Indies making a start with social media / ad service combo


It’s not a stampede but it’s a promising start.

At minimum two independent online newsrooms — Oakland Local and The Sacramento Press — are successfully integrating online advertising with sales of social media services.

That’s something not even Alan Mutter, writer of Newsosaur, knew for sure, as he said in a reply to my email.

Sorry but I can’t say I know of an indy publisher who is selling social media solutions, though I expect some do.

“We will work with the advertiser and use a team that is separate from the reporting staff to help advertisers use their Facebook and Twitter and understand how to use it to market,” said Susan Mernit, founder of Oakland Local, a news and community hub for Oakland, CA . She said in one example, Oakland Local is working with a café to help them market an event they are doing for food bloggers.

The social media service is priced between $45 and $125 per hour and is only available to existing advertisers, Mernit said.

Mernit said Oakland Local has been offering the service for about 10 months and they’ve really ramped it up during the past four months.

“We really see it as an add-on to other kinds of advertising,” Mernit said. “Of maybe 15 or 16 current monthly advertisers we have on Oakland Local, we have done it with 5 of them.”

She said the service has been most effective for promoting events with organizations that are highly engaged with Oakland Local and share affinity with their mission.

Over the past 12 months,  Oakland Local has had nearly 1.2 million unique visitors . Business is brisk enough, that just last week the site hired a director of business development

Center state at the The Sacramento [CA.] Press, two full time and one part time employee work at inhouse boutique Agency M delivering social media services to local businesses as part of a media sell. You can see the media kit here.

The Sacramento Press sold $117,450 in social media packages in 2011, demonstrating a 9.6% growth over 2010 sales, said Ben Ilfeld, founder and COO. “It represents a little under a third of our revenue over the year. “

Ilfeld said the site saw a 31% increase in straight-up advertising, while its daily coupon, Deal Ticket, fell by 12%. Still the site had an overall revenue uptick of 16% in 2011.   These numbers add up to growth for 2011, but not as much as in 2010, he said.

The social media program started small with one smart part-timer, and a set of incrementally  increasing benchmarks for numbers of clients. It was expected that three clients at, say,  $500 apiece would grow over time.

“We said, “If we can get six, we’ll hire you [social media manager] full time. If we can bring in 12 or more advertisers, we’ll hire an additional person,” Ilfeld said.

Ilfeld said that the Sacramento Press works regularly with business organizations and will sometimes barter with them, trading a month’s work of social media services for sponsorship and access to an event. Occasionally, a local chamber will buy an advertising package and change the businesses displayed on a rotating basis.

If you have a social media and advertising success story to share, send me an email at sallyduros at or track me down on Twitter @SaDuros.

Sally Duros is a social journalist working toward the next generation of successful, credible online newsrooms. Connect with her on  and on twitter at saduros..

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1 Response to Indies making a start with social media / ad service combo

  1. Anca Mosoiu says:

    I’m one of Oakland Local’s advertisers. One of the reasons I like working with them is that they are very flexible in terms of how they run my ads. For example, I can schedule an ad to run for a week – whereas, with the other online news sources, only monthly packages are available.

    The added training in social media means businesses that advertise in the paper get to meet each other, thus developing community connections.

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