Even as newsrooms shift their focus to reader revenue, evolving their digital ad strategies can provide a crucial boost to their sustainability and provide a valuable service to their local communities. Charity Huff, CEO of January Spring and managing partner at Maroon Ventures and host Tim Regan-Porter explore the latest trends in digital advertising and how they impact local news outlets. We also explore the unique ad product launched by the Colorado Press Association, News Audience Retargeting, which helps advertisers reach their target audience more effectively, and provide a quick primer on digital advertising for those who don’t know their OTT from their DSP. Don’t miss out on this episode on the ever-evolving ad market and how newsrooms can respond to build stronger businesses and serve their communities.

Episode chapters:
(01:49) – The importance of digital advertising for local news organizations
(05:54) – A primer on digital advertising
(11:49) – Growing digital ad revenue by focusing on the value of your audience and the needs of local businesses
(15:20) – Newsletters as a key growth area
(19:45) – Other areas of growth for 2023, including sponsored content
(27:04) – News Audience Retargeting, a new digital product to extend reach and reinforce the value of news readers

Listen to the episode here:



Charity HuffCharity Huff is CEO of January Spring, a digital marketing & advertising agency that works exclusively with niche publishers. Charity has designed and delivered multi-media sales programs, working alongside 5,000+ sales professionals from the media and tech industries over her 25+ year career.  She and her team have built a proven model to enhance your offering to include off-site digital using a combination of geo-fencing, device targeting, household targeting, paid social, and search marketing. Charity sits on the board of several privately-held companies, including Questor, previously known as Swift Communications.


Full transcript:

(recorded via Riverside.fm; transcript automated via Castmagic.io, lightly edited)

Charity Huff [00:00:00]:

And to me, I think that's been like the big a-ha. As we talk to publishers around digital transformation and how you make digital a more core piece of your business, it's about taking your audience and then helping your advertisers stay in front of those people everywhere they go across the web, which is that demand side of programmatic. 

Tim Regan-Porter [00:00:30]: 

Welcome to the Local News Matters podcast, where we explore pathways to stronger journalism, better businesses, and healthier communities. I'm Tim Regan-Porter, CEO of the Colorado Press Association. In each episode, I sit down with guests from newsrooms and others in the local news ecosystem to highlight the innovative work of local newsrooms and those that support them, as well as the crucial questions they face.  

This episode, I’m excited to welcome Charity Huff, CEO of January Spring and managing partner at Maroon Ventures. Charity has spent well over two decades helping media companies and startups grow revenue, primarily in digital advertising. 

We discuss why the pivot to reader revenue is good, but not enough. Most newsrooms need digital ad strategies, and better digital ad strategies. We provide a bit of a 101 on digital advertising, discuss various issues in the space, and highlight a new digital ad product that we’ve launched at the Colorado Press Association that newsrooms and other associations may want to adapt themselves. 

You can support the work we’re doing on the Local News Matters podcast by doing something that will take you literally 5 seconds to do. In whatever podcast player you use, simply click ”Follow.” If you have a few more seconds, click five stars in Apple podcasts. It helps people discover the podcast and is all we ask in exchange for all of the work that goes into it.  

And now I'm pleased to bring you Charity Huff. 

The importance of digital advertising for local news organizations 

Regan-Porter [00:01:49]: 

So welcome, Charity. 

Huff [00:01:50]: 

Hello. Great to see you. 

Regan-Porter [00:01:52]: 

Real quick, just give us a little bit of your background. 

Huff [00:01:54]: 

Sure, I'd be happy to. 25 years in digital local media. I was fortunate to come out of undergrad the same year Google was invented. So I literally have been in this digital space my entire career, spent time in Yellow Pages, spent a lot of time in newspaper, as well as more on the digital-only side of our business, and have worked with everything from small super-niche magazine publishers to big Fortune 500 big, big media companies. 

Regan-Porter [00:02:27]: 

And you work with newspapers across the country. You work with some of our members. You work with some other press associations. 

Huff [00:02:33]: 

Yes, indeed. Yeah. In my current capacity as CEO of January Spring, we work with 160 publishers all over North America of all varying sizes. 

