Northcliffe Will Try Online Info As Sticking Plaster Over Local Classifieds

Regional papers’ core classifieds income stream is in ongoing decline, and compounded by the state of national finances – so DMGT says its Northcliffe UK regional publisher will tap its LocalPeople hyperlocal network to try uncovering a hidden tranche of advertisers online..

“Until we see recovery in the job market, it’s going to be tough (for Northcliffe) to move decisively in to positive territory frankly,” CEO Martin Morgan told investment analysts Thursday morning.

“We’re trying to give ourselves a good shot at capturing local information markets. We need to provide more response to advertisers who have been priced out of the regional press.”

DMGT last year launched LocalPeople, a new hyperlocal network, not linked to newspapers or their ThisIs companion sites, each of which is contributed to by local residents, curated by a freelance community publisher and commercialised by one ad salesperson per four to six sites selling small ads to local businesses. It’s planning to double the number of network sites to 200 in 2011.

“We’re going to be taking the technology platform we’ve built (for LocalPeople) and merging it with the ThisIs sites,” Morgan told analysts. “So local people can concentrate on finding a garage, finding a plumber in such a way that provides a long tail of local advertisers – people who aren’t advertising in the local press, we think we can get them in.

“News has its place but news alone is not going to produce that flow through to looking at ads. Investment is going to go heavily in to local information content.”

Northcliffe Media’s digital income up 13 percent to £17 million in the last year. But circulation income dipped six percent and, across the categories, Northcliffe revenue dipped by a tenth to £294 million in what it said was “weak advertising market”.

“Recent (government) Budget cut announcements have, as expected, had a heavy impact on our private and public sector recruitment spend,” according to DMGT’s annual earnings report, which forecasts Northcliffe “facing another tough year” – today, ad sales are still down from last year and Q1 is not likely to show improvement.

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