DSB 2010: Colleen Brown: The Nickels Are Adding Up

Colleen Brown, president and CEO of Fisher Communications, keynoted morning sessions at DSB 2010, arguing for a warmer embrace of new technologies that can unlock traditional TV broadcasters’ core strengths.

“Broadcasters have so many inherent strengths. In the barrage of coverage we receive, sometimes we forget those things,” she said, citing content, brand recognition and intimate knowledge of local communities as examples. “We need to embrace technology to make sure those opportunities come to full fruition, and to diversify revenue streams.”

One example playing out at Fisher is a series of community sites. This started with 2007’s acquisition of Pegasus News (see past writeup), and has since evolved into a network of about 125 sites. These include user-generated content and 24-hour news reporters armed with iPhones for contributing timely (though rough) copy and images.

“We’re rediscovering the long tail of content and making it searchable,” she said. “As the ecosystem of news is becoming more vibrant, we’re providing UGC, local news reporting and historical content. It’s becoming the key currency to drive traffic to local advertisers.”

This opens a door for lots of local advertisers that previously didn’t have the resources to advertise on traditional television and radio, she argued. For Fisher, this has played out to the tune of 1,500 new local advertisers, which can be sold by a combination of traditional sales channels as well as new telesales for lower margin ad buys.

“As an organization, we need to be able to sell everything from a $60,000 television spot to a $35 directory listing. It’s OK to roll up nickels. they’re adding up,” she says. If a Web site brings in $2,000 per month, that’s not a lot in our business. But if you multiply times 150 sites and 12 months, that’s over $3 million.”

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