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The case for advertising in local news

The case for advertising in local news

Sarah Thompson

CSO, Canada


Brand suitability and brand safety are topics that have prevailed in the digital media space since the inception of the Internet as an advertising platform. As such, brand managers have risk-lists of exclusions that they maintain in order to continue to limit the contexts in which their brands appear. But where does your brand want to show up? Where will it give you more dwell time, credibility, and value?

To understand this, we need to think like our audience, not like advertisers. And we need to start thinking locally. Researchers from Newsworks have looked at the context of advertising to understand how involved people are in the content, how emotionally connected they are to what they are reading or watching, and whether something is memorable. Above all, their research showed that brands perform better in premium environments that provide all three levels of involvement.  

And where is the best place to find these things? Locally. Studies of ad context show that editorial media, above all, improves long-term brand health and business results. When you see an ad next to credible news, you are more likely to notice it, remember it, and care about it.  As a result, the best context for an ad is next to a news story that is valuable to the audience. In Canada, as in other countries around the world, you can find that most reliably in local news.

The challenge is that we may soon not have this great, local context for advertising. Over the past decade, Canada has lost almost 250 news publications. Since the pandemic, over 2000 journalists have lost their jobs. Beyond the cost of having great places to advertise, this means that a great deal of the social fabric of our country is at risk, including civic engagement, local politics, and social connections. If a brand values community engagement, local news is a great place to support small towns across Canada.

Google and Facebook take almost 80 percent of digital spend today, which leaves very little for local community news publishers. And while both Google and Facebook have created initiatives to support local news, it is crucial to ensure that the great context of community journalism doesn’t disappear from Canada.

The context of your brand is more than just a consideration of suitability and safety, it is how well the audience will receive your message. And the best place for a brand is with premium quality local news. The customer experience with local news isn’t transient or passive, but active with a longer dwell time. If you are looking for a trusted place to build a brand in digital, look to local news. It does wonders for your brand and our communities.