If only because I laid my Google revenue cards on the table early on…

https://outwithabang.wordpress.com/2008/03/17/lesson-no37a-for-all-that-follow-dont-pin-your-hopes-on-good-ol-uncle-google/ 

…this was interesting, Jeff Jarvis of Buzzmachine and Guardian column fame doing the same… and, in paricular, what Google did for him last year.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/apr/14/5

For those of you who are hard of linking, the two paragraphs to put side-by-side are, first the MFW ‘experience’… 

“Take, for example, our Google AdSense numbers since March ‘07.

“406,002 impressions, 846 clicks…. $223. So I did Google a disservice at JEECamp. Apologies. When I said $180 for 400,000 page impressions I was $40 out and 6,000 page impressions under. We made £110 in a year…”

To be then followed by the Buzzmachine one…

“Last year, Buzzmachine.com, which has been in business, loosely speaking, since 2001, made $9,315 (£4,655) from two blog ad networks, $1,866 from ads on my RSS feeds, and $2,674 from Google ads, for a total of $13,855. Though I’ve written many a blog post and column lamenting that there aren’t better, richer ad networks to support grassroots media, when I add that up, I’d say it’s not too shabby…

I, however, would describe our own Google ads income as shabby. If not particularly shabby. Or, indeed, utterly shabby. I might also describe it as someone having a laugh…

And let’s make several things clear; we’re not running like-for-like – it’s a horribly inexact science; the comparisons don’t stand up; we didn’t, for example, run AdSense for a full calendar year; if we had, who knows? We could have cracked the $300 mark…

But what I would be intrigued to know is just how hard our Jeff had to work to earn that $2,674…

Given that Buzzmachine has ‘loosely speaking’  been in business since 2001, he’s clearly had to work his ‘brand’ for at least five years (2001-2006) before earning a thousand quid off Google in Year Six…

I earned my princely sum off 400,000 page impressions – and all on the back of busting my b*lls twice a day to deliver two, great 1,000-word ‘sticky’ reads to the waiting Norwich City masses who, come January’s transfer window month, were 33,000 monthly uniques strong.

Plus we had coulmnists, characters and all sorts. We worked – indeed, still work – our collective n*ts off draging football punters to that site with a quality journalistic product that, we hoped, would offer enough context, comment and quotes that it would not only drag eyeballs there, it would keep eyeballs there.

And, touch wood, it appears to work. That’s back to my 436-second average visit time for the month of January. Seven minutes every time they visit.

Because it’s a passionate niche. Just as the future of news is.

What would be very interesting to discover is just what numbers Buzzmachine.com generates in terms of uniques, page impressions and average visit times to pop a cheque for £1,300 from Google into Jeff’s hands at the end of the year….

I’ve no idea. I read it most days. As, I suspect, many a media-luvvie does.

And because it is, more often than not, a well-informed and engaging read, my eye-balls stay fixed. And if, for argument’s sake, me and Jeff run at roughly similar numbers per month – my www.myfootballwriter.com/norwichcity versus his www.buzzmachine.com – then fair enough, he cracked the Google nut more than I did.

Maybe – he says, looking for his excuses – Jeff is actually mining a richer niche seam; that the ads that appear on his site are far more click-appealing than those that ever appeared on ours; that maybe ‘football’ and ‘Norwich’ never quite made sense as ads.

And maybe it’s just a case of being patient – that come Year Six, 2012, I too could be pulling £1,000 a year back off them. In the unlikely event I was still pinning many of my hopes on Google by then…

Don’t know.

Fotunately, we didn’t put all our eggs in Google’s basket – and, nor, of course did Jeff. He’s got two blog ad network tickets working his brand; covering his ass to the tune of £4,500 a year.

Me? I’ve got Kev acting as MFW’s tail-end Charlie – trying to pick off every local advertiser we can find; as well as those national ones that like the cut of our demographics. Three cheers for the British Army… newly-signed up for a year-long banner ad deal on all three sites.

