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GeoPublishers Conference off to a promising start

2011 October 3
by Nat

Just came back from the GeoPublishers expo in Chicago, put on by the new GeoPublishers association and organized by Borrell Associates.  While it was a small gathering, the presentations were packed with useful, actionable information.  It was encouraging to hear practical advice from successful Geo developers such as Sara Mannix (,, among others)  and Jessica Bookstaff Doppelt (, and others).

My main take-aways are:

1.  Michael and David Castello’s advice to drill deep.  In other words, to focus on one city, and to develop rich content to be the authority site for that city.

2.  Gordon Borrell’s presentation showed that tens of billions of dollars of local advertising currently spent on Yellow Pages and Direct Mailing is up for grabs as those advertising dollars migrate to the web, and capturing those advertisers should be a focus of geo-developers.  Small business owners are even more confused by the rapid changes in the ad marketplace than we are, so we can add value by consulting with them and showing them how to use new media to their advantage.

3.  Borrell made a strong case that effective advertising is ‘news’ and valuable content.  He supported that claim with a chart showing that for the top five media/publishing sites by revenue (AT&T Yellowpages, AutoTrader, Groupon, CareerBuilder, Yellow Pages Canada) their content is primarily advertising.  He reinforced this with on-point quotes:  “Stopping advertising to save money is like stopping your watch to save time” (Henry Ford) and “Advertising in the final analysis should be news.  If it is not news, it’s worthless” (Adolph Ochs).

4.  Sara Mannix and Jessica Bookstaff Doppelt spoke about how you should put out roots into the community.  Sara has had great success becoming the title sponsor for local events and charity galas in return for publicizing the events.  Jessica interviews local businesses and develops itineraries around advertisers.  Geo sites don’t need, and shouldn’t want, to compete on breaking news stories, but focused content on weddings, happy hours, and itineraries can make your sites the top authority on these topics that attract visitors who are of great value to advertisers.

5.  A major theme was the rise of mobile and mobile advertising.  Paul Wagner of showed how mobile, and the rise of NFC (Near Field Communication) devices, are a new disruptive force that could disrupt online advertising, even as online advertising is upending traditional media advertising.  Wagner demonstrated the ability of html5 to push apps directly to smart phones (bypassing the iTunes store), and the advertising value of being able to push messages through your own branded app directly to your visitor base.   The underlying message is to make your sites mobile friendly.

6.  Many presenters gave advice on how to build your membership.  Techniques included overlays to request emails, starting facebook pages – even unbranded -for your local area, running contests and promotions to encourage visitors to share email addresses.  Paul Wagner highly recommended that everyone read the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) guide to the 10 best practices for social media.

7.  Spending time with Bill Hammack and Don Jones of and David Castello and hearing their enthusiasm for the brand value of dot-com city domains.  They see a tremendous opportunity if geo domain owners can collaborate and, by combining our collective market reach, start bringing on board national advertisers.  They believe that the traffic to geopublishers’ sites is high quality and high-converting.  Once the national advertisers get a taste, they’ll want more.


The GeoPublishers association is a new association for geo-domainers that was started after the prior association, Associated Cities, dissolved amid acrimony between its founding members.  While much is the same, much is new.  Fred Mercaldo of and returns as President.  Jessica Bookstaff Doppelt returns as a Board Member.  Many of the members are the same.   The goal is similar, to share best practices among geo-publishers and to find ways to work together for the benefit of all.

Yet much is different.  Associated Cities was a for-profit group.  GeoPublishers is a non-profit.  Associated Cities was limited to dot-com owners of pure city domains.  GeoPublishers is open to all publishers of geo sites, whether it is a dot-com extension, or a geo-based domain, such as  The guiding vision is different.  Bill Hammack and Don Jones of, who successfully started an association for independent yellow page publishers many years ago, see an even better opportunity in the geo-publishing space now.  My understanding is that it was their initiative that is largely responsible for the establishment of the GeoPublishers association.  They teamed up with Borrell Associates, a top consulting company in the local advertising space who organizes many conferences.  The result was a very informative couple of days in the spirit of cooperating to move our industry forward.


You can read more about the GeoPublisher conference at Michael Cyger’s DomainSherpa.  It was great to meet Michael and to hear about his plans and early successes with his hometown site,  Ron Jackson endured straitened travel conditions to make his way to Chicago.  His report on DNJournal should be out shortly is now available here.

9 Responses leave one →
  1. Bill Roy permalink
    October 3, 2011

    I wish those involved with ‘gp’ all the best, but for the life of me I see no reason in this report to regret having left the organization. I guess my philosophy of ubiquitous coverage, and therefore the traction associated with it, would still not resonate with the few members there seems to be in the group.

  2. October 3, 2011

    Nat…..thanks for both your attendance and coverage of the Expo. I believe there was alot of support for the quality of presentations, as I myself left with over 14 pages of detailed notes. Because of the economy, I believe it is more important than ever to share ideas with fellow geo owners, especially in the monetization strategies. Personally, I left the weekend and Expo feeling more optimistic than ever about our futures, and power, of our pure brand names. Of course, we must survive the present to get to the future, but with the advice and experience of our members, it will be much easier. Later this week we will have some announcements regarding that will have an impact on’s decision’s to join our organization….mire to come. Great to see you and your staff!!!! Fred.

  3. October 3, 2011

    How many people were there?

    • Nat permalink*
      October 6, 2011

      There were around 50 people at the conference.

  4. Dream permalink
    October 5, 2011

    I had been invited to attend by couple others and regret not doing it some. One day I will be a part of it when I’m a full time domainer and one one pure

    Would be fun to finally meet couple people there-Fred, Nat, Jessica

    Judging by the picture on Dnjournal- I assume the attendance was weak. Things take time and Fred knows what he is doing. Sometimes things take time or behind schedule. Built it and they will come is the slogan.

    • Nat permalink*
      October 5, 2011

      Unlike Associated Cities, owning a pure is not required to be a member of GeoPublishers. Hope to see you at a future conference.

  5. Dream permalink
    October 5, 2011

    I understand the requirements. Lets admit it- in order to be respected by peers you really do need to be a owner . .com works. .com sells. This is my 2 cents theory on this Nat.

    But one day I will join. Its a great organization

  6. February 21, 2012

    The geo industry is (still) just in its infancy and there’s a long way to go before it’s entirely natural for advertisers to look at their local geo website when it comes to spending money.

    I strongly agree with the point in the article about News being unnecessary.

    The key advantage that geodomains have over local TV and newspapers is that they don’t have to spend big bucks on short shelf life content (like news).

    Attempting to replicate what old media outlets do in this respect dissipates this advantage.

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