Gannett to test hyperlocal model in Tampa-St. Pete

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There? plenty of experimentation going on with Web content in Tampa, Fla., which is a brutally competitive battlefield for old media and new media alike, reports Linda Moss.

The market is one of 10 where Gannett Co. is launching dozens of hyperlocal Web sites, a bold and risky initiative. But there? other activity in the No. 14-ranked DMA.TampaBay.com, the site for theSt. Petersburg Times, will undergo a dramatic ?eimagining?and redesign this year. And Media General is operating a ?onverged?site,TBO.com, for its newspaper and TV station in Tampa.

Research and consulting firm Borrell Associates is projecting that Tampa this year will rack up $202.87 million in local ad revenue, a 22% increase from last year? $166.2 million.

In the next five years, from 2010 to 2015, Tampa? local online ad revenue will rise 30.3%, to an estimated $294.2 million, according to Borrell.

The players in Tampa can? afford to sit on their laurels. There are aggressive competitors in town.

Tampa-St. Petersburg has broadcast and print outlets owned by several major media players. They include not only Gannett and Media General but E.W. Scripps Co.; Fox Broadcasting; andBay News 9, a regional cable network owned by Bright House Communications Networks; and AOL?Patch.com.

Patch has sites in Tampa-area towns including Brandon, Dunedin, Bradenton, Sarasota and one planned for New Tampa — an area that includes part of the city and a portion of unincorporated Hillsborough County.

Those rivals and their Web sites are all jockeying for a share of Tampa? local online-ad market, which like most of the SunshineState is still struggling to rebound from the recession.

?ou?e got to scrap: It? a pretty hard fight here,?said David Francois, director of new media at Scripps?WFTS-TV site,ABCActionNews.com.

Tampa? projected five-year online ad growth rate is a little lower than other markets, according to Borrell vice president of research Larry Shaw. Tampa is an unusual market in several respects, including its low Internet penetration, Shaw said.

?ou?e got a lot Hispanic influence in St. Petersburg and Tampa, just because of its proximity to Miami and Orlando,?Shaw said. ?ou?e got a lot of tourism in this market, which makes it different than a lot of other markets. You?e also got a lot of retirees in this market, so one of the things that has a tendency of doing is driving down the percentage of [those with] Internet access.?

Only 67% of the market has Internet access, versus markets where it can run as high as 76%, according to Shaw.

One reason for that is Tampa? large retiree population. The market skews older demographically. The average age in Tampa is 42, older than the national average of 36.8 as reported by the 2010 U.S. Census. Some 17% of its population is 70 and older, Shaw said, and close to half its population is 50 or older.

Last fall, Gannett? TV station division, Gannett Broadcasting, in partnership with DataSphere Technologies rolled out 40 community-focused Web sites in Tampa, where the broadcaster owns WTSP-TV. Those hyperlocal sites, branded as ?n Your Community,?were integrated into WTSP? existingWeb site.

The initiative is part of a plan Gannett announced last summer to launch hyperlocal sites featuring neighborhood news and user-generated content in 10 DMAs where the broadcaster owns TV stations. Continue reading this story here.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.