Regan-Porter [00:02:44]: 

And what is January Spring? 

Huff [00:02:45]: 

Yeah, January Spring is a digital ad agency that works exclusively with publishers to help them take digital to market. Everybody's in the midst of a digital transformation, and everybody's kind of going at their own pace. And so January Spring comes in and helps make sure that you've got the right toolbox to be successful in that transformation. 

Regan-Porter [00:03:06]: 

And you've been working with the Colorado Press Association, and we have a new product that we'll talk about in a minute. It's actually, believe it or not, I think something unique in the digital advertising space. And we rolled it out just a month or so ago and we'll see what kind of traction it gets. But I'm excited to talk about that. But let's step back for a minute and just kind of lay the groundwork. The industry has been moving to an increasing focus on reader revenue. Advertising revenue generated 80% to 90% of the industry's revenue historically, and that started to change when Google started and Craig Newmark took classifieds away with Craigslist. That was going to happen eventually. So no offense to Craig, but the industry's been struggling for the past 20 years to figure out how to make up for some of that lost revenue. And I think the reader-revenue push is good. I think it leads to better journalism. It's not without its downsides in terms of equity and reach, but advertising is still an important part of the mix. It should be an important part of the mix, I believe. Not only is there money on the table, particularly in local communities advertising, local advertising, it's something readers value. They want to know what restaurants are open, what offers there are, what businesses are hiring, all the sort of things that you look to advertising for. And so I think it's important to have a smart revenue strategy that includes advertising for most news outlets. And I want to acknowledge up front that digital advertising can be a little creepy. You and I think we were on a call, I think it was the end of last year, with a company that specializes in super niche targeting down to the household level, combining credit card data with all the cookie data. It can really freak people out. So I just want to acknowledge that up front. At the same time, there's some value. Personally, I like ads that are targeted to me. There’s nothing worse than sitting through a Hulu mandatory commercial for something I could care less about. So there are privacy trade-offs, but [there're] also some benefits. 

Huff [00:05:12]: 

Agreed. Advertising is part of the media ecosystem. Consumers understand that, and they would prefer to have ads that are relevant to them. And we continue to see as we watch what's happening in media consumption, is that media consumers are continuing to get more niche and really be hyper-targeted on what's important to them and what's of interest to them. And that's what advertisers want as well. So it does make sense that this then becomes one of those where you're like, wow, I'm seeing these ads because those are interesting to me, as opposed to what my next door neighbor is seeing because she has different interests than I do. 

A primer on digital advertising 

Regan-Porter [00:05:54]: 

And I want to talk a little bit about trends that we're seeing in advertising, digital advertising, but advertising more generally. Before we do that, let's get some terminology out of the way so people who don't know OTT from DSPs, let's explain a little bit about what those are. So when I first started a magazine, we were setting up our own OpenX ad server. It was all what we call O&O. What is O&O 

Huff [00:06:21]: 

Yeah, owned and operated. 

Regan-Porter [00:06:24]: 

So that's what a lot of people, I think, understand advertising to be. So if I see an ad on WashingtonPost.com or any other website, I'm assuming that someone has contacted that publication or that website and said, I want to buy an ad on your website. If that's what happened. That is O&O 

Huff [00:06:42]: 

Correct. However, that happens more rarely than it used to. 

Regan-Porter [00:06:46]: 

Exactly, yes. So since the days of me setting up my own OpenX ad server, programmatic has really taken over the market. So what is programmatic? 

Huff [00:06:54]: 

Yeah, so programmatic is the systematic buying of those ad inventory across a huge network of sites. So let's keep using your Washington Post example. So it used to be, and I'm going to say it used to be like ten years ago that the majority of newspapers advertising online and in print was sold by their own sales channel. As programmatic became a thing and we were able to do all of that via systems as opposed to people, it became a great opportunity for newspaper publishers to make a portion of their ad inventory available out on the ad networks via the ad exchanges, via programmatic advertising. All of those terms are used somewhat interchangeably, but that's really what it is. The Washington Post has determined that they can get a better yield having some mix of their sales team selling their stuff and the programmatic channels purchasing their ad inventory. So that's what programmatic is, is the ability for companies to go in and place an ad buy via a system in order to buy ad inventory, at its very basic. 

