Recent moves by The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal to introduce editions tailored to specific cities could be the opening salvo in a struggle by national media brands to gain ad dollars from local businesses that are shifting their marketing budgets to the Web, industry observers said.
“Local advertisers are catching up with national advertisers on how to use the Web as an advertising medium,” said Colby Atwood, president of Borrell Associates, which tracks advertising and marketing expenditures. “National advertisers are doing more segmentation, and local advertisers are learning more about the Web and finding that the ROI is very attractive.”
Overall, local advertising is expected to grow to $105 billion in 2010, according to Borrell, up 4% from 2009. During the same period, local online advertising is expected to grow 7%, to $14.9 billion. “If they can attract local advertisers to print and online—and provide good quality content—I would expect this model will be extended to other local markets,” Atwood said, referring to the Times and Journal launching editions targeting the Bay Area.
Both the Times and Journal sense an ad vacuum in some regions left by financially troubled newspapers, observers said. Through September, circulation for the San Francisco Chronicle, for instance, fell
25%, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.
The Times rolled out a Bay Area edition in October, and the Journal in mid-November. Each is initially two pages total, with advertising. Dave Rowe, VP-media director of b-to-b ad agency Doremus, who is based in San Francisco, said ad rates for the editions will appeal to the small and midsize business market. “I have one client who wants to buy the Journal, but it's always been too expensive,” he said. “Localized content makes [the buy] more viable.”
The Times' San Francisco edition runs on Fridays and Sundays with circulations of 40,000 and 60,000, respectively. Through September, total daily (Monday through Friday) circulation for the Times was down 7%, to 927,851, according to ABC.
The Times also launched a Chicago edition, which runs on Fridays and Sundays, with circulations of 25,000 and 37,000, respectively. There could be an opportunity for national brands in the Windy City, as well. The Tribune Co., parent company of the Chicago Tribune, the city's largest daily, filed for bankruptcy in December 2008. Through September, circulation for the Tribune was down 9.7%, to 465,892, according to ABC.
Scott Heekin-Canedy, president-general manager of The New York Times Media Group, said the Times has a deal with the Chicago News Cooperative to provide content for the Chicago edition and is about to tap a content partner for its Bay Area edition, where stories are now produced by Times journalists based in San Francisco.
“In effect, it's a local wire service in which we contract and pay for the content,” Heekin-Canedy said. “We see [local editions] as a reader service, with the business rationale being circulation retention with ad support.”
The Times is plugging both the Bay Area and Chicago editions in marketing materials and placing brief notes on the front pages to promote circulation, Heekin-Canedy said. Content will also appear on NYTimes.com.
The Journal's Bay Area edition runs every Thursday and goes to 92,000 subscribers in the area. Through September, total daily circulation for the Journal rose 0.61%, to 2,024,269, according to ABC.
“We're focused on our readers and their need for more than just the national, international and global information that we can provide,” said Michael Rooney, chief revenue officer of the Journal. “They love the brand, and the only thing we don't give them is the local flavor; and here's an opportunity for us to fill that void for them.”
The content will be supplied by the Journal's San Francisco bureau, which was opened in 1929. There are point-of-purchasing ads throughout the city promoting the new coverage and online ads across The Wall Street Journal Digital Network. WSJ.com provides regularly updated local coverage at WSJ.com/SF.
Rooney had no comment about reports that the Journal is mulling adding local metro-area coverage in Chicago and New York. M