Monthly Archives: December 2011

Alt Weeklies Never Dull in 2011

By Sarah Billingsley, AWN Communications Director

There is never a dull moment in the alt weekly industry, and 2011 proved to be no exception.   It was another roller coaster year in all areas.   As many newspaper publishers are aware, the great recession has made for a challenging sales scenario for print advertising.  It appears even more challenging than in years past, but we have kept our game-face on and tried to enjoy the ride just the same.

AWN hosted our first sales webinar with the goal of increasing awareness and sales accountability for alt weeklies. Nearly 20 AWN sellers participated in the webinar. Additional AAN digital sales webinars were also available in the first half of 2011.

Mark and Sarah were left in the dust by fellow Alt weekly partiers in New Orleans (eh hem … Willamette Week and Santa Fe Reporter, etc.) at the AAN Convention. AAN approved a name change for the Association after 30+ years, dropping the “weekly” seemed appropriate now that web-only members and non-weeklies were part of the group.

We created a new sales deck for AWN (customized for numerous sales categories) and presented RFP information to more prospective clients than the previous six months. There were some new AWN sellers on board in September-October, making some fresh calls on agencies and potential clients. combined.

AWN leaders have been working together with HanzMediaInc in Sacramento to create several new marketing initiatives and branding opportunities to take to market.  One of those is NewCity’s regular e-blast newsletters highlighting “the Alts.”

After the surprising uptick AWN experienced in 2010, this year was notably disappointing, but  the roller coaster ride is far from over.   The sales challenges have made us stronger and more determined.   We are strategizing, and sharing information, and cheering each other on as we face a changing and uncertain print advertising future.   We are lowering the safety bar and asking, “Can we go again?” “Yes” is the answer because we know it is worth it.

What Happened? Favorites from 2011 Blog Posts

By Mark Hanzlik, AWN Executive Director

Since this is the time of year when just about everyone who has a blog or web site publishes a top-10 or best-of list instead of covering real news or offering their usual opinions, I thought it would be a good time to do that same. I say that admitting that I’m as guilty as the next guy and therefore offer some of my favorites from 2011 with a few caveats:

1) The following are not necessarily the best, or biggest of the year but topics that caught my attention.

2) I’m usually biased toward the unusual stories that fly below the radar but often-covered stories can be also interesting if the approach is different or view

3) Opinion pieces seldom hold up and while there is a place for those kinds of stories, I’m taking a pass on those without solid research here.

DIGITAL TECH: Facebook and Spotify were among the year’s hottest digital media companies, covered by AdWeek in their “Top 10 Tech Stories of 2011” in early December.   This one is a no-brainer, Facebook has eclipsed everyone and Spotify was the sleeper that burst into the big-time this year as well.   We often blogged about the Web Radio’s audience growth and ad revenue growth online in 2011, and surely Pandora and Spotify are part of that big story.

FUTURE OF RETAIL: The best story I read this year about the retail biz also came near the end of the year.  “The Future of Retail? Look to Its Past” arrived via Harvard Business Review in what can only be described as HBR’s Blog Forum.   It’s a compelling piece about those in retail embracing technology yet retaining the human aspects of the transaction (i.e. face-to-face interactions, etc.)

DIGITAL TRENDS: AdWeek nailed this one back in October;  offering the six most transformative trends in digital marketing.    We blogged about this important digital story here on our own site on Oct 31st.  The merging of mobile and desktop, and the value of specialized content on the web will resonate the most and will no doubt be important topics in 2012.

HYPER-LOCAL: Coverage of everything Hyper-Local was overwhelming in 2011. Not only was it a buzzword for digital news coverage, geo-targeted advertising and new kind of journalism, it served as the launch pad for the success and failure of AOL’s Patch investment which ended the year on a down note.   We first covered the hyper-local subject in September.

FUTURE OF NEWSPAPERS: This one wasn’t too hard to sort out because every story about newspapers (mobile development, daily deals, Sunday insert conversion to the web, etc.) all pointed to the same future. I’ll go with recent release by USC Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism Study which will be fully issued in January titled “Is America at a Digital Turning Point?” Numerous magazines, alternative publications, radio and television stations all jumped on this story and declared death will come quickly “Newspapers Dead Within Five Years.”

We’re ready for another year of changes in media, advertising and digital, tracking all the pluses and minuses.  I hope all the positive changes in 2011 bode well for the year to come.

Content and Targeted Advertising in Conflict?

By Mark Hanzlik, Executive Director

A piece in AdWeek yesterday posed an awfully loaded question for digital advertisers, one which has puzzled ad buyers for some time.   Is Targeting Killing Content Advertising? According to AdWeek, apparently the answer is no.


The questions were posed at a panel gathering for Business Insider’s Ignition conference earlier this week.   The consensus of the panelists pointed toward co-existence between targeted advertising and content advertising.   They point out that targeting technologies for the most part ignore content, thereby only partially providing ad buying strategies that blend both of these important marketing ingredients.

For those of us on the publishing side, the challenge remains noteworthy.   Potential digital advertisers and agencies must be informed and armed with this kind of thinking before they stake a claim in either direction (content-driven ad buying or targeting-only).    There is a need for a better buying model online that hasn’t quite arrived yet in my opinion.