It’s still a tough nut to crack. Very tough in these credit crunch times. But they’re out there; all starting to think what they would do next if they didn’t have a local evening paper to advertise in… And if I can pull, say, £2,000 per month off the Norwich site in Pay-Per-Month advertising, that’s not too shabby either.

Particularly, if we can then find further revenue streams to add to our income bow.

Because that’s the real point. For all we do, for all the hours we write and for all the pavements we pound, the jury is still out as to whether advertising of any sort will – on its own – be enough to save our bacon.

And that applies to all of us. From The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The New York Times down… is there enough value in what we ‘sell’ in terms of advertising space to guarantee our survival?

No.

Just ask our Jeff. Without a column or two up his sleeve, a consultancy here and there and a teaching gig at CUNY, could he survive on $13,855 a year. Just over six grand…?

No.

Exactly. No.

 

 

I’m sure our Luca’s sick and tired of people having a pop and I’m not about to re-visit that Ersnt & Young report; I’ll let these boys do that – http://adrianmonck.blogspot.com/2008/03/can-consultants-save-national.html and, whilst you’re there, http://virtualeconomics.typepad.com/virtualeconomics/2008/03/solets-demolish.html.

And I was thinking about this the other day as we started to wander our way around this whole local advertising thing.

Because the other model that appears to have slipped under the Ernst & Young radar is PPM. Has anyone actually done PPM yet? It’s pay-per-month.

It’s very simple. Me and/or Kev wander into a local advertiser and, say, ‘Here you are, fella, give us a 150 notes and you can be on our site for a month…’

What can then follow is a conversation that would make Jeff Jarvis’ head spin and our new best pal Luca reach for his triangles.

But it’s a conversation that again needs to be slipped into next autumn’s course-work because out there – where the metal meets the meat, so to speak – it’s a conversation that the next generation of local, self-financing journalists need to have.

Because not everyone they encounter will, actually, have a website. But they may still recognise a good, banner placement opportunity when they see one.

And for all those thousands and thousands of little local firms out there who have known nothing else but advertising in their little local paper, you have to hold them by the hand and lead them oh-so gently across the great divide and into this whole new world of digitally-based advertising.

These are busy people; with small ad budgets and even less time than most to worry about the latest CPM rates; PPC ratios, etc, etc… We’re back to Ady and the man from Google. Out there, down Sprowston Road and up Martineau Lane, you just make their lives as easy as possible.

And if they have grown up paying £250 for one night in an evening newspaper, then the next step is to say: ‘OK, how about £150 for 31 nights on a local website…’

Gently, gently catchee monkey… Let’s start with PPM. Let’s go from there.

Here, you go Luca. Take yourself up Aylsham Road – if memory serves it’s just before the Bingo – and there’s a pawn-brokers. Good lads. Not yet got round to getting a website.

Busy people. Times are hard; business is up.

But you bring an ad-make up function to the party – and this is what our Nick down Norton Road knocks me out…

http://twadservices.co.uk/viewbanner.php?i=95

Now, it is not about to win any awards at some swish London bash; this isn’t Saatchi & Saatchi – this is a pawn-brokers half-way up Aylsham Road in Norwich; and he’s got a second place out Lowestoft way.

But to my little, local mind – that ad looks good.

And what is more important, that simple PPM ad makes that pawnbroker feel good.

I bet, quietly, he’s quite proud of his new – if not, first – web presence. After 30 years running virtually the same ad in the local paper, now he’s got that to show his family and friends.

Whether it actually drives him new business, who knows? Depends, as ever, as to whether or not he asks every customer who walks through his door where they saw his ad.

But it’s interesting – and very telling as to what you can actually do out there on the front-line; what models you can actually get to work at a local level. Cos if he actually likes the way his ad looks on-line, then there’s a sneak of a chance that come the end of his four-month PPM, he’ll book again.