Regan-Porter [00:08:17]: 

And that's a great benefit to a lot of companies who are advertising because now I don't have to contact all these different outlets. I don't even have to make a lot of choices. I can just say I want these types of users. Here's what I'm willing to pay. 

Huff [00:08:31]: 

Right. Yeah. So within programmatic, it's a two sided marketplace. So you have the supply side, which are those of us in the newspaper space. Again, we'll keep using the Washington Post as the example. The Washington Post makes available a portion of their inventory for the demand side to come in and demand that ad inventory. So there's an SSP, which is the supply side, which are media companies of all shapes and sizes, everything from—shout out to my most favorite food blog—Cookie and Kate, right. To big magazines, niche publications, all of the different types of media companies. Right. And then once that inventory is made available. Then on the demand side, a DSP, a demand side platform, and there's some really good ones out there. I'll just give you a few as an example. Trade Desk, Simplify, Basis. There's about half a dozen of really good premier—and then there's others below that. Google is a demand side. Right. So then using one of those platforms can come in and demand ad inventory. And when we're doing that, to your point, we're not just saying, I want all Washington Post users. What you're saying is, I want very specific types of consumers who happen to be reading the Washington Post. 

Regan-Porter [00:09:52]: 

Or you can just say, I want these specific types of users wherever they are on the Internet. 

Huff [00:09:56]: 

Exactly. They don't have to just be on The Washington Post. We always say, now, digital advertising is about the person you're trying to reach and then finding that person everywhere they go across the web. 

Regan-Porter [00:10:09]: 

And this has had a huge impact on the economy. The advertising industry has grown tremendously. The amount of advertising going to news publishers and pretty much most media providers has shrunk because you now have a lot more supply with the internet than you had back in the days of just print and broadcast. 

Huff [00:10:29]: 


Regan-Porter [00:10:32]: 

There's pluses and minuses. But now a tiny newspaper in Salida can now get advertising that would have been very difficult for that newspaper to get before. 

Huff [00:10:42]: 

That’s right. Yeah. Think of Target, right? Target.com probably has a good reason to reach those folks with their ecommerce platform. Now they get that advertising, whereas before they wouldn't have. 

Regan-Porter [00:10:53]: 

But the CPMs, there's another term, cost per mille. 

Huff [00:10:56]: 

Cost per thousand. Isn't that so funny? 

Regan-Porter [00:11:00]: 

Yes, it's the Latin. 

Huff [00:11:03]: 

Because that makes zero sense. Yes, exactly. 

Regan-Porter [00:11:07]: 

So for a print, I know back in my magazine days, we would typically get $40 to $60 CPMs. A New Yorker would get $90-100 plus. Web, in the early days, maybe we could get $10, 15, 20, $30. Now, what's a good CPM for programmatic? 

Huff [00:11:27]: 

Yeah. So again, if you're on the supply side, which is what we're talking about here, where I am supplying ad inventory from my local media site, it can be in the one to two, maybe $3 range, but it's significantly lower than the numbers you were just talking about. 

Regan-Porter [00:11:44]: 

Right. And so that's part of what's going on in the news industry, right? 

Huff [00:11:47]: 


Regan-Porter [00:11:49]: 

But there are ways to sell your own inventory at a premium. 

Huff [00:11:54]: 


Growing digital ad revenue by focusing on the value of your audience and the needs of local businesses 

Regan-Porter [00:11:54]: 

And there are ways to use programmatic and get more. So as you get into other types of media, you start doing video advertising, et cetera, then you can raise that CPM. 

Huff [00:12:05]: 

Yes, indeed. So you just need to think about the value of your audience. So coming back to having an audience or a reader-first kind of point of view in your overall business strategy, we would say that's what you should also be doing in your advertising is learning how to package up your audience and your readers in a way that is of value to an advertiser. 

