For many local newspapers, social media — namely Facebook — plays a major role. However, the social media giant is continually changing its algorithms — often to the disadvantage of local advertisers — and controlling which businesses its users see.This has made it increasingly difficult for newspapers and their advertisers to reap all the potential benefits from the platform.

Straus News, which publishes 17 local weekly newspapers in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, recently decided it was time to do something to enable advertisers to gain better market share and visibility on Facebook.

To accomplish that goal, the publisher launched its ShopLocal program in partnership with Innocode.

Extending advertisers’ reach

“We were looking for ways to jump on the Facebook bandwagon and help our advertisers extend their reach,” Jeanne Straus, CEO of Straus News, told News & Tech. “As Facebook has changed its algorithms to businesses’ disadvantage, we thought Innocode could help.”

Established in 2011 in Norway, Innocode provides digital products aimed at helping newspapers secure their positions as community hubs and develop new sources of revenue through social media.

Straus said she first discovered Innocode and the Local Offers product that underpins the publisher’s ShopLocal program at an annual National Newspaper Association convention. Local Offers provides subscription-based access to a hub of local deals and offers, and allows advertisers to control which ads are shown in a newspaper.The tool is essentially a widget that makes it easy for local advertisers to add and aggregate their own social media content.

The widget is a subscription service that newspapers can sell to local stores. When the advertiser posts something on Facebook using the local newspaper hashtag, it is automatically added to the widget.

“Now, when people show up in a store, they have seen the retailers products in the local media,” Innocode partner Morten Holst told N&T. “Then that post will have much better distribution than it would as a standard Facebook post.”

Advertisers can also monitor performance on a weekly basis and change offers on the fly.

“We want to help local newspapers deliver the local information needs and secure that position as the digital information hub and the glue that people miss in the local community,” Holst said. “That led to different services, and Local Offers is one of those.”

Better photos attract views

Straus’ ShopLocal is the equivalent of standalone photos on Face-book, so the better the photo, the better the response.

“Good and intriguing pictures always perform better on Facebook,” Straus said. “So a great dress or someone throwing a hatchet is going to get a response.”

Straus said her newspapers take the analytics piece a step further. Rather than advertisers deciphering that information on their own, someone from the newspaper advertising staff walks them through the data in an effort to make it more meaningful and actionable.

Local Offers has enabled Straus News to go to market with something for advertisers that are heavy Facebook users and looking to expand their local reach. The publisher offers its advertisers subscription durations of three to six months.

“They did a lot of training and helped us with best practices,” she added. “We now have a number of clients using ShopLocal on a regular basis.”

Straus believes the Innocode product is another tool in the arsenal of hyperlocal newspapers, which she said have distinct advantages over their regional counterparts.

“Publications that are devoted to a town or two have continued to do well because these newspapers play a role in helping to build the community,” she said. “They’re talking about things like where a new traffic light is needed, or how many kindergarten teachers or policemen there will be in a community. These papers that are able to focus on a specific area and what matters to people’s daily lives and to serve them relative advertising will continue to do well.”

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