Just like he used to do when the lad from the local newspaper used to pop his head round the door. ‘Same again..?’ he’d ask.

‘Yeh, go on then…’ they’d reply.

That’s how they’ve given local newspapers a living for donkeys years; that’s how – in part – they might, just, give local news websites a living, too.

It’s still mights and maybes. Ifs and buts.

But PPM and pawn-brokers; we ignore them at our peril. For let’s face it, way things are in our line of work, we may all need cash quick…

When I was first cutting my journalistic teeth on that mighty organ of the west that was the weekly Wiltshire Gazette & Herald, the advertising department was something you tried to get off with pass seasonal greetings to every Christmas.

And it was the same when I graduated to my local evening paper; the advertising department was something that you wandered through en route to the accounts dept; it was another world; one that we journalists never knew anything about. Like I say, we’d try to build bridges come Christmas time – for the rest of the year, we went our way; they went their’s.

And I guess that’s true of 90 per cent of old newspaper institutions; more, probably. Even now, I don’t think habits and perceptions have changed.

But they need to. In fact, given what most reporters can – in theory – do with a digital camera these days, I’d ditch the old reporter-photographer combo altogether and send the reporter out into battle locally with an ad person at their side – you get the story, I’ll get an ad… and they’d sit next to each other in the office.

And swap contacts books. One would gut the other’s battered little black book for stories and leads; the other would likewise gut the list for ad leads… this parish councillor, doesn’t he run a garage…?

It’s funny, but doing what we’ve done of late you tend to bump into more academics than newspaper executives. Don’t know why… perhaps it’s something we’ve said.

Anyway, you listen to what the likes of Paul, Adrian, Charlie, Roy, Jeff and people are all up to with their students and they all seem to be grappling with the same big issue – what do we actually teach our J-School kids these days that’s going to be of relevance to their digitally-based journalistic lives?

What do you teach the next generation of journalists? Simple.

Advertising.

In fact, I’ll even get the ball rolling with a simple, multiple-choice question for their Fall ’08 module on ‘Enterprise and journalism; making ends meet when the local newspaper goes t*ts up…’

Johnny Smith’s family furniture store half-way up the Sprowston Road was one of your early launch advertisers. You join your ad-man for what you presume to be a straight-forward re-booking. Johnny Smith, however, has had a re-think. ‘To be honest, we’re going to give it a miss this quarter,” he says. “We’re just not seeing any response…”

Do you…

(a) say: ‘How the f*ck do you know that? What, do you ask everyone who walks through the door where they heard of you? What about them over there, you asked them?’

or (b) say: ‘Look I know you’ve only had six click-throughs this month, but how many f*cking click-throughs have you had off that ridiculous taxi you had painted last month? Who’s ‘clicking through’ on that, twat? And while we’re on the subject, how many people have clicked through that half-page newspaper ad you’ve been running for the last 30 years… eh?’

or (c) say: ‘Johnny, that’s fine. We’re just grateful for all your initial support; maybe we can pop back in again in a couple of months when you’ve got your new autumn cane furniture range in…?’

If you answer either (a) or (b) you are a journalist.

If you answer (c) you’re our Kev.

But if, as a journalist, you can learn and/or be taught to answer (c) then you’ve got a chance.

Even if you still think (a) and (b). You’ve got a chance.

Teach the kids how to sell; at a local level certainly. They sell, they survive.

My BlogAds pal – he of the ‘race to the bottom’ cheeriness – was right in one respect.

Once you get out here, it is all a numbers game. We are, indeed, entering ‘the Age of Quantification’.

And, as he suggested, for all us professional locals the numbers don’t add up.

Take, for example, our Google AdSense numbers since March ’07.

406,002 impressions, 846 clicks…. $223. So I did Google a disservice at JEECamp. Apologies. When I said $180 for 400,000 page impressions I was $40 out and 6,000 page impressions under. We made £110 in a year.

