‘Daily News’ rolling out a local digital-media consultancy for small businesses

The Daily News. ()
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Mort Zuckerman's Daily News is on the verge of rolling out a major business-development initiative that management has come to view as crucial to the future of the company.

Monday marks the launch of Daily News Digital Solutions, a consulting arm that will provide digital services to small- and medium-sized New York businesses through a partnership with Hearst's Internet marketing division, LocalEdge.

"Thousands of small and medium size businesses throughout the New York Metropolitan area need assistance to leverage the digital products and services available to them," wrote News C.E.O. Bill Holiber in a memo to staff on Thursday afternoon.

"The Daily News is going to help provide these solutions," the memo continued, "including: website and mobile web design, hosting, video production, SEM, SEO, mobile advertising, SMS (text) marketing, e mail marketing, press release development-and-distribution, social media development, reputation management as well as easy-to-understand reporting."

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The News is hiring more than 50 sales reps to sell the offering, as well as using customer service reps and marketing and business development staff. LocalEdge will be responsible for delivering the digital services.

It's a gamble that suggests the News, like virtually all media organizations, is coming to rely more heavily on revenues outside of traditional print and online display advertising, with which publishers have been struggling in recent years.

If successful, Daily News Digital Solutions could help put the News, which is still in the red, on the path to profitability. The company also has eggs in a new national homepage called Daily News America (which has a sales team of 10 and a three-month, 21 percent traffic-increase under its hood), as well as its Jersey City-based commerical printing facility.

Holiber wouldn't talk about existing News revenues, but he predicted that Daily News Digital solutions would scale within two or three years into a "high-digit multimillion-dollar-a-year" operation. He noted that Hearst's newspapers, like The San Francisco Chronicle, have been selling digital marketing services through LocalEdge. Aside from the News, LocalEdge has deals in place with outside publications including The Dallas Morning News and The Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

"From talking to folks running it at other papers, they're really beginning to see significant growth opportunities in this area," said Holiber, explaining his optimism. "They're meeting their objectives and are on a path to achieve those types of numbers in a couple of years."

A Hearst spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday afternoon.

Holiber said the goal for year one was to sign up roughly 1,000 local New York businesses, the majority of which he does not expect will also buy advertising in the print edition of the News or on its website. An initial team of 15 sales people will start pounding the pavement on Monday, approaching everyone from local flower shops to funeral parlors to electronics stores, for which Daily News Digital Solutions might do anything from building out a 10-page mobile website with ecommerce capabilities, to developing custom Facebook and Twitter pages, to online reputation management.

Additionally, the News is developing a search directory for its website that will include more than 600,000 companies. The listings are free, but businesses will have the option of paying for various types of customizable enhancements.

"We're confident that if we expand our offerings in these various areas, we can develop relationships with lots more small businesses in New York," said Holiber.