Regan-Porter [00:12:32]: 

And one way that a lot of newspapers that are more than a one-person operation have responded to this challenge is, the other flip side of the equation of the two sided marketplace,  is that you don't have to just operate on the supply side. You have connections with advertisers. You can help them now sell into Hulu to outlets nationwide on the web. Right. So you can become basically a full service advertising agency. 

Huff [00:13:03]: 

Yeah. And to me, I think that's been like the big aha as we talk to publishers around digital transformation and how you make digital a more core piece of your business. It's about taking your audience and then helping your advertisers stay in front of those people everywhere they go across the web, which is that demand side of programmatic. And another term, programmatic also is an umbrella term. It means all types of ad inventoryÚ  display ads, video ads, as well as streaming TV ads, also known as OTT or CTV, which is over the top TV and connected TV, as well as audio. Right. So podcasts, Spotify, streaming audio, music. All of those fall under that giant umbrella called programmatic, which is between 86 and 89% of all digital ad buying today is programmatically placed. 

Regan-Porter [00:14:06]: 

So that would also include Facebook ads. 

Huff [00:14:08]: 


Regan-Porter [00:14:09]: 

Google search. 

Huff [00:14:09]: 

There you go. Keep going. Yeah, that's exactly right. 

Regan-Porter [00:14:12]: 

So let's talk a little bit about the trends we're seeing in the market. And you were showing me some data earlier from Gordon Burrell, Burrell Associates. Where is growth and where do we see declines? 

Huff [00:14:24]: 

Yeah. So the first shocking number that Burrell Associates published the first of the year is that seven out of ten advertising dollars will be spent digitally in 2023. So part of the reason I think you invited me here is to say to publishers, please, let's have an ad strategy that includes digital, because that is where the majority of the budget is being spent these days. 

Regan-Porter [00:14:54]: 

Right. You cannot ignore that. Now, at the same time, if you're a small paper in a small community, you're not going to make up for your print dollars with just your O&O at—even if you get 8-, 9-, 10-, 12-dollar CPMs, that's not going to make it up. So that's why you need to think about how else can you help your advertisers reach these other platforms. What other value can you provide? 

Newsletters as a key growth area 

Huff [00:15:20]: 

That's exactly right. And across the kind of suite of digital products that we see most publishers do best with is newsletters. So, again, knowing that you have consumers who are kind of self-selecting to become more niche and more specific in the content they like to reach, and that's what advertisers want, is more niche audiences. So newsletters work very, very well. Everything from here's a snapshot of what's happening in your community this week to here's what to do this weekend to here's our top selection for new restaurants, new business, whatever that might be. 

Regan-Porter [00:16:00]: 

I just want to interrupt you there. Newsletters is something that—two years ago we did a newsletter accelerator with some members because we knew this was coming. Some of the big chains have done a really good job of growing their newsletter reach and monetizing it with advertising. It's come about really quickly. I remember this was probably 2017. I was in a meeting with an executive at one of the large chains, and she was telling me about this call she had just had with this relatively new company, Where By Us I don't know if you know them and they've got a product called Letterhead. And she just couldn't believe they were this startup and they were putting all this effort into email. Email was so antiquated. Six months later the whole company was like on this email pivot, right? 

Huff [00:16:53]: 


Regan-Porter [00:16:53]: 

And a stat you were showing me just earlier, that kind of shocked me, that validated what I thought was coming. But that newsletter is at the top of the … 

Huff [00:17:02]: 

Of the revenue. Right. That is where there's a lot of near term growth. And if you look at kind of that digital pie, email takes up a good chunk of it, right? Yeah. And within email, part of the reason again is you just have to listen to the market. So this is data from both HubSpot and Constant Contact. So take it with a grain of salt because obviously they're in that industry, but they say 64% of small businesses are using email marketing to reach their customer. So if you can put together the right kind of email program that includes your audience and then helps them to reach your people when they're consuming your really desirable local content, that's a win-win. So to me that's one of those it almost becomes table stakes at this point. And then what you can do beyond that is that you can then this is where it gets pretty crazy, is you can actually remarket to your own newsletter database, via Facebook, via programmatic display, via streaming TV, because you already have a relationship with those people. So then instead of just selling a one off newsletter sponsorship, you then have a whole program where you're saying just continue to reach our audience everywhere they go. 

