Local media rocks! We know you know that. But do you know how to make sure local media thrives as content consumption continues to evolve? If you are a media company – print or broadcast, large or small, public or private – there are plenty of valuable takeaways about how to keep local media relevant and profitable from last month’s Local Media Association (LMA) Digital Revenue Summit.

Here are a few key takeaways that should provide you some inspiration when looking at your local journalism and advertising service offerings.

• It’s time to move beyond selling media or an audience. Today, you must provide a relevant service to your advertisers.

Gone are the days of delivering an audience, selling airtime and hitting impression goals. To stay relevant to advertisers, the focus must be on results and return on ad spend. Think about this in terms of specific industry objectives. For example, an auto dealership has different objectives than a restaurant, and if you don’t recognize that and present a custom solution that leverages your data, your brand, and position in the market, then you are just selling media. What can you do to increase the number of test drives or help facilitate dinner reservations? Gordon Borrell said it best, “You need to be relevant to the industry and provide a specific service.” Sometimes that “service” is just saving them time!

One way to know what services are performing better than others is to use analytics with a dashboard solution. We offer a customizable dashboard that precisely measures your advertisers’ digital ad campaigns down to every call, every click, every conversion and every win. With the ongoing evolution of digital marketing channels and growing digital advertising budgets, you need to reliably prove it’s worth every penny.

• You must own and leverage your data. It’s always been there, but with recent developments in data warehousing and technology, it’s more valuable than ever before.

In a nutshell, there are two kinds of data: the data you collect and the data you can use. Obviously, not everything you collect can or should be used. The tricky part is knowing what data CAN be used and how to leverage it to open doors, close deals and get results.

First party data from users that visit your sites or apps, download your articles or watch your videos, take your surveys or enter your contests, see or click on ads you deliver can all be leveraged to identify buying signals that help tell a story about your audience, their behavior, interests, location, etc., without revealing any personally identifiable information. In addition to that, you may also have collected data from your advertisers’ sites through tracking codes that could potentially be used in an aggregate, non-personally identifiable manner. Companies like Leap Media Solutions and Resonate are helping media companies collect data in a safe and secure environment that makes it easy to segment and leverage.

When it comes to campaign performance data, that’s where Tru Measure can help you out. The data that we collect is available to both the media company and the advertiser. With 150,000 campaigns from more than 75,000 advertisers in just the last few years, we have insights that can help with benchmarking, setting proper expectations, audience segmentation, caller analytics, attribution and optimization.

• Make it profitable! Knowing what digital tactics and product mix to represent, and how much to charge for it are essential to success.

When it comes to profitability, you need to find a balance of products and services that provide consistent results for advertisers and high margins for your business. The data from your owned and operated sites is going to help you better monetize that portion of the business. Think sponsored content, apps, native advertising, contests, events and video.

You must get smarter about your balance between direct and indirect display, and programmatic advertising. Take a closer look at Second Street and OpsCo for expert advice and solutions. From there, you can expand into digital marketing services that help position you as an agency and you’ll need to decide if you want to build an in-house team or partner with a third party. In our experience, we see most media companies start with a third party, gain knowledge and eventually bring it in-house.

Here’s where it gets a bit challenging, because now you must evaluate multiple vendors across various products such as search engine marketing, programmatic and audience display, paid social and production. Not to mention, negotiate rates, meet minimums and train your salespeople. MatchCraft, Boostability and Simpli.fi are a good place to start. Margins can be challenging (ranging dramatically from 20-70 percent) and in some cases, there are media companies that draw the line at web site development and search engine optimization. However, the sales and production process for those types of products are very different and require specialized training.

As I mentioned at the beginning, there are many takeaways from LMA’s Digital Revenue Summit. In addition to those I’ve shared, you can read about a few more in an article from LocalMediaInsider focusing on what keeps local media leaders up at night, from profitability (great minds!) to relevance. If you want to glean even more insights from the Summit, you can access all the presentations here.

Rock on, local media!

John Hoeft is Tru Measure’s general manager.