I’m a big believer in supporting local businesses. But what does “buy local” mean when it comes to digital media?

I recently finished Cristi Hegranes’ powerful book, Byline. Cristi unpacks the struggle of international journalism as the industry shifts further away from supporting local reporters. To reduce costs, news entities are placing the burden on reporters thousands of miles away from the source, who know little about the communities being impacted.

They rely on third-party data sets to create a story that, while it gets attention, is wildly misrepresentative. They’re also using misleading keywords to sell the story. Cristi’s message is that proximity to the story is critical for fuller, more accurate information. Trusting outsiders to understand the complex issues experienced by another country just doesn’t work.

“Location, location, location.” It’s true in real estate and, as Cristi suggests, in journalism. So, what about digital media?

Trust Matters More Than Location

Today’s consumers buy products and services from a global marketplace of providers. Businesses are also expanding their view of where employees must be located by closing brick-and-mortar offices and replacing them with remote workplaces.

The result? An ever-expanding array of options for every possible product and service. Coming from a business background, I believe that competition makes everyone better, but how can a consumer navigate all of their choices with so many offerings?

I think that, in this new marketplace, trust matters more than location. Of course, trust comes more easily with companies that we can see and tangibly connect with. They speak our language and are part of the communities we live in. We may know people who work there. They’re local.

How can we build that same trust that comes with proximity in the digital media industry? Often, companies hire an advertising agency or rely on their traditional marketing partner to purchase and manage their digital marketing on their behalf. The question then becomes: are those same partners using the tools themselves? Do they have proximity to the platforms? Do they have that vital first-hand understanding and experience?

Unfortunately, far too often, the answer is no. These sellers are using keywords like “share of mind,” “vitality,” “optimization,” and the like to win media dollars but have no idea how the very tools they’re selling are used or, more importantly, how they’re changing daily in a rapidly evolving digital landscape.

Go to the Source

The sources we trust must be hands-on and use those media platforms. They need to report back in real-time with insights and strategies to increase results, not just ask the client to spend more funds, hoping that a campaign will eventually work.

Proximity matters, but when picking the right online media partner, we need to consider proximity to knowledge, the right tools, and the expertise to identify what’s missing and recognize when the results aren’t adding up. We also want partners who can adjust and update the media strategy in a thoughtful, trackable way.

When buying “local” in digital media, think differently about what proximity means. Look for partners close to the source of the data you need. Find experts who understand how digital media is consumed and placed, have the “local” ability to interpret the data, and identify how to guide you to the desired results.

That’s the way to ensure that, no matter your location, you can achieve proximity to the source of your customer’s online journey and influence their ability to navigate it easily and successfully.