Nothing “local” about the Yahoo! Consortium

What’s good for Yahoo isn’t necessarily good for the newspaper consortium, and so I read with interest the press release from Yahoo touting the milestone of driving “100 million visits to consortium member web sites.” This milestone, while seemingly significant, is a net positive only in the sense that Yahoo can move pure eyeballs to the newspaper sites, but the point of local media is to garner LOCAL eyeballs.

IBS has had a distribution arrangement with Yahoo for years for local news created by its partners, and Yahoo has similarly been able to deliver visits from outside the markets these stations serve. The GM of one large market station — an IBS client — once told me that during a month when there was a major news event in his market, 70% of the traffic to his site came from outside the market. “I can’t sell that to local advertisers,” he said.

So while this consortium of newspapers and Yahoo pat each other on the back, I simply ask, “What’s the strategy here?” Inevitably, it’s an archaic pageview strategy that suits the network and Yahoo in terms of national and perhaps regional sales, but it’s a net liability for any of the members’ local media efforts. I’d be a fool to turn away national ad dollars, but my concern here is the extent to which this lulls the staff into thinking they’re actually doing anything. Moreover, the inventory crunch is significant, and one that demands more, more, more in terms of page views.

Since the beginning of this, I’ve been on the record as saying the consortium benefits Yahoo far more than it does the members. Now that the first year glow of HotJobs has worn off, I wonder if others will begin seeing it the same way.

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