Local media launch ad-matching programs in response to COVID-19


By Emilie Lutostanski • Director, Local News Resource Center

In response to the tightened local advertiser budgets brought on by COVID-19, local media organizations are working to invigorate the advertising landscape and while sustaining the symbiotic relationships with those in the business community

Throughout the media landscape, local news organizations are launching short-term, ad-match programs to help local advertisers double their impact and maintain an engaged audience. These are some examples of publishers with programs and how they’ve worked so far.

Pamplin Media Group

Within three weeks of launching its $1 million Marketing Grant Fund, Pamplin Media Group had 200 businesses apply to participate.

“Most of these are new accounts, great leads for our reps and we’ve closed at least $20,000 in business so far,” one executive shared with LMA. “We’ve trained our reps to only sell packages. For this program, I felt we needed a starter package that would set us up to make sure our clients (especially because most are new) could tell if marketing with us was working.”

SUN Newspapers

In California, SUN Newspapers, Sun Coast Media Group and YourSun.com rolled out more than $2.5 million in free ads and advertising match packages to small and medium-sized businesses through the end of September.

“We needed a real economic stimulus that will impact the local economy by increasing the number of shoppers walking in the doors of local businesses and spending their hard-earned dollars during a challenging time,” Mike Beatty, president Sun Coast Media Group, wrote in a column.

Woodward Media Group

Woodward Community Media established a $1 million matching grant fund to assist locally-owned businesses by matching dollar-for-dollar ads placed in April, May and June.

President Bob Woodward was featured in an interview with Advantage Newspaper Consultants, sharing that the company received over a half a million dollars in applications in the first three weeks of the program.

“There’s a lot of benefits not just from a sales standpoint as far as revenue but great morale booster for the salespeople,” Woodward said in the interview. “It’s agreat opportunity for them to have conversations with folks that might not be returning their calls right now because they’re not even open but heard about it and wanted to learn more.”

Shaw Media

Shaw Media has created a Community Marketing Grant program of up to $1 million in matching advertising credits to assist locally owned businesses. Businesses fill out a form to partner with a specific newspaper and can receive grants from $200 to $10,000 of matching advertising credits each month for April, May and June.

Roberts Media

Roberts Media launched the Community Marketing Fund, offering $1 million for local Texas businesses in matching ad dollars, as well as marketing support from the in-house agency. Businesses can apply online.

Forum Communications Company

Forum Communications Company launched its $1 million Community Commitment Grant. The company will match $250 to $10,000 in May, June and July for locally owned businesses to use in digital and print advertising among its media partners.

Record-Journal Media Group

At the Record-Journal in Meriden, Conn., the company has committed to matching up to $250,000 in advertising. Local business leaders are helping promote the ad-match program, for which locally owned businesses can apply to participate in April, May and June.

“It’s an excellent opportunity. Any type of economic relief that our businesses can receive, whether it’s a direct grant or a matching program, that’s all going to prove very beneficial to the businesses in the long run,” said Barbara Hekeler-Coleman, president of the Southington Chamber of Commerce, in an article about the Ad Match Program. “A dollar for dollar match is significant.”

Wick Communications

Wick Communications, a family-owned multi-media company, established a Community Grant Program to assist locally owned businesses during COVID-19 crisis through dollar-for-dollar match in marketing.

Kentucky newspapers

Six Kentucky newspapers, The Paducah Sun, The Mayfield-Messenger, The Metropolis Planet,  The Times Leader, The Marshall County Tribune Courier and The Herald Ledger, have established a $250,000 Advertising Match Program to assist locally owned businesses.

Nevada News Group

At Nevada News Group, Chief Financial Officer Matt Fisher said the company has implemented a number of initiatives with sales staff, including having sales reps make outbound calls for subscriptions, data, and native content, and allowing them to offer special discounts.

“We’re running special buy-one-get-one sales initiatives so that the local businesses’ advertising dollars go further and keep flowing,” Fisher said in a recent LMA report.