Author: Andreas Schiendorfer
Published: June 3, 2011
Consenda AG

Local Newspapers Lead the Way with Allmedia Strategy

LocalPoint, the allmedia content distribution system developed by Consenda AG, offers local and regional newspapers a presence in all new information channels; and even the opportunity to earn profitable revenue from them. Until just recently, this would have been considered impossible.

Michael and Sabrina are looking at the TV screen in Gstaad's popular fitness center ‘Move it’. They are not watching the Champions League final between Barça and ManU or Lady Gaga live in concert, but rather the latest competitor-list of the 1 to 1 Beach Volley Open in Gstaad, followed by a report on the seemingly never-ending construction work on the rail link between Zweisimmen and Saanen. But what really catches the eye of the young couple is an advertisement for a reasonably priced two-room apartment in the center of Gstaad. The advertisement will appear the next day in the ‘Anzeiger von Saanen’ newspaper, or did it actually appear in the last edition without them noticing? In any case, they need to act right away. Michael decides to finally install the Anzeiger's Twitter service and add his local newspaper as a friend on Facebook. Laughing, he says to his girlfriend that although there's a lot of rubbish in the AvS, it will all have been more than worth it if that's how they were to find an apartment.

Regional Information from the Internet 

In actual fact, only eight percent of young people in Switzerland use paid-for newspapers as their main source of information, as revealed by the Credit Suisse Youth Barometer in December 2010. In contrast, as much as a quarter rely mainly on the Internet – online news sites (18 percent), as well as Facebook and other social networks (7 percent). When asked to name their favorite information sources, in addition to news sites (51 percent) and Facebook (35 percent), young people also cited news apps on smartphones (22 percent), blogs, and mail services (14 percent), as well as social networks (14 percent). In view of the enormous – and constantly growing – importance of new media, which in commuter-oriented Switzerland are surpassed only by the freesheets, it would appear that local and regional publishers are a lost cause.

Or would it? The survey also asked what kind of information young people regularly view. The results are unequivocal. Local information is playing an increasingly important role, especially in our globalized world. Indeed, ranking right up there with music (56 percent) are regional updates (54 percent) and news about events, parties, and outings (40 percent). And at the very top, in case you were wondering, is the weather (61 percent); and the sun, unless we are taking a vacation, only shines locally. 

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Proactively Turning New Media into an Opportunity 

So the interest is certainly there, but can the local publishers leverage it? Does the internet world not mean heavy investments, complex operations and extensive maintenance; combined with the prospect of little or no revenue; and the additional risk of losing print subscribers? Almost every newspaper, whatever its size, does now have its own web presence. But in most cases they can be described as defensive endeavors, because they do not consider the diverse possibilities of the new world of information to be an opportunity.

It is therefore perhaps no coincidence that a highly-promising solution to these challenges has been developed in Gstaad – a place where the sophisticated, cosmopolitan world lives in perfect harmony alongside the local and provincial. A few years ago, Englishman Xavier Ferguson moved to this small paradise from hectic New York. Although he had given up the day-to-day management of his American company that produced software for such major newspapers as the Los Angeles Times and the Guardian of London, he brought with him his knowledge and applied his extensive experience in the world of digital news media to his new company, Consenda AG (from the English "send content"). 

At the beginning of 2007, Frank Müller, publisher of the Anzeiger von Saanen, which was founded in 1881 and has a circulation of 5,600 copies, became enamored with the idea of turning his local publishing house into an allmedia enterprise. Let's go the whole hog, thought Müller, and invited Ferguson and his team to work inside his publishing house to develop an allmedia software service tailored precisely to the needs of local and regional publishers. Thanks to the resulting LocalPoint system, Müller is now a fully-fledged allmedia publisher, offering "the latest local news in print, online, on TV, via mobile, in apps, on Facebook, Twitter, or by email", all with resounding commercial success. The local news of Gstaad-Saanenland is displayed on 22 TV screens positioned at attractive locations across the entire region such as cafés, bars, bakeries, restaurants, banks, and fitness centers. And the entire operation is proftably financed – and many a large publishing house would find this hard to believe - by advertising.

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Passive Ads Are Attractive 

"Local advertising is not annoying, it's attractive content," emphasizes Xavier Ferguson, whose system ensures that the newspaper ads from the print edition appear automatically on all the various digital channels. Besides the usual “search-and-find” ad categories such as rental properties or more recently obituaries, passive local ads, in other words advertisements that we stumble across by chance but which also provide us with local information, are also making a big impact. 

Advertisers have picked up on this added value very quickly, with more than 75 percent of clients now wanting the allmedia version of their print advertisements, which rotate, display, post and tweet across all digital channels for an extra cost of up to CHF 60. And this is an investment that pays off for all concerned. The reader gets free additional online content, the client is happy for the considerable extra reach and attention their advertisement attracts, and after just a few months, Frank Müller has realized a return on his investment. And he’s not the only one: Lucerne newspapers ‘Seetaler Bote’ and ‘Willisauer Bote’, the ‘Engadiner Post’, the ‘Schaffhauser Landzeitung’, the ‘Bremgarter Bezirks-Anzeiger’, the ‘Wohler Anzeiger’, the ‘Volksstimme’ (from the upper Basel region), the ‘Frutigländer’, the ‘Anzeiger von Burgdorf’, ‘D’Region’, and the ‘Neue Fricktaler Zeitung’ are all enjoying similar success. And the kicker: despite the extensive offer of free local information in digital media, print subscriber figures at some LocalPoint newspapers are not falling, rather they are actually increasing slightly.

Managed from Gstaad and Delhi 

LocalPoint is user-friendly and requires no technical expertise on the part of the publisher because the allmedia service is seamlessly integrated into the existing workflows of the editorial and advertising sales departments. What's more, Consenda takes care of all the system maintenance, particularly that of the screens. The small operations team in Gstaad works in collaboration with the company’s development center in Delhi, which Nishant Singh, Chief Technology Officer and Ferguson's technology cohort from his time in New York, runs with 18 engineers. 

Part of LocalPoint’s success is also derived from Publicitas, Switzerland’s leading seller of newspaper advertising, which has enjoyed considerable success with the LocalPoint allmedia offer and has already been able to sell new forms of advertising on behalf of its newspaper clients, such as TV spots for new car launches and movie trailers. "To date, however, we have not considered an investment by Publicitas. As an independent company," Ferguson goes on to explain, "we are pleased that Credit Suisse Entrepreneur Capital Ltd. has invested in us."