Content Matters: Part 2, Telling the Main Street Story

11 Sep Content Matters: Part 2, Telling the Main Street Story


Courtesy of

Daily deals, contests and Reader’s Choice awards all have their place in the online promotional mix, but most of us were not attracted to the local media business in order to channel our inner Monty Halls. Most of us chose careers in media because we want to do some good during our short time on this planet.

Yesterday I wrote about three ways content can be used to fuel growth in the digital age. Here are three more suggestions:

People Need People: We can’t just keep walking into our auto dealers and furniture stores saying, “What do you have for me this week?” and expect business to grow. Truth is, there are fewer auto dealers and furniture stores that can buy big ads these days. We need to find new sources of revenue.

Every business is a reflection of the people who make up that business. This is especially true of small businesses on Main Street in mainstream America. Every small business owner has a story, a story that is often interesting and rarely told.

The Herald-Palladium in Benton Harbor, Mich., where I have a getaway house, used to run a weekly feature on a local small business owner — the flag maker who’s physically disabled, the former Lions football trainer who opened a gym, the new restaurant owner who also happens to be the daughter of the founder of Calphalon cookware. These profiles were often fascinating and ran whether or not the subjects advertised with the paper. I haven’t a clue why the paper dropped this feature, but it was a mistake.

Small advertisers who cannot afford to buy a full-page ad, like the auto dealers or department stores, used to be the backbone of newspaper advertising. The big box stores don’t support us. The Mom and Pops on Main Street need our help.

Tell their stories. Create new ways online for them to tell their own stories. It helps your community. It supports your small businesses. And when these businesses need to advertise, where will they logically turn?

Helping Moms and Pops, Part 2: American Express declared November 30 this year Small Business Saturday. Do your bit to tie in!

To do our part, Content That Works introduced The Guide to Shopping Local, our take on the Holiday Gift Guide for 2013 today. For the first time this year, we are also offering “Local Spotlights” that profile your retailers as an optional addition to the holiday content service from CTW.

Whether you use our content or do something on your own, your retailers need your help this year more than ever! Give them a place to show off in print and online.

Facebook Is Your Friend: Speaking of American Express’ Small Business Saturday, if you have not visited the official Facebook page, you should go there now. Note how they invite small businesses to post their stories and encourage interactions. These are ideas that you can put to use locally in your own version of a Facebook page for small businesses in your community or for the holiday gift-giving season.

Facebook is content, too.Does it take time and effort to utilize it? Yes. However, producing a specific page for your content vertical is not a full-time job as long as you have content to post to the page.

Working with customers all over the country, our social media guru Meredith Guetig is proving that Facebook pages dedicated to content verticals can engage young people, drive traffic to your site and help promote your advertisers. In fact, some clients have found they can effectively use Facebook to run their own contests, creating market excitement and awareness of content verticals without investing in expensive outside services.

Looking at the upcoming agendas for the various industry trade events this fall, there is a wealth of ideas about how to make more money online — all of which are important and welcome. I realize all of these associations assume their members are conducting real community service as a given. However, the dismaying dearth of discussion about how journalism, storytelling and community reporting will lead us into profitability for the digital years ahead is troubling, if not downright dangerous.