Light at the end of the sales tunnel

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Heavy industry is what built Youngstown, Ohio. That's evident at this Mahoning Valley city's Historical Center of Industry and Labor, where steel's contribution is documented in a current exhibit, By the Sweat of Their Brow: Forging the Steel Valley. But Youngstown has moved on.

Now, while the city still is home to manufacturing (the Chevrolet Cavalier plant in nearby Lordstown employs 5,000 to 6,000 people), it's much more than that. According to John Grdic, GM of WFMJ-TV, "there is a lot of economic diversification, with a lot of different businesses. Our suburbs are growing, and that's where the thrust of our new business seems to be coming from. Also growing is new housing. A lot of people who work in Cleveland and Pittsburgh build homes here because they are less expensive." (Cleveland is about 70 miles away, and Pittsburgh is about 60.)

As in much of the country, the beginning of 2001 was tough on the city's four commercial TV stations. Advertising, says Vince Nelson, VP/GM of WYTV, "particularly national, has been down considerably from last year. Of course, last year, we had the benefit of political advertising, particularly in the first quarter, that we did not have this year." But things are looking up, he adds: "We are seeing more local advertising, particularly automotive. In December, January and February, automotive sales were off from the same time the year prior. We've been trying to work with several of the principal dealers in the market," and the station has found that the dealers' "March numbers indicated a kind of resurgence, almost equivalent to March a year ago. That's a good sign."

To open up new selling opportunities, WYTV is offering plans "that enable local advertisers to tie into the consumer, either with sponsorships or with interactive e-mail programs," says Nelson. In addition, WYTV has "just rolled out dual TV/Web-site buys in the last couple weeks." Nelson sees this as allowing his station to "bring more to an advertiser in terms of value and multimedia. We think that's the wave of the future."