Shop local … with local media!

The following editorial piece can be used along with our house ad campaign designed to support your local economy. Check out all the industry campaigns by clicking here.  This piece was written by Tim Shoults, VP, Content and Audience Development with Glacier Media, which publishes community newspapers and websites across Western Canada. Members are granted permission to run this piece with credit or to use for inspiration. Download a zip file including Tim’s photo by clicking here.

You’ve probably seen this message more than once on your Facebook feed in the past few months:  “When you buy from a small business, you’re not helping a CEO buy a third holiday home. You’re helping a little girl get dance lessons, a little boy his team jersey, moms and dads put food on the table.”

Or this one: “Amazon doesn’t sponsor your kid’s ball team!”

I couldn’t agree more with those messages. It’s one of the few silver linings from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nothing can make the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives around the world, or the economic disruption that has impacted hundreds of millions, worth it. But it is comforting to know that this crisis has reinforced our awareness of the need to support our local communities, in a world that has become increasingly global and digital.

But I can’t help but feel a twinge of irony when I consider where I’m reading them – on Facebook. You know, that little local company out of Menlo Park, California that brought in $70 billion USD in revenue and $18.5 billion USD in profit last year.

Meanwhile, local media outlets – local businesses who have been working, living in, and supporting the communities they serve for decades or even centuries – find themselves still out in the cold when it comes to local advertising.

Local media outlets have long had a conflicted relationship with Facebook. I get to see the web stats for more than 60 community news media sites as part of my job, from tiny little sites in communities of less than a thousand people to major metropolitan markets like Vancouver and everything in between.

The amount of traffic that those sites get from Facebook is remarkably consistent, site by site and month by month – around a third of all visits. It’s a substantial part of most news sites’ audience.

But that traffic just simply isn’t enough to make money from that audience at an individual site level – and Facebook, by stacking thousands of those communities together, can.

Don’t get me wrong: Facebook is an incredibly powerful force for building community, especially right now during the COVID crisis.

But in the same way that Amazon doesn’t sponsor your kid’s ball team, Facebook doesn’t employ local journalists and the dozens of related support staff that your local media outlet does. It doesn’t sponsor community non-profit groups and events with hundreds of thousands of dollars in free advertising every year.

It’s going to take a conscious effort for local readers and local advertisers to include their local media outlets in their marketing plans if they want them to still be here to perform those essential community services.

So when you’re sending your “Shop Local” message out to the community during this time, please remember to practice what you preach, and shop local – with local media.

Tim Shoults is Vice-President, Content and Audience Development with Glacier Media, which publishes community newspapers and websites across Western Canada.