Translating news content between TV and the Web is a challenge, but making significant money from the banner ads surrounding that content is a complete conundrum for most local stations.
A few stations are trying something a little different: operating a separate but related Website where the advertising is the content. This is the approach promoted by Local Thunder of Portland, Maine, a firm that helps TV stations establish their own shopping portals.
KWCH in Witchita, Kansas, has worked with Local Thunder to establish its Kansas Shopper Website at ksshopper.com, which it cross-promotes with kwch.com and its sports Website catchitkansas.com. "The biggest thing it did for us is give us something to talk about besides banner ads," said Tim VanderZwaag, National/Interactive Sales Manager for KWCH and sister station KSCW.
At the same time that the station is trying to establish Kansas Shopper as a local brand and drive traffic to its Website, links back to the station Website are also prominently featured on the shopping site.
"Through the sales effort, you're generating traffic for the Website, and that means maybe more people will see the news, more people will watch the news – that's why we drive everything through our main site," VanderZwaag said.
New Vision Television's jointly operated Georgia stations, ABC affiliate WJCL 22 and Fox affiliate WTGS 28, are preparing to launch a shopping and advertising site at thecoastalmall.com to go with their shared news Website at thecoastalsource.com, according to General Manager Lynn Fairbanks.
"Obviously, the news part of it will always be a big draw," Fairbanks said of the Web operation, but the shopping site gives the stations a way of broadening their Web offering and reaching out to small business advertisers who may not have a Website of their own. "The future of the local TV business is really those local advertisers," he said.
Besides providing the technical resources to operate the shopping Websites, Local Thunder has copywriters and graphic artists on staff to help small businesses who need help producing marketing content for the Web. "If you tell the guy at the local muffler shop, 'Send me some content,' he may give you his business card, if he has one," said Jim Boutin, Local Thunder’s CEO. Advertisers who have their own Websites can use their page on the shopping Website for specific promotions, and then still link to their own sites, he said.
"We're not saying, 'Don't sell banner ads on the content site,' but this gives stations a separately branded Website that's all about advertising" Boutin said. "There's value to local advertising in the marketplace – that's why people pull that clump of ads out of the Sunday paper and read it."