Leveraging Directories for Publishers

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Directories are one of the oldest and most common print resources in existence. They are also diverse, covering everything from Yellowbook to tourist guides, but some of the most successful registries are those owned and managed by local magazines and newspapers. That said, there are not as many publishers capitalizing on directories as there should be.

The value of local directories

Local publications thrive by being the “local source of information” for their audience. The more information publishers provide, and the more versatile that information, the more footholds a publisher has in their local community. Directories are a great way to provide added value and promote the actual community, helping establish that greater foothold without compromising or straying from the content a publisher would already be producing. Not to mention, directories provide a chance for profits too.

During a crisis, directories take on an entirely different value, but one equally as important. People need clear and concise information during difficult times to help them make informed, rational decisions. Directories meet that need perfectly. Publishers can do away with the profit model of the directory temporarily, and update the directory to provide the most accurate and up-to-date information to better serve their audiences in that time of need. This ties back into the idea of supporting the community as the “local source of information,” which in turn causes the community to rally behind the publication and help them push through their own difficult times. Baltimore Magazine’s COVID-19 roundup is a great example of putting this into action.

How to leverage a directory

Producing a local directory takes time and effort – collection of data, design and layout, distribution, maintenance and updating, etc. That is why, if a publisher is going to maintain one, they need to do it right, and get the most value out of it.

A good directory starts with a focus, one that aligns with the natural theme of the publication; unless the publication covers everything, directories are not meant to be a catch-all of every business in the area, but a summarization of the types of businesses a publisher’s audience might need most. For example, a city magazine will probably cover things that would attract tourists, like historical sites, restaurants, and unique stores. A horse magazine, on the other hand, may cover local stables, farrier shops, feed lots, and veterinarians. 

Publishers then need to think about recouping the costs involved with a directory. As stated, it takes quite a bit to produce one, so it needs to generate profit. Luckily, the directory model is already built similar to the advertisement model by providing an opportunity for smaller, simpler ad spaces that have high exposure, due to them being in a format that audiences use when they are actually searching for businesses. Further, the publisher may choose to limit certain categories in the directory. This not only helps cap the costs of the directory by limiting its size, but also reduces the supply of spaces for purchase, and thus increasing demand and driving price.

One of the more unique ways to leverage a directory is to turn it into a visual resource, like a local map. This not only gives the community a new way to interact with the content, but also allows it to serve as a greater resource for tourists and other out-of-town visitors, making the value of the spaces in the directory increase. Publication Printers works with a few publishers that do just this, such as Discover Estes, a map and directory guide for Estes Park, CO.

One of the other major benefits of directories is their long shelf-life. Most businesses and local entities that are listed within directories make limited changes to their information, meaning that, while there is upfront costs to develop a directory, maintaining them long-term requires minimal effort, but continues to provide long-term profits. That content also happens to be valuable information that readers look to, making it a branding benefit too.

Directories and publications that are not “local” focused

The value of a directory does not go down just because a publication’s geographic audience is wider. However, the ability to provide that sense of local benefit takes greater effort the larger the geographic area is, and it may even take multiple directories to provide the value appropriately. It is a greater undertaking for publishers of larger publications to do, but if leveraged well, the same benefits on a larger scale can take place.

Gannett, the well-known publishing group, actually made the move to create a digital directory on a large, yet geo-segmented scope to help support its audience. Support Local, as they named the platform, allows their audience to connect with local businesses and access special services. Support Local was built to help during the COVID-19 pandemic, but its value and potential benefit to Gannett will persist long after the pandemic ends.

Further Information

To learn more about how to monetize niche content, including directories, click here. If you would like more great content from Publication Printers and the Publication Printers Marketing Group, click here.

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