Yesterday, I had a long chat with a Director of Digital Marketing about what his newspaper conglomerate was doing with mobile fee-for-marketing of local businesses and destinations. I was astounded. Destination marketers should be mortified.

This gentleman’s group, Advance Publications owns 25 newspapers in New Jersey. They also own an equal number in other states. They all cooperate as a marketing and technology amalgam through the company’s online division.

Advance Publications is by no means the only player in the market. Others like the New York Times, Tribune, Gannet, Washington Post, McClatchy, MediaNews Group, Mortimer B. Zuckerman, Hearst, and News Corporation constitute a formidable market segment that serves more than 125 million Americans per month. This audience is large and engaged viewing an average of 22 pages of content per online visit. The audience is also affluent and educated with average household incomes of $90,000 per year and college attendance rates of 78%.

Not only do readers read, they act. According to, “Research conducted last year for the Online Publishers Association showed that visitors who are exposed to display ads on news sites are more likely than average to visit the advertiser website, are heavier online buyers and tend to have higher household income. Online news publishers are also leading the way in the use of newer display ad formats, which are aiming to create a richer, more engaging experience for consumers.”

Unlike destination marketers, which rely on membership dues to pay the bills, online newspapers feature strategic and targeted ads to support local businesses and destinations. These efforts are directly integrated into the search results of engines like Google, Yahoo, and MSN.

While destination marketers seem fixed on a value proposition that members should bask in the glory of the destination as a whole, online papers provide indicators that directly track the success of each advertisers. They also employ advanced strategies that reach customers using state-of-the-art demographic and behavioral targeting. This allows businesses of all levels and sizes to reach deeper into their trade areas.

Of equal importance are the services offered by both entities.

While destination marketers are swallowing and amortizing $9,000 mobile apps with membership dues, the online industry is giving away free mobile solutions and custom landing pages for businesses and destinations.

As I said at the start, destination marketers beware. Your value proposition is under attack and your maintenance of bloated technology budgets is unsustainable. Fire your tech provider, scale back your operations, go open source, invest in scalability and verifiable affect. If you don’t, Katie bar the door. The newspapers are coming and they will run you out of town.