Powering local and regional publishing


Even in a globally connected world, people naturally seek to deepen their connections with the community immediately around them. Throughout all the turmoil of recent years in the media business, local publishing has remained resilient compared to other segments of the newspaper business because the local information that is gathered and presented by quality local newspapers is credible, relevant, and not available from other sources. This has enabled local publishers to remain profitable by continuing to attract unique local advertising and charging for their content.

The viability and attractiveness of local publishing is exemplified by the 2012 $344m investment of Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway group in 28 local community newspapers in the US:

Newspapers continue to reign supreme, however, in the delivery of local news. If you want to know what’s going on in your town – whether the news is about the mayor or taxes or high school football – there is no substitute for a local newspaper that is doing its job…..[ ]. A reader’s eyes may glaze over after they take in a couple of paragraphs about political developments in Pakistan; a story about the reader himself or his neighbors will be read to the end. Wherever there is a pervasive sense of community, a paper that serves the special informational needs of that community will remain indispensable to a significant portion of its residents.

(Warren Buffet, Berkshire Hathaway Annual Report 2012)

But while local newspapers across the world have bucked the trend of declining circulation that has afflicted national newspapers, the local segment has also reached a crucial tipping point. The consideration is no longer whether or not to “go digital”, but how to implement it effectively and profitably with limited resources. Local publishers understand that they need to act now to retain the relevance of their brands as the go-to source for local community information, yet they fear cannibalizing their still-profitable print operations, and are not in a position to carry the extra costs and disruption of creating digital content.

The Opportunity

  • High-quality sustainable local journalism matters.
  • The revenue of local and regional newspapers, while stable relative to the newspaper industry as a whole, has limited growth potential for each individual title. As a result, local and regional publishing houses must find new revenue streams.
  • Local and regional publishers lack the human and financial resources to make the technology investments necessary to compete efficiently in tech-based media. Being small by definition, local publishers cannot individually compete with the operational efficiencies of larger titles. As a result, they need to collaborate in some form of networked collaboration.
  • There are over 160 local and regional titles in Switzerland, and thousands more across Europe.
  • The scale and strength of local media in Switzerland makes it an ideal starting point to prove new principles of local media that may be applied in other markets.
  • Technology can close the gap between local and national. While much innovation has been undertaken with national newspapers, digital innovation in the local segment is a till-now untapped market.

About the Company

Consenda AG is the leading provider of IT, advertising and online publishing services for local and regional newspapers in Switzerland.

It operates a well-established platform called LocalPoint, which brings together 30 newspapers onto a common technology platform. Titles in the LocalPoint network range in readership from small bi-weeklies with 10'000 readers to larger regional dailies with readership exceeding 300'000. Together these titles create a nationwide network, which opens possibilities to jointly offer new services in publishing and advertising.

The LocalPoint Network aggregates the readership of 30 local and regional titles in Switzerland.

The combined reach of 1 million readers (WEMF, March 2017) makes LocalPoint the largest newspaper platform in Switzerland, reaching 25% of Swiss households.

About the Product

Consenda’s mission is to help local and regional newspapers with transition from print to digital by endorsing the very latest technology and business innovation alongside strategic and financial leadership.

However Consenda is not a mere provider of technology. The Company uses technology as a means to directly create new revenue streams for its customers. For several years the LocalPoint platform has been generating significant additional revenues for local publishers through a system that automatically “reads” and re-processes local print advertisements from the PDF versions of the newspaper in order to re-purpose such advertising for digital channels. Using principles of machine learning, LocalPoint Fusion recognizes advertising from the printed page, enriches such ads with automatically extracted data (eg dates, URLs, email addresses, phone numbers, map locations), and then re-publishes them on various digital channels operated by the newspaper, including web, mobile, tablet, and out-of-home TV:

The console of the LocalPoint Fusion extraction system that underpins LocalPoint.

Using machine learning LocalPoint Fusion automatically extracts and enriches advertising from the PDF editions of local and regional newspapers for display in digital channels.

This back-office workflow is invaluable to local publishers as most do not create or store local print advertisements in a structured form that is usable in digital channels. The workflow is accompanied by a simple and effective business model that sees publishers applying automated surcharges of around 10% for the additional online display of advertisements. Consenda charges local publishers a fee for the local advertisements that are processed from print and re-distributed to digital. This process has been well-established over the past 5 years, and is now deeply integrated into workflows and revenue streams of the local titles that use this service:

30 local and regional newspapers across Switzerland have increased revenue by up to 15% as a result of using LocalPoint Fusion extraction services.

For local publishers who are less far along in their digital journey, Consenda also builds and operates the necessary news and advertising distribution channels, including websites, mobile apps, tablet apps, and out-of-home TV, all powered by a proprietary CMS with integrated subscription management. In 2017, the functionality of the LocalPoint processing engine was extended to “read the news” as well as the ads, thereby making it possible to operate websites that are automatically generated through LocalPoint Fusion, and which therefore require no additional operating overhead for the newspaper. In this way editorial teams of local newspapers using LocalPoint are able to focus 100% of their resources on their core business of reporting local news and selling advertising.

In 2017 LocalPoint Fusion has been extended to also read editorial content, with articles automatically extracted from the PDF to the LocalPoint CMS for re-distribution to desktop web, mobile web, as well as smartphone and tablet apps.

Through the payment of recurring license and hosting fees to Consenda, even the smallest of local publishers can take advantage of LocalPoint’s sophisticated back-end infrastructure and effortlessly fuse digital publishing into their print workflows with minimum impact on the daily operations of their newsrooms.

Thanks to the foundation created by LocalPoint processing, Consenda’s relationships with local publishers are operationally efficient and profitable from day one. As a result of the trust built up with these publishers, Consenda now enjoys a unique mandate for further innovation in the local media sector.

Looking Ahead

Future growth for LocalPoint shall come from applying the lessons learned in Switzerland to create backoffice services for media segments in other European markets, including local publishing and special interest magazines.

Furthermore in 2017, Consenda reached an important milestone with the readership of LocalPoint titles in Switzerland surpassing the 1 million mark. As a result, the Company has also begun the development of future plans to turn LocalPoint into a national advertising network.

National advertisers consider local audiences valuable, but very expensive and difficult to reach. The overhead of dealing with multiple local titles is simply too high relative to the size of each individual audience. National advertising budgets are therefore almost exclusively steered towards larger titles, leaving local newspapers only able to attract advertising from their local markets.

To overcome this gap Consenda is planning the LocalPoint Advertising Network (LAN). LAN shall offer national advertisers direct access to regional markets, creating a single-point of access to regional advertising opportunities via a centralized programmatic trading platform that combines print and digital in multiple local titles. By making it possible and attractive to deliver national advertising campaigns into local publications, LAN is expected to give local publishers unpredecented access to national media budgets, so-called "new, new revenue".