It is the sales stupid!

No it is not … it is the network (Check the companion entry It is the network stupid) that determines if you attract a viable audience that generates monetize-able journalism … I.e. journalism that attracts a salable audience.

My belief has always been that sales will come when you have a viable audience.

I’m here to report that it does even when you’re barely competent at sales. Yep, I’ve had sales … although any reasonable businessperson would say that sales I’ve generated so far are lackluster.

The secret of good sales is a good salesperson and personally, that has been my downfall.

Yep, what is needed is one of those folks who sets a goal of getting cash every day and makes it happen.

I hate to say it but a good salesperson could make money selling a plain static Internet directory site with no audience….they’d just have a hard time retaining advertisers. Still, they do it every day, much to my amazement.

But give a good salesperson a product like Paulding.com with our average 10,000 daily visits, average 15 pages per visit and 13 minute plus average visit and money will come.

Yes, I’m celebrating a bit because we’ve had our best month yet. Not great but we’re now at about 20 percent of target in revenues up from about 12 percent. Our target revenue is $25,000/mo.

A salesperson makes all the difference in revenue and in a new hire of mine, Laurie Penney, I’ve got one.

Let me digress a bit. In the companion piece I was talking about the importance of having older folks who know a community being involved in the network. This particular person is also highly involved in charitable efforts locally and has been around the community in that and similar roles for more than a decade. In fact I first met her as a client on the site who was promoting her personal training service. It took me three months to recruit her to sell for the site. Part of her experience in the community involved helping build a chiropractic practice for her husband including the difficulty of advertising in the community. That experience and the reach, cost and interactivity she now sees at Paulding.com make her a true believer in the capacity of the medium. Add to that her roots and credibility in the community and sales for her are a cakewalk.

As a publisher and creator of a hyperlocal network site, it is my task to find these folks. I just wish I’d found her sooner.

I haven’t been totally slacking in my role as national sales manager. I can report that a bit over ten percent of the current revenues are now coming from national sources … I.e. National advertising.

Anyone involved in hyperlocal advertising knows that the biggest problem any local medium has selling nationally is the size of the ‘deal’ … It takes an advertiser or his agent as much time to sell and close a $200 deal as it does a $20,000, or $200,000 deal. When looking at the ad buying resource, in terms of agency commissions (or just work load), fifteen percent of $200 or even $2,000 is not worth it.

That means for a hyperlocal site to get national advertising revenues they’re going to have to either go with Google adsense or find some other kind of national representation.

Now, at least for the time being, I’m declining Google (adsense) and any pay per click routine.

Why? Many reasons but one of them is that Google’s publisher contract could disallow all legitimate revenues unilaterally if one of my members, thinking he’d be doing me a favor click, click, clicked. Add to that my not unreasonable concern that one of the smaller competing sites (also wise to this pitfall) could organize a group to do the same. This may seem paranoid but anyone who has competed in local media knows that things can get nasty in unexpected ways.

And why should I when I have found two great alternatives that sell space on a shared CPM (cost per thousand) basis and are both capable of generating real revenues without those inherent risks. (I also know that my competitors aren’t going to come and refresh pages incessantly.

The first is http://www.thenewsroom.com. These folks package national content from news services like AP, CBS News, BBC News, McClatchy-Tribute, AFP and other sources (campaign feeds) and bundle an advertisement with that content. I pull selected text articles from the site and place them on my highly trafficked front page earning $1.00/M. This is generating about $250-300/month with my traffic and has given me access to those local stories, like the Michael Vic dog-fighting ring story, that I would not otherwise have been able to include. I have a couple of special interest news feeds and I continue to experiment with this service. I am trying to figure out how to provide content for them and could conceivable switch to them for delivery of my local news content if the final product they provide meets the requirements. Like many services out there to help the fledging hyperlocal site, this one continues to evolve.

The second national site is http://www.adsdaq.com which is serving the purpose of a national advertising representative. As their domain name suggests, they’re billing themselves as a markplace for advertising along the lines of a stock market.

So far I’ve made available to them one share of my front page wide-tower ad space. This space runs next to my weekly news video presentations is also adjacent to the content I take from thenewsroom.com. This effectively gives them an inventory of about 200,000 banners a month that they sell at my stated price of $7.00 per thousand through their marketplace. They are selling about 25 percent of that inventory and and I’m netting over $300/month from the arrangement.

This helps me establish a value the value locally for these front page banners at about $1400/month which, while they don’t sell for that locally, makes for good conversation with locals over the value of advertising on Paulding.com.

And do know that establishing that value proposition is a critical task in local sales… but not nearly as important as a good salesperson.

GP Hughes