Fran Wills

The Local Media Consortium puts its focus on delivering return on investment to its members, says CEO Fran Wills. “We are all about delivering quantifiable economic benefit to our members, either through cost savings or increased revenue,” Wills told News & Tech in a chat late last week. LMC offers those things through partnerships with digital technology and service providers, says Wills. “We have 30 partners right now and we've added several new partners this year,” says Wills. 

Is LMC delivering on its vision? The group recently released an impact report with some numbers.  

“This baseline impact report finds that by banding together to leverage scale, in 2020 the LMC delivered an estimated $44 million in benefits to its 100 media members, which comprise nearly 5,000 vital local new outlets across North America and Puerto Rico,” says a release from LMC. “This included more than $13 million in cost savings and nearly $31 million in member partner revenue based on numbers reported by the LMC’s 30 partners. The report also finds that 90% of LMC members realized an annual ROI of 100% or higher compared to their membership dues last year, despite pandemic-related challenges,” says the release.

Through some of the partner programs, “many of the LMC’s members have realized seven-figure results, with some ROI topping 10,000%," says the release.

Top priority

LMC has many initiatives going. When asked what was most prominent on the horizon, “NewsNext and NewsPassID are our top priority,” said Wills.

NewsNext, done in partnership with IAB Tech Lab founder Scott Cunningham, is a collaboration between advertisers and LMC members to explore ways to better connect advertisers and local publishers for programmatic advertising channels, says Wills.

New solution NewsPassID will create a “more sustainable model for journalism” through a B2B advertising network solution and a business-to-consumer (B2C) single-sign-on, says the LMC site. 

NewsPassID allows buyers to access customized segments of aggregated local news publisher advertising inventory through preferred programmatic bidding channels.

A NewsPassID pilot is underway and is seeing initial success, says Wills. More quantifiable results will be available by the end of the year.

“It really addresses first-party data and how to develop a privacy compliant way to better connect publishers and advertisers,” says Wills.

“I don't know how much you've read up on cookies going away and all the disruption that's happening in that digital advertising space. We are working with publishers and brands on how to kind of recreate the programmatic supply chain so that more of the dollars that advertisers and brands spend actually go towards media buys with local publishers and reach the audiences that they're trying to connect with,” says Wills.

As subscription models are prevalent at the moment, “We have a partnership with Admiral, which does a lot of work with some of our smaller publishers around email capture, relationship management and ad blocking,” says Wills.

LMC had a partnership with Piano, which is “in transition,” says Wills. “We're not sure exactly where that will end up, but we are exploring opportunities for our publishers to streamline their consumer tech stack. We are in conversations with CMPs (consent management platforms) and CDPs (customer data platforms) currently to help our publishers with managing their first-party data and the consumer journey as they're interacting with our publisher sites.”

"We're also looking at emerging technology around audio and video platforms and OTT CTV (over-the-top connected TV)," says Wills.

Highest ad revenue

Here are more details on the LMC impact report and LMC’s initiatives.

• Classifieds and obituaries through Legacy/Adpay has delivered the highest ad revenue to LMC members, said the release on the impact report.

• “Google's a very, very important partner that delivers millions of dollars of benefit to our members,” says Wills. Google ad serving delivers the highest expense savings for members, said the report release. Monster and Google’s LMC advertising auction package has been a top revenue generator, says LMC.

• Also among top revenue generators are cross-platform digital advertising through Centro and AdCellerant.

• The Local News Advertising Inclusion List, which LMC put together last year in partnership with Scott Cunningham, was the catalyst for NewsNext. It involved putting the website addresses for all of the LMC members into a spreadsheet for advertisers and agencies to use in their programmatic channels to target local audiences through LMC’s local media members.

• Wills said The Matchup had a successful pilot that saw high click-through rates. “Because so many of our members are really concentrating on consumer revenue, particularly newspapers with their paywall strategies, we decided not to move forward with it at this time.” There may be an opportunity to pursue it again once LMC has more experience with how it might work with paywalls and the consumer experience, says Wills.

• The Branded Content Project has been very successful, says Wills. It's a partnership with Facebook and the Local Media Association to provide branded content services to LMC members.