Regan-Porter [00:18:17]: 

And that actually comes into play when we talk about our new product. It's a very similar idea behind it. So we'll get to that in a minute. 

Huff [00:18:24]: 

We just keep teasing it. 

Regan-Porter [00:18:25]: 

Yes, email is great. Not only is it a great advertising opportunity, it's also a great reader-revenue opportunity and just sort of a brand and a way to build a connection with the audience. 

Huff [00:18:33]: 

Exactly. Exactly. And you've got those really loyal folks that are looking forward to that Sunday digest or the Friday afternoon whenever it is that you do well with your program. And I will make just a slight right turn here. Last year, Apple changed some of their policies, their privacy policies, and it's affected people's open rate percentages when it comes to email. So just to click on this, if somebody opens your newsletter or your email from their iOS Apple phone, Apple is going to let you know that it was opened whether it actually was or not. So just by them receiving it and trying to view it inside of the Apple platform, they're going to just tell you it was opened. And for Apple they're saying, well, this is privacy. You don't have a right to know whether somebody opened your email or not. So what we have seen is that people have shifted and some of your smarter advertisers have started to ask is, what's the click through rate on those emails? So if somebody is asking you those questions, that's why. 

Other areas of growth for 2023, including sponsored content 

Regan-Porter [00:19:45]: 

Right? So where else have we seen growth in digital? 

Huff [00:19:48]: 

Yeah, so the other obvious place is in this programmatic display because of the fact that so many advertisers are buying and placing ads that way. So I know we're going to come back to that. So I'll go to the other pieces. We're still seeing advertisers make good revenue off of run of site from their O&O, so running ads across their site against their own-and-operated dot-com, whatever that might look like. Another one that is trending up—and I'm so happy to see this—is sponsored content. So I know that becomes very controversial. I spoke at the conference last fall on that topic and I had a lot of crossed arms and skeptical faces from the publishers that were in the room with me that day. But it is something that works perfectly for us and our advertisers and our readers. Readers don't mind sponsored content if it's informative and it's helpful to them. And so we just need to be able to work through that with some of our internal policies. But we're continuing to see that grow as well. 

Regan-Porter [00:20:54]: 

Yeah, I completely agree. We had Ross McDuffie, who was at McClatchy when I was there, worked with him closely, and he's now at Lee in Madison, heads up their operations there. And one of the things he talked to our convention about was if he were starting from scratch, that's what he would focus on. Not the full service, hang out your shingle that everybody's got a shingle out for, but sponsored content. This is something that we've been doing for hundreds of years. It's our specialty. And I think there are concerns. I understand those. But there are ways to address them. One, you clearly label it. Two, you have a church-and-state wall between who's generating the content. So the same people writing about this local company are completely separate. In fact—and most of the companies I know of, they're doing this. They use freelancers; they use specialty companies to go write this content. 

Huff [00:21:46]: 


Regan-Porter [00:21:47]: 

But that's what people look to news media for is content. And so why are we not leaning into that? Is it really more of a conflict than a banner ad or any of the other things we do? 

Huff [00:21:59]: 

Agreed. So those publishers that have embraced that and figured out the internal policy and discussions are really doing well with it, which is why we see it trending up across the board. And then the last one that continues to grow is like a generic group of directories. It's not like your old internet Yellow Pages directories It's your best-of. It is top docs. Right? Top real estate agents, faces, all of those types of, again, niche or very specific segmented directories. Advertisers love those. And consumers love them because if I want to know who the top docs are in my community, that's a good source for it. And I understand that in some cases they are paid positions and all of that. Consumers understand how that works, but they appreciate the program. Same thing with Best-of. They like to vote for their favorite Mexican restaurants right. Because it's like a sense of connection with that particular community. So I say that is another overlooked opportunity for a lot of publishers. 

