STEUBENVILLE - Jim Emmerling didn't necessarily start out embracing Internet advertising, but times have changed, and the owner of Em-Media said his arms, and eyes, are now wide open.
"In I'd say 1990 or so, Mike Guess was hitting me up and asking about the Internet and wanted to start some advertising program there. He was totally for it and seeing it, and I told him the community was not ready for that," Emmerling said. "I was totally wrong, and Mike was totally right."
The statistics for local newspapers show the online readership growth is real and dramatic.
ONLINE PRESENCE — Jim Emmerling, left, owner of Em-Media, and Keith Murdock, community relations director for Trinity?Health System, hold up their cellphones displaying Trinity ads on the Herald-Star app. The app is available for Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems and exemplifies the growth of a new local advertising opportunity, led by Em-Media. — Mike McElwain
In April, for instance, nearly 1 million pages were viewed on the Herald-Star website at heraldstaronline.com and roughly 75 percent were return visitors.
The other 25 percent represented new site visitors and a chance for advertisers to attract new attention through their online ads.
The Herald-Star has nearly 100,000 unique website visitors a month reading about local news, sports and opinions. The Weirton Daily Times website has seen dramatic growth month after month as well, according to the statistics.
As a result of the overall growth, Guess Motors and other Em-Media clients like Trinity Health System, SVRTA, the Health Plan of the Upper Ohio Valley and a host of others are regular online advertisers and are seeing results.
Em-Media, with offices in Steubenville and Wheeling, is a full-service marketing, advertising and public relations company representing numerous clients in the local area and beyond.
"We try to stay up with technology, which is a very difficult thing to do, but I think if you look at it, you will see that Em-Media is now at the forefront of this movement. We take it very seriously," Emmerling said.
Keith Murdock, Trinity Health System director of community relations and development, agrees with Emmerling's outlook.
"The Internet and online advertising has exploded in popularity in a big way," Murdock said. "We need to reach that audience that's wired and connected, and the advertising and promotional materials we put out there are being noticed."
Trinity has long taken the lead in the digital world. The hospital received a "most wired" award when it put together its first website in the late 1990s. Trinity has since linked up with Em-Media for online advertising to draw more interest in the hospital's website.
The bulk of that effort had been going to banner ads and other advertising packages on local newspaper and television websites.
But now, Emmerling said he's staying ahead of the curve as Em-Media has taken the next, logical, step - running ads for his clients and for his own business on mobile applications, or apps.
The free Herald-Star app for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch is available at heraldstaronline.com/iPhone and new offering - the free Android app - is available at herald-staronline.com/Android now.
The apps also are available for The Weirton Daily Times at weirtondailytimes.com/iPhone and weirtondailytimes.com/android
"What's interesting is that our website is experiencing a large growth in popularity and, at the same time, we're seeing a strong interest in our mobile applications," Ross Gallabrese, executive editor of the two newspapers, said. "In the modern world, our brand needs to remain at the forefront and deliver news in a way that fits with the needs of our community. Now, we have you covered in print, online and on the go."
"It was the next logical progression, and we want to get the message out there, and we're eager to do it," Emmerling said about in-app advertising. "The smartphone applications being used now are like walled gardens of information, and we want our clients to be on the inside and not outside just looking in."
Emmerling said the local newspaper's smartphone application is unique.
"The ease of using that one app is incredible, and the fact that breaking news is pushed to the phone and it gives an alert is really cool. We had to let our clients be a part of that," Emmerling said.
Trinity, Guess Motors, Em-Media and Hauser's Furniture are some the current crop of businesses taking advantage of the opportunity, Emmerling noted. They use the newspaper's iOS and Android apps to advertise.
"I go to the newspaper's app at least three times a day," Murdock added. "The first time I saw Trinity's ad pop up, I was thrilled. Just to be part of something brand new was intriguing to us."
Emmerling said he will push ahead with getting others to join the online advertising bandwagon.
"I venture to say we're the only local ad agency to advertise on the local mobile app in this entire area," Emmerling said. "I use it for Em-Media as well, because it substantiates what I recommend for my clients."
Emmerling and Murdock said smartphone app advertising is part of a comprehensive plan that includes the traditional print media and websites.
"We want to own it all and make sure our clients are well represented," Emmerling noted.
Some of that is easy when dealing with Guess Motors, Trinity and other companies that understand the potential, Emmerling contends. He said Em-Media is always eager to help other companies and organizations to achieve the same goals.
Gallabrese said other opportunities will arrive soon.
"We're looking at adding a weekly video and audio podcast to our online element," Gallabrese said. Advertisers can add short commercial segments as another way to their brand.
"Cross promotion and reaching as many people as possible is always our goal," Murdock said. "We have a pretty good story to share."
"That's the key to all this," Emmerling added. "Sustaining a unified advertising effort is the key to this, and as more and more people go online, we need to make sure we occupy that space as well."