Many print publishers I talk to are surprised by upstart "web only" media companies that drain online ad dollars out of their markets. Established media should hold all the cards; an established brand, a history in the market, and access to online list development via the magazine subscription process.
How do these web only "pure plays" stand a chance? Simple, they love search more than we do. A study from Borrell Associates entitled "What Local Media Web Sites Earn," uncovers the strategy in the regional magazine market that should raise alarm for any magazine, anywhere.
First, some news from the survey that challenges the conventional wisdom that your print brand gives a huge advantage online:
"The most financially successful local Web operations are venturing into page designs and product lines that have little to do with the medium that gave birth to them. Like their “new media” predecessors in radio in the 1920s and television in the 1950s, they are creating unique identities and breaking away from their print and broadcast roots."
On how pure plays get their traffic:
"Part of the growth is being driven by traditional local media companies selling advertising on their own sites. Most of it, however, comes from pure-play companies delivering lower cost advertising that intercepts consumers not as they are reading news online, but as they are using the Web to research products and prices."
"Intercept" web visitors as they "research products and prices"? That’s "search." Without a print brand to drive visits to a site "search" is how they do it. Simply put, "pure plays" are playing the Search Engine Optimization game better, and are able to establish competitive brands as result.