Belo Bullish on Double-Digit Digital Growth

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Belo Corp. sees at least several more years of double-digit growth ahead led by digital advertising services and mobile and video prospects, the company’s VP of digital said.

Belo’s Joe Weir said the company is surging ahead on multiple digital fronts, including the formation of a new digital advertising services company initially targeted at non-Belo markets and the recasting of its deals program, Yollar, into a deals mall in some markets.

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In an exclusive interview with NetNewsCheck, Weir discussed the challenges of producing enough video content for high sales demand, the company’s confidence in continuing digital revenue growth and the transition of all of Belo’s websites to responsive design in 2013.

An edited transcript:

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Belo moved into the digital advertising services business with ScreenShot Digital last week. An interesting facet of that move is that you initially won’t focus on offering the services in any of your existing 15 markets. What was the thinking there?

We have enacted in a smaller piece some of the things that we’re doing on the ScreenShot Digital side that are folding into our current 15 markets. So we are doing some of the same things. ScreenShot Digital really will be the play for us going about digital in a different fashion from day one. But our traditional business, what I call our dot com business, is following suit pretty quickly.

How does the ScreenShot Digital initiative jibe with your recently formed relationship with DataSphere Technologies to offer hyperlocal sites in your TV markets targeted at SMB advertisers?

Absolutely nothing to do with it. They are two different initiatives. The DataSphere partnership is an opportunity for us that we saw to implement a telesales group — a call center selling group — to small- to medium-sized businesses that we won’t have as much contact with in all of our markets when we send out our local sales force. The DataSphere partnership is really selling hyperlocal solutions to SMBs where their advertising will run on Belo core station websites.

ScreenShot Digital is an effort where we go out and work with either regional or larger local clients in non-Belo markets at first. We say non-Belo markets because when you look at what we’re doing with ScreenShot Digital and our dot com sales group, they’re following suit with some of the same unique technology, metrics and analytics that we’re looking at. For us, ScreenShot was really an opportunity to deploy this so that Belo can cover the entire United States.

You’re certainly diversifying your revenue streams. What’s underlying that?

Every single day, we get more and more information about the growth of display advertising and the growth of digital. There are certain segments underneath that — display, mobile, video, social — it’s still continuing massive growth within the digital space that will really lead to double digit growth rates for the next three to four years.

The SMB-targeted digital marketing business has been getting very crowded of late with newspapers also jumping in. What are your revenue expectations in the space for next year?

We’re very optimistic about our revenue because we think the type of products and platform and the type of analytics that we’re putting out within ScreenShot Digital are different than what you’re seeing in other initiatives. Many other media groups at this point are starting their own digital initiatives, but most of them are really focusing on the SMB play, and a lot of them have done it in a partnership with Hearst.

That’s not what ScreenShot Digital is, by any means. It will really focus on clients that are much larger and that are primarily already spending in digital. We think some of the analytics, the platform that we’ve built and the technology behind it, as well as the data that we’re bringing into the products suite, are really unique compared to what some of the other businesses and media companies have brought to light so far.

What’s the state of your deals product, Yollar? Last year, you told attendees at BIA/Kelsey’s ILM West conference that the quality of deals will keep that market alive.

Obviously the entire deals space is in a constant state of transition. The space is incredibly crowded, that’s why I said the thing that will keep this platform going is quality. Many times when you get into a really crowded space, quality becomes diversified.

We still have Yollar as the backbone of our daily deal program. For some of our markets, Yollar as a brand has also transitioned into a different play — a mall-type center for deals. So instead of running out daily deals, we’re giving those deals a longer shelf life. We’re also capping the number of deals that we might put out to the market and trying to create a little more exclusivity with that deal.

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