Since its origin as an exclusively online newspaper drawing together the work of dozens of community blogs and contributors, The Sacramento Press has since diversified well beyond its pure publisher roots, complementing its core with a local advertising network, a daily deals platform and an emerging social media consulting practice. As a result, cofounders Ben Ilfeld and Geoff Samek are rebranding the company as Macer Media (“macer” is Latin for “lean”). Ilfeld told BIA/Kelsey that it is a natural “evolutionary step” as Macer takes on the broader challenge of “building tools to support local and hyperlocal media ecosystems.”
The Sacramento Press, the Sacramento Local Online Ad Network (SLOAN), Deal Ticket and social media services will all keep their current names, but will lump together under the Macer Media umbrella. Macer also unveiled formal plans to scale the SLOAN concept to the Bay Area in an initiative it is calling BAPP (Bay Area Publisher Partnership).
Ilfeld said the outgrowth of BAPP is a natural complement to SLOAN that allows the organization to expand its sales force to focus on “regional plays” with larger advertisers and agencies. Though an official number was not given, Ilfeld confirmed that more than 10 local publishers are partnering with BAPP from the outset. His ultimate goal is to “scale across California, region by region.”
SLOAN debuted at the beginning of 2010. Ilfeld noted that it is not yet profitable, but he is buoyed by the fact that the network is beginning to roll up larger campaigns ($2,000 to $4,000 per month) and attract a higher grade of advertiser (regional autos, grocery franchises and the NBA’s Sacramento Kings). SLOAN partners with vertical ad network platform Adify to supply a back-end system that allows for multiple levels of ad targeting (ZIP code, keyword, demo) and enables particular blog partners to opt in or out of particular campaigns.
A new wrinkle to SLOAN, introduced in August, is Deal Ticket, which is Macer Media’s iteration of the booming deal-a-day concept. San Diego-based Deal Current provides the white label for a simple widget to be implemented across network sites. Ilfeld and his team report 3,468 deal sales from more than 60 merchants since launch. The greatest successes have occurred with smaller businesses. In fact, he stressed that Deal Ticket is often offered up as an entry-level product for SMBs. They can then move upstream to sponsorships or other ad products in Macer’s portfolio.
The fastest growing arm of the business, however, is Macer’s consultative social media practice, which conspires with both SMBs and regional agencies to help brands build, tighten and burnish their social presence. With agencies, the work is often more specialized (tweaking existing social assets or running one piece of a multifaceted campaign). Macer CFO Anil Sinha shared that October social media revenues were $14,452, almost 24 percent higher than all of the second quarter (see the graph below for a comparison of advertising sales on The Sacramento Press with non-advertising revenues from social media, Deal Ticket, SLOAN, etc.).
The notion of a media company repurposing itself from publisher to all-purpose advertising and services provider is nothing new. Canada’s Yellow Pages Group recently acquired a number of side businesses to unveil a digital advertising and marketing unit. However, the notion of a local, nontraditional publisher expanding and scaling as Macer Media has charts a path for similar community start-ups to follow.