Belo decentralizes its Web business

In a smart, smart move, the profitable Belo Interactive is being dismantled with most of its functions picked up at the local level. Mark Glaser has the details in a fascinating article in the Online Journalism Review.

“The major reasons for doing this [reorganization] were to maximize revenue growth of the local sites and to stimulate innovation in the company’s important classified verticals (especially recruitment, real estate and automotive),” (Wesley Jackson, vice president and general manager of Belo’s interactive operations) said via e-mail. “Local sites will now be managed by local editors and sales managers, rather than by BI managers in Dallas. We expect that with more local involvement, the Web sites will become richer in content and at the same time become a more tightly integrated part of the local sales strategy of our stations and papers.”
As Mark explains, the real issue is that the only way to compete with the likes of the Monster.coms and Googles of the world is at the local level. I can’t tell you how important this is for local media companies to recognize.

Belo Interactive has pioneered making money through the Internet, but it’s all been done from a distance. Local sales people need to be selling local sites. Why? Because local advertisers don’t have a clue about Internet advertising, much less the ability to create impressionable online ads. That’s the role of the local media company, but as long as the Web properties are seen as detached, these important steps in the growth of local online advertising simply won’t take place.

I congratulate Belo for recognizing this important truth.

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