We took AdSense off www.myfootballwriter.com/norwichcity round about September. www.myfootballwriter.com/ipswichtown and www.myfootballwriter.com/colchesterunited have never run AdSense; it didn’t make any sense; by the time both launched, for better or worse we were giving ‘addiply’ a go.

AdSense remains sat there on the mother site, www.myfootballwriter.com in the hope that any passing Colchester United, Norwich City or Ipswich Town punter might want to buy some Champions League quarter-final tickets off www.acetickets.co.uk

Unlikely, I suspect, but as the publisher it’s one of those little straws that Google leaves me to cling to.

It’s somewhere about now that ‘Out With A Bang’ veers more towards ‘Shuffling Off With A Whimper’ as we start to tip-toe around the whole G-word issue.

Cos clearly, in many other aspects, we need to cling to their magic black box with a passion. It is, after all, how all-too many people get to find us in the first place. And where would any of us be without that Google searchlight to illuminate this infinite web darkness?

But when it comes to earning anyone a living off their local web toils, well, I’m sorry. I can’t get it to work.

Not on my numbers; great, sticky 436-second copy twice a day and all that, but £110 for every 400,000 page impressions… someone’s having a laugh.

Of course, Google has now got a new toy for us all to play with – Google Ad Manager. It has, says Mr Jarvis, the odd chink in its armour – one that is unlikely to make the life of the local publisher any easier in terms of sourcing local advertising.

Because for 400-odd years that’s what under-pinned the business model of local newspapers, local advertising. And that hasn’t changed; that’s still there; all that’s changed – albeit dramatically – is our reliance as journalists on the wood-stainers to distribute our thoughts.

Nor for that matter do the little local advertisers increasingly want to bother with the wood-stainers any more – not when they’ve got a nice, new shiny website to promote. Like Ady. And his skips. www.adysskips.com

But back to Google Ad Manager and our Jeff’s thoughts from www.buzzmachine.com…

One big problem with its program is that it doesn’t share that data with the publishers and let them use it to more efficiently serve its ads. It also doesn’t share it with advertisers and let them take advantage of a more transparent marketplace.

“No, Google’s holding onto that information itself and, once again, becoming smarter than all of us. And I say that’s our own damned fault for not building our truly open ad marketplace. It’s not too late, but it soon will be…”

That’s why for the Ady’s of this world we built www.twadservices.co.uk – these people have been used to paying 500 notes for a half page ad in their local evening paper and seeing that half page ad on Page 17 on a Monday night. So when the Mrs does the books, Ady can point to where, exactly, that £500 went.

What, exactly, they got for their money. A half page. On Page 17. On a Monday.

www.twadservices.co.uk causes me, the publisher, a pain in the a*se cos armed with all his new figures from his own client log-in page, I have to explain to Ady why we’re unlikely to hit 1.3 million banners this month; that January was transfer window month; that Norwich are doing crap; Colchester are bottom of the table; Ipswich are falling away from the play-offs…

But look, Ady… there’s your new ad. We’ve made it a sky-scraper this time. And look, don’t worry about this cpm stuff; just give us 140 notes for the month… and we’ll bung you a month for free at the end.

Go back to New York and my pal with his race to the bottom, and his other gem was the battle was lost; the war was won; that before any of us had re-organised and re-grouped, Google would have an ad rep in every city and town in the UK.

Me and our Kev bust our proverbials to get Ady and his skips onto our site. The story was that he got a call from Mrs Huckerby one day, ordering a skip from an ad that she’d seen on-line somewhere…

I would pay a small fortune to watch a Google ad rep go and get an ad off Ady.

I would pay an even bigger fortune to watch a Google ad rep go and get money off someone like an Ady. He’s as good as gold; doesn’t owe us a penny. But most of these boys come from a generation – maybe that’s now passing – in which paying us out of what’s rolled up tightly in their back pocket was the norm.

Cos they’re a local. And that’s where our future lies. At an Ady’s door, not at Google’s.