had an idea around running a local news awareness campaign, and we jumped on board immediately,” Wills said.
Backed by $15 million in funding from Google, the effort is aimed at consumers and advertisers, with the goal of getting both groups to interact more with local news. This is more important than ever as small businesses that often advertised are spending less because of their own business woes caused by the pandemic, and national ads that could appear locally on digital sites are also waning.
“A lot of agencies and brands have been blocking local news and COVID-19 content from their buys,” Wills said. “We are working with advertising and brands on this.” LMC worked with others to create a safe list to help national advertisers feel comfortable buying local space.
On the consumer front, the coronavirus crisis has reminded the public how important local information is. “The pandemic has increased engagement,” Wills said. “They have seen an increase in people becoming members, subscribing, and donating. We are very excited about the trend with consumers.”
While consumers are more engaged, they don’t know how much the industry is hurting. “We’re hoping [the campaign] raises the awareness of consumers, so that even though local media interest from consumers is at an all-time high, over 71 percent of consumers think local media outlets are doing just fine financially.”
The campaign is being run on local media, and LMC and LMA members were invited to participate automatically. Wills noted they were able to add unaffiliated publications and some state-based associations that asked to be included. The awareness campaign sends people to a landing page, supportlocalnewsnow.com, where businesses are directed to information on advertising, consumers are directed to subscribe to their local paper, and either can donate to news initiatives.
“We hope that there is high engagement and high clickthrough rates,” Wills says. “We will be able to track donations to a general fund and will be tracking the clickthrough rates for subscribers and advertisers.”
The campaign launched June 9 and will run through the middle of July.
“We think it’s just the beginning of how we can work together to promote the value of local news across the country,” Wills said.