Local Advertising: Buying, Reading and Loving Local
Since I first moved to New York nearly 20 years ago, I’ve always had a thing for the free weeklies in corner street boxes.
The New York Press. The Village Voice. Our Town. Gay City News. Chelsea Now. It’s not because I’m cheap, but because these publications have a distinctly local flair you can’t get anywhere else, perhaps even online. Even in our news-saturated digital universe, I find these are still the best way to get hyperlocal news, whether what’s going on at our neighborhood General Theological Seminary or updates on St. Vincent’s Hospital and if we’ll ever get a nearby emergency room. I’m quite desperate to have something within choking distance. I haven’t had pasta or stringy cheese since St. Vincent’s shut down.
When I ran marketing for local online service NYC NET back in the mid-nineties, I was not just a copywriter but also a media buyer in these pubs. In the Voice, LGNY and The Press, we ran weekly 1/8 black-and-white ads to keep new subscribers flowing in and occasionally, a 1/4 page or even 1/2 page when we had big news to announce. Local advertising worked. I know for sure, because we measured every single print run against the calls and web traffic we got requesting software.
It’s no news that advertiser-dependent print publications like these struggle as online readership has grown (especially sex classifieds, a cash cow, which moved online years ago), so I was excited to pick up from a green street box Our Town Downtown, the re-launch of a downtown newspaper by Manhattan Media, who runs several neighborhood pubs and (self-interested disclaimer) has even published pieces about snoring, puttering or about my dog by me. Here’s a recent piece about the paper’s launch by The New York Observer (another printed pub who has faced digital reality).
Yes, there are digital local networks such as Patch and great local ‘zines like Gothamist, but I still also like the street boxes. There, flipping through the crime blotter or arts features, I learn as much as about my neighborhood from advertisers as from the articles. For example, in the premiere issue of Downtown, I saw notice of a Hudson Valley Wine & Food Fest next week (grapegetaways.com), upcoming events in writing at Hunter College, and a reader special for Michell’s NY delivery service. Plus, a loving couple named Rebecca and Mark wants to have my baby. All expenses included.
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