D&C Publisher''s Letter

Ali Zoibi, the publisher of the Democrat & Chronicle, has an item in today's edition describing the cuts and challenges facing the D&C.

It contains this ominous line:

Look to this page tomorrow for more information on the impact of these cuts on the opinion section.

Reading between the lines, the 680 headcount that is used for the D&C is apparently total Gannett headcount in Rochester. In other words, the Insider, Conxion, MetroMix, HerRochester, RocMen, RocPets and all the other ancillary publications are part of that count.

Zoibi is also proud of the 87% "reach" of Gannett publications in the area. That means that 87 of 100 Rochesterians look at some Gannett publication online or in print at least once per week. While impressive, the number is meaningless unless Gannett is making money from that reach.

Take a look at the front pages of most of Gannett's online publications, and you'll find that much of the space is occupied by cross-promotion of other Gannett publications. Also in the mix are some local ads, yet Gannett often features national ads that are completely irrelevant to the section content, and a lot of the ad load today was charitable ads. After a decade on the Internet, Gannett's online local ad inventory is still poorly stocked, and that they haven't figured out how to target advertising on different pages.

Gannett has also built uses "Pulse 360", which is an attempt to replicate Google text ads. Google allows advertisers to purchase ads that are pushed to specific types of sites or matched to different search keywords. Google makes big money when it pushes an ad relevant to what the user is searching for, because it's only then that a user will bother to look at the ads on a page. Google also has low overhead because the advertiser uses a self-service web page to enter and purchase the ad.

Judging from the Pulse360 ads pushed on the D&C today, either Gannett has few advertisers in Pulse360 or they're unable to correlate the Pulse360 ad with the content of the page. On sports, I see the usual generic Internet junk: "teeth whitening", "lose 20 pounds in 2 weeks - no diets", and "Laser back surgery alternative".

Gannett can have 100% of our eyeballs every day but, like the rest of the newspaper industry, they're just burning electrons if they don't figure out how to deliver relevant, useful ads to their readers.

Update: Pulse 360 is not a Gannett operation. They have a major deal with Gannett, but they're an independent company. Sorry for the confusion.


Point of clarity - Pulse 360 is a sponsored links ad network owned by Seevast. Pulse 360 sponsored links are found on many of the web's top sites including MSNBC, USA TODAY, NASCAR.com, Gannett Digital, CBS TV, Comcast.net and many more.

Local news poses a special challenge for relevancy - the car crash at the corner of Main and Elm Streets might see car insurance or auto repair as relevancy - yet none of the readers need that product. Instead, our ads are mapped to partner publisher pages based on numerous factors including audience demographics, geography and page relevancy. Search is very different than content pages when it comes to relevancy.

The Pulse 360 approach is radically different than Google or Yahoo and has been yielding great results for both marketers and publishers for years.

Jaan Janes

Sorry for the confusion on ownership.

I realize that you're tackling a hard problem, but the fact remains that teeth whitening ads buried near the bottom of the sports page are not going to make up for Gannett's lost print ad revenue. But I think that's more of a reflection on Gannett than it is on Pulse360.

Pulse360 is yet to prove users the real deal in earning for themselves, like Google's Adsense. Although I must admit, Adsense is not any better. Also, there's the omnipresent spam issues.