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Thoughts On Selling the WWW.

5 Directory Strategies For Newspapers

Posted by Dan Vigil on December 8, 2011

As newspaper groups continue to consolidate operations and sales efforts, there are more opportunities for them to capitalize on the scalability of the internet. Newspaper web sites on their own don’t drive much traffic. In fact, as a “local” content provider their audience is limited by definition. Local audience is very valuable though. As they continue to consolidate and form groups, the collective traffic and audience that newspaper sites create can really pack a punch if they employ the right strategies.

Directory strategies in particular are an area where substantial gains can be realized if they can think beyond the $25-$99/month enhanced listing model.

While it’s true that local directory listings are easy to bundle with print and substantial revenue can be generated from monthly listing fees, there’s real value in the platform and strategy behind directories when coupled with the scalability of the internet.

An effective directory strategy  for newspaper groups should include the following:

1. A Masthead Branded Solution: Directories should be embedded within the newspaper.com site and accessible via a subdomain or sub directory rather than a separate domain. This leverages the newspapers brand and credibility, builds trust, and creates a seamless user experience. This design also results in substantial traffic and SEO gains for both the newspaper.com site and embedded directory.

2. Self-serve Sign Up  and Upgrades: As SEO drives more traffic  to the directory and profile pages there will be more opportunities to engage business owners directly online. Self-serve also facilitates partnerships with other sites. Widgets can be placed on sites to drive sign ups from chamber pages, partner sites etc.

3. Promotional Tools for Businesses: Beyond the simple SEO optimized listing, there should be a back-end dashboard which allows business owners to not only manage their listing but promote themselves online this will build engagement and encourage usage of the platform. It’s very easy these days to incorporate Twitter and Facebook syndication tools for coupons and special offers. The product should be more of a self-serve promotional tool than a listing.

4. Lead Generation: As new businesses signup and complete their profile pages, an email should be generated and sent directly to local sales teams. This will provide a pipeline of warm leads which can be turned into more dollars beyond the free listing or enhanced listing fee.

5. Search Engine-First Approach:  Rather than being concerned about how much traffic is going to the directory from the newspaper site, the focus should be on search engine traffic. A platform/strategy that generates audience directly from search engines will win. The architecture and design of the platform should be focused on increasing search traffic, not site traffic.

While sales teams remain agnostic to a directories back-end in the short run, newspaper groups are faced with a tremendous opportunity to employ the right directory strategy and platform to generate much larger audience and revenue gains in the long run.

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