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Topix CEO Chris Tolles has a well-reasoned piece in iMedia Connection. He writes that media usage and ad dollars are quickly moving online (which we know), but local content and ads aren’t moving as fast as comparative national metrics.

But we’re starting to see a shift in attitudes and understanding of the local opportunity among national advertisers correlated with better location awareness, mobile standards and an online video explosion. So as this shift accelerates at the local level, where are all the offline ad dollars going to go?

Tolles argues that the Internet has devalued local newspapers that have a few daily local stories filled out with national stories. With those national stories commoditized by the easy access to every paper in the country, everyone but major metros is only left with readership for, and value around, those few unique local stories.

This was a similar theme that the L.A. Times’ Rob Barrett communicated from the stage during TKG’s Drilling Down on Local conference in April. The message: Pump up that unique local content and package it in an appealing online product — that’s where the value is.

Back to Tolles’ point, this devaluation of newspaper content has also caused a dearth of go-to online sources for news in the 20,000 towns in America. So users have begun flock to other sources of local content such as hyperlocal sites like Topix,, et al. Topix has numbers to show for it, with a stark ramp-up in community-driven content over the past year (lots of those numbers in a past post).

If this trend proves true in the long run, the question is whether the advertisers will follow — especially national or brand advertisers increasingly looking to target locally and do so in an online venue where readers are flocking. This goes back to the question above: Where are all those offline ad dollars going to go (and when)?

A lot will go to the usual suspects in local media such as Google and the Yellow Pages, argues Tolles, but we could see a good portion move toward display ads targeted at the hyperlocal level. A considerable portion will also go to online video that is targeted locally.

Watch mobile too. Given the mobile device’s ability to connect the online and offline worlds with presence at the point of purchase, expect a big chunk of brand marketing to move into mobile local advertising that is more directional in nature. We’re already seeing early signs.

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