Regan-Porter [00:23:12]: 

On the negative side, print newspapers are predicted to decline. 

Huff [00:23:16]: 

They are. 

Regan-Porter [00:23:17]: 

I don't think that's a shock to those in the industry, despite the fact that our reach is still wide, particularly when you combine print and digital. And time spent with print newspapers is steady, unlike a lot of the digital components. 

Huff [00:23:31]: 

Yeah, it's very interesting to me. eMarketer does a good job year over year measuring our time as consumers spent on the internet, if you will. Right now it's over 8 hours a day. And if you think about that, you're like oh my God. But we consume it in so many ways because in the morning I get up, I check my Facebook, right? I do those things and then I check email, then I might watch my local news, right. Then I might read a bit of my local newspaper, then I listen to a podcast. So you just kind of keep going throughout your day and you were connected the entire day. And so while that 8 hours has grown, what I think is interesting is that it holds steady, that it's around 17, 18 minutes that somebody spends with newspaper, with magazines, with print, and it hasn't changed. So to me that just shows how it's embedded into our habits, right? It's part of our daily ritual in a good way. 

Regan-Porter [00:24:31]: 

Yeah. And I remember those print ads much more than—I don't even notice the banner ads anymore. But newspapers aren't at the bottom of the stack in terms of declines. 

Huff [00:24:41]: 

Yeah. So this year— again, this is Burrell Associates data—local TV is anticipated to decline 18%. When I say decline 18%, if you look at where advertising spend is happening, that's the one that's seeing the biggest hit. 

Regan-Porter [00:24:58]: 

Yeah. And close industry watchers have been expecting the problems with TV because of cord cutting. And in some sense, there's a whole set of issues that TV is going to face because while they don't have subscribers in the way we think of them, their cable carriage fees are basically subscribers. They're getting a double whammy now. But I think that's an opportunity for anybody in the industry who really gets on board with digital, because it's not that people are watching less video. We all know that's not true. 

Huff [00:25:27]: 

That's exactly right. 

Regan-Porter [00:25:29]: 

So OTT. 

Huff [00:25:31]: 

Right. Video consumption continues to go up. If you look, TikTok, right? That's all video. I'm not a proponent of local advertising for TikTok, so we're not going to go down that path. But if you look at where people are consuming social media, YouTube still is number three, number four. That's all video content. Right. And so you've got that now. You've got the fact that I can watch my Hulu in front of my TV, in front of my big screen or on my big screen in the morning, and then I can pause a show and during my lunch hour, pick it up on my tablet while I'm sitting at lunch. And then on my way home, I might be actually watching the same show on my mobile phone. Right? And so we're hopping device to device, but we're still consuming all of that content. And that's something that's pretty awesome and has changed in the last couple of years now that everybody is cord cutting. 

Regan-Porter [00:26:25]: 

Yeah. And now even Netflix is in the advertising game. And I think Disney or HBO is considering it. 

Huff [00:26:32]: 

Yeah, for sure. So what's happened, and this has been really fun soap opera stuff to watch, is that there was so much money coming into, let's say Netflix, for example, all of that venture capital money, right. They just needed to get market share. Get market share. Get market share. Now that they have the market share, now their bankers and their owners are saying, now figure out a sustainable model. And what they are figuring out is what we've already known in local media for a long time, is that an advertising model has to be part of that in order to have a sustaining model. 

News Audience Retargeting, a new digital product to extend reach and reinforce the value of news readers 

Regan-Porter [00:27:04]: 

And so part of the opportunity there with streaming TV is to reach readers, as you were saying, across platforms, which is something we are now trying to do with our new product. So we're calling it News Audience Retargeting. 

Huff [00:27:17]: 

That's correct. 

Regan-Porter [00:27:18]: 

And it functions a little—it rides on top of programmatic. It functions a little like programmatic, but it's not. I was explaining this to one of my peers at another press association. Oh, so it's a PMP. What is a PMP? And why is this not that? 

