The Hyperlocal Appeal of Print Media The Changing (yet Steady) Landscape of Local Advertising

The Hyperlocal Appeal of Print Media The Changing (yet Steady) Landscape of Local Advertising

Patrick McCabe


Gregory Mee

Contributing Writer

For the first time in the US, digital ad spending will surpass TV ad spending in 2016.This isn’t exactly a surprise, but it’s happening faster than the experts thought.

Previous studies suggested it wouldn’t happen until next year. This comes from a September 2016 report generated by digital technology data firm eMarketer, and predicts that the bulk of digital advertising, mobile spending, “will represent more than a third of total media ad spending in the US” by 2019. That’s on a national scale. What about the trends in local markets? Are we seeing the same type of dramatic shift to digital?

Well, the shift is happening locally, too, just not as quickly or as dramatically. According to an October 2016 report by BIA/Kelsey, nearly $150 billion will be spent on all local advertising in 2017. Overall, that’s an increase of only 2.4 percent from this year, but as Senior VP/Chief Economist Mark Fratrik puts it, “A large part of that is because of a decline in revenue going to print media, including newspapers, magazines, and direct mail.”

They predict digital advertising in local markets will increase by 13.5 percent in 2017, while traditional media spending will drop locally by 2.4 percent. While not overtaking it quite yet, the company predicts that local digital ad spending will exceed local print spending entirely by 2018.

This does not mean that print media will become obsolete anytime soon. It just goes to prove what experts have predicted for a while now: that the trend toward digital will continue.

As a chamber of commerce, you know that there’s still a place for print media in local markets. You don’t have to look further than the thousands of directories and other publications created by chambers every year to see that residents and businesses still find value in this medium. When it comes to local communities and neighborhoods, print’s relevance is far stronger than it is nationally.

Think about the way you interact with your neighbors as compared to the world at large. Locally, we’re still very much a face-to-face, “get to know you” kind of culture. It’s really more on a national and/or global scale where the majority of our communication is done digitally. Particularly when it comes to business owners and the ways that they’ve always had success, much of their business will typically come from word-of-mouth, e.g. your neighbors chatting about that restaurant, shop, doctor, etc. that’s new to town.

It’s this type of behavior that has made its way onto digital platforms like social media, but it was behavior that was honed in person; and that behavior is still hugely important in our tightest circles, our neighborhoods. The trick is figuring out how to capture the immediacy and constant variation of social media and digital technology in a printed publication.

Two companies that are blurring the lines between our digital behavior and print media are N2 Publishing and Best Version Media (BVM). Based out of Wilmington, North Carolina, N2 Publishing’s goal is to “turn neighborhoods into communities”. Best Version Media, based out of Brookfield, Wisconsin, follows a similar model.

Both companies create monthly magazines for affluent neighborhoods in communities all over the country, exclusive to the residents in that neighborhood. By getting all residents involved in the publication, getting people talking about the magazine, and drumming up excitement for each issue, they provides a hyperlocal look at neighborhoods with tremendous results.

N2 Publishing has made their mark by embracing these tight-knit, exclusive markets, and has had incredible growth since they were founded in 2004. In fact, since 2011, they have made the Inc. 5000 list annually, including the most recent announcement in December 2016 that they have made the list yet again. Reported by PRWeb, an online news and publicity distributor, N2’s most recent appointment to the Inc. 5000 list was due, in large part, to them being the second fastest print media company in the nation, now reporting over $100 million in revenue.

With nearly 2,000 magazines sent across the country every month, N2 and Best Version Media have a massive footprint in the local print media industry. But it’s the way they construct each issue of the magazine that’s really interesting.

Both companies strive to embed themselves in each and every one of these neighborhoods, becoming a part of their story and a vehicle for their residents to get to know each other better. Each month, a different family is interviewed and featured on the cover, allowing the rest of the neighborhood to get to know them. Inside each issue, members of the neighborhood share their favorite recipes, home improvement and gardening tips, movie reviews, graduation and birth announcements, and more.

It’s a truly unique way for residents to get to know each other, and for businesses to reach an exclusive market of these affluent neighborhoods. With all of their Area Directors and Publishers being local residents as well, both N2 and BVM have a more keen perspective on what those neighborhoods need.

In fact, during our research, we discovered that many N2 Area Directors and BVM Publishers are also chamber members. This discovery, and their modern-day success in print media, caused us to want to know more. So we surveyed some of these magazine clients to hear what they had to say.

Here is some feedback from the survey. All responses were anonymous. “Incredible high-quality publication and proud to have my ad featured!” said one respondent. “The visibility is key and I was simply honored to be a part of it,” said another. “Each month, I was awed by the quality of the publication.” And, in specific reference to one of N2’s Area Directors, another respondent said, “So professional, friendly, dedicated, ethical, fun, and she was a terrific ‘face’ for N2 Publishing. What a true asset she is to have on board!”

The excitement over their Area Directors is no surprise. During research, we also discovered that both N2 and BVM earned a “2017 Glassdoor Best Places to Work Employees’ Choice Award” in the small and medium-sized business category. As everyone in the chamber world knows, happy employees lead to happy clients. In an article, again from PRWeb, N2’s co-founder and CEO Duane Hixon says, “Everyone needs to work to provide an income for their families and make ends meet. Our goal is to make that work meaningful, enjoyable, and full of purpose. It’s very humbling that so many of our teammates feel this passionately about our culture.”

The family values of N2 and BVM fit well in their mold of neighborhood magazines. It’s a culture they promote, and one they also live and breath internally. It’s easy to see how they’ve had success promoting these types of neighborhoods and communities because those values are ingrained in everything they do.

With the success of these types of publications in neighborhood markets, it causes you to wonder if the digital trend will ever change their relevancy. When you’re dealing with residents and businesses in such tight-knit communities, it’s easy to see why this hands-on approach is so successful. Based on the slower climb of digital in local markets, you can expect print media to remain a leader in hyperlocal markets for years.