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#citylocal: Hyperlocal ad sales and the ‘age of participation’

Community participation is key to selling ads around local and hyperlocal content, Rick Waghorn told the audience at today’s Sustaining Local Journalism conference.

Waghorn, who founded local ad sales platform Addiply, cited the example of Howard Owens, publisher of New York hyperlocal site the Batavian.

Owens, he said, was a “hyperlocal superman” for turning a profit from ads on his site. The reason for Owens’ success? P2P. That’s “person-to-person”. Waghorn praised Owen for participating in the community that he covers, knowing the people, and knocking on doors to get ads.

It’s P2P that will make hyperlocal ad sales profitable, said Waghorn, not algorithms.

Borrowing a term from Emily Bell, he said that we are in “the age of participation”.

Editorial is participative and local, why shouldn’t advertising be?

But Owens’ is a rare case, said Waghorn, stressing that hyperlocal publishers in the UK need to get more comfortable with participating in the community for ad sales.

We can’t all be Howard Owens. You look around the hyperlocal scene in the UK and the art of selling is lost on most people. Is is a different, different trade craft to finding a story.

It strikes me as odd that most people would be more comfortable doing a death knock than going into a local pizza parlour and asking for a 10 quid ad. Why? That seems odd to me. I know what I’d rather do.

Waghorn’s said his own ad platform, Addiply, could help publishers reach out to their communities to make ad sales.

It’s a bottom-up ad solution that, in our tiny, tiny way goes into battle with the adsenses and all the big betworks.

And bottom up solutions are what works, he said, “the world is turning upside down”. Citing Howard Owens again, Waghorn claimed that the door-to-door salesman is the missing link for hyperlocal ad sales. He contrased Owens’ approach with that of the big hyperlocal networks like AOL’s Patch.

I’m not Patch, descending down to you from on high, I am the one knocking on your door. Knocking on your door seven or eight times before you give me an ad.

Waghorn’s message? Journalists will knock on doors to ask about deaths, and will knock on doors looking for stories, and if they want to make hyperlocal pay they will have to start thinking about ad sales the same way.

That message was echoed by Will Perrin of Talk About Local, who called the Guardian’s sales approach to advertising on its recently-closed Guardian local sites “very odd”.

If you want to sell ads around local content you have to have a team there on the ground.

Tweets tagged with the #citylocal hashtag can be seen in this Chirpstory.

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