Huff [00:27:33]: 

Okay, so within this is—I'm going to giggle as I even say this—within the demand side of programmatic, you can make an invite only set of audiences or set of inventory I should say more clearly available to an agency. It's called a private marketplace, a PMP. So you can basically say, okay, here is whatever it is, our Western Slope private marketplace. And you can only buy ads on these Western Slope sites. That's what a private marketplace is. And you have to be invited in order to place those ad buys. And they are becoming more and more popular with agencies because you have a young media buyer who's just told, go buy the Western Slope. Right. And so they don't even know where the Western Slope is. So if they can go into Trade Desk or Simplify and just simply find, oh, here is the Western Slope PMP private marketplace, I would like to bid on that inventory. That's what the agencies are doing. Just like we talked about earlier, if you're selling inventory on programmatic, you're getting one to $3 for it. So now there's no human contact, no nothing, and they're just placing those buys, and you're not getting fairly compensated for the value of that audience. So with the News Audience Retargeting program, we are taking that piece of the transaction and moving it back into the hands of the local newspaper or the local media company. Is that a helpful explanation? 

Regan-Porter [00:29:20]: 

I think so, yeah. By the way, for those who are outside of Colorado, the Western Slope is what we call the western part of the Rockies in Colorado. 

Huff [00:29:29]: 

That's right. 

Regan-Porter [00:29:31]: 

If I'm an advertiser and I think this makes the obvious use case that I hope we can tap into are political candidates and anyone, political advocacy groups, smoke free kids, Tobacco-Free Kids. 

Huff [00:29:45]: 


Regan-Porter [00:29:46]: 

So they often want to reach newspaper readers because newspaper readers are active and engaged and have a huge, very high percentage, propensity to vote. 

Huff [00:29:57]: 


Regan-Porter [00:29:58]: 

So that it's a great audience, but they're in print. They're in digital; they're all over the web. And they also want to reach people online. So prior to this, I could go advertise in, let's say, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel in their print product, in their online product, and then I could go to the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel or anybody else and buy programmatic. So then I could reach them on Netflix and Hulu, on Politico.com, on WashingtonPost.com, and I could target it to just Colorado readers. Those could be very distinct audiences. What advertisers often find value in is what we call retargeting, which is following someone around. 

Huff [00:30:39]: 


Regan-Porter [00:30:39]: 

And anybody who's been online knows what this is, and it feels a little creepy. 

Huff [00:30:43]: 

Creepy cool. 

Regan-Porter [00:30:44]: 

Yes. I was just searching for a washer and dryer, and now I'm seeing washer and dryer ads everywhere, including on TV. 

Huff [00:30:51]: 


Regan-Porter [00:30:51]: 

Also been conspiracy theories where I was talking with my wife about this, and then I saw an ad. Are they bugging my home? What is Amazon Alexa doing to us? I don't think there's any proof that they're spying on us. 

Huff [00:31:03]: 

They claim no. 

Regan-Porter [00:31:05]: 

Yes, we're giving them enough data. They don't need to spy on us. A nyway. So that's retargeting when it follows you around. And there's a lot of value because even back in the old days of direct marketing, in traditional marketing, there was always a rule of thumb. People need to see your advertisement or hear about you X number of times—three times, five times, ten times, whatever it was. 

Huff [00:31:25]: 

Yeah, it used to be the rule of seven. 

Regan-Porter [00:31:27]: 


Huff [00:31:28]: 

And now it's the rule of 12, 16,  20. 

Regan-Porter [00:31:32]: 


Huff [00:31:33]: 


Regan-Porter [00:31:33]: 

I think that shows that digital advertising is harder to break through. 

Huff [00:31:36]: 

It is. 

Regan-Porter [00:31:37]: 

So you need to see it many more times. 

Huff [00:31:38]: 

That's correct. 

Regan-Porter [00:31:39]: 

And so you don't want to just reach readers on Netflix and at Politico and at Grand Junction [Daily Sentinel]. You want to reach some of the same readers multiple times. 

Huff [00:31:49]: 

That's right. 

Regan-Porter [00:31:51]: 

So that's where we came in and said, look, these news readers are valuable in and of themselves, but we tend not to follow them around the web. You could kind of get there with programmatic, but let's just aggregate these news readers around Colorado. And our members do that by putting a pixel on their website and say, look, now if I'm Joe Blow candidate, I can reach them in all the print newspapers. I can reach them on all the newspaper websites, which is where I want to be, and now I can follow them. So they see that ad everywhere. Everywhere. They see it in the paper, and then they see it on Hulu, and they're like, oh, I connect the two. And it really raises that awareness. 

Huff [00:32:32]: 

It does. And it is a very targeted, specific set of news readers, because it is news readers that we know have been to the Grand Junction Sentinel. Right. It's news readers that we know read the Durango newspaper. Right. And so it's very specific people. And then, like you said, once we pick them up as part of this news audience for retargeting, we're not just serving them a display ad, we can serve them a video ad, we can serve them a TV commercial, we can serve them an audio commercial, wherever they are going. And what we have seen as we do this with other publishers across the country, is that when you use your own audience as the core of your advertising program, they tend to engage and perform better than just an audience that you're buying off of a programmatic channel because they're more qualified. So that is the program as we've structured it. And I am very excited about it because, again, I've seen it work well in other instances. 

Regan-Porter [00:33:39]: 

I am excited about it too, because part of the Colorado Press Association, we have a for-profit called Colorado Press Network, and we sell advertising. And as we move into the digital space, it's hard for us to stand out. Many of our members can relate. But our news audience is something that is distinctive for us. And now we have something unique to bring in. And the hope is that we can take advantage of this growing digital pie and cannibalize some other people, right? Because think of the Bobert/Frisch race that got national attention. Millions and millions of dollars, print newspapers got very little. Even TV, which I'm sure got a big healthy chunk, but a lot of that's also going to Facebook and Google and just general web advertising. Now we can start saying, look, we can add some value here and take some of that. And so instead of getting a four- and five-figure buy, maybe we can get some six-figure buys or greater. 

Huff [00:34:34]: 

Indeed. Indeed. So back to our terminology. What we're talking about is called first-party data. And it's going to continue to be kind of the creme de la creme of how you do targeting in digital. Because the difference between first-party data, which means it is owned by the media company and you know more about your readers than anybody else does, versus those similar readers or even those same people that are available out on a programmatic DSP. Because as good as DSPs are, the data is always lagging. There's always discrepancies. All of those things. And your data is true, up to date, accurate for what's happening right now in that market. 

Regan-Porter [00:35:25]: 

Right. And I should say too, that in terms of just this retargeting piece, the first-party data that we have is that they are news readers. We are not layering in all of the creepy data that you can get with programmatic, which is an upside for privacy, a downside maybe for not being able to. 

Huff [00:35:41]: 

But it's pure. It's pure data. Right. So you can present it as these are engaged news readers in this market. And because the data is refreshed on a regular basis, because people come back to those new sites on a regular basis, it's true pure data. 

Regan-Porter [00:36:00]: 

Great. And I'm excited about this. This is something that an individual newspaper could do. Of course we think there's value in aggregating. It something other press associations could do, but it is something distinctive to our industry. And so we hope others will take up the banner and that advertising agencies will be clamoring for it. If they want to get something like this set up, I'm sure they could reach out to me or to January Wpring and we'd connect them to you. You'd be happy to set some people up. 

Huff [00:36:26]: 

We'd be happy to. Happy to. Because back to our mission with January Spring is we want our publishers to make it into a digital transformation and come out on the other side a winner. And the best way that we can help you do that is by making sure that your core assets are your assets, that you're not just selling other people's stuff. You need to have your audience at the core of what you're doing. 

Regan-Porter [00:36:53]: 

Absolutely. I think that's a great way to end this discussion, so thank you for your time. 

Huff [00:36:56]: 

You're welcome. Thank you. 

Regan-Porter [00:37:00]: 

Thank you for listening to the Local News Matters podcast, and thanks to Charity for a great conversation. Check back next episode for my conversation with two tech founders working to help newsrooms, Yehong Zhu of Zette and Jake Seaton of Column. 

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