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Businesses ask for expanded presence on city tourism site

(June 14, 2013) Some area businesses are pressing the city to do more with its shopping and dining listings on ococean.com, including the possibility of offering advertising on the city-owned website.

Park Place Jewelers owner Todd Ferrante told the city’s Tourism Commission this week that the city’s tourism page “didn’t paint a fair picture of what we have to offer.”

Ferrante suggested that the city expand the listing area for restaurants and retail shops on a Web site that is otherwise lodging-centric and focuses on directing visitors to book their accommodations with resort hotel and condo owners. He also suggested that the city offer the opportunity to purchase advertising, or pay for an expanded listing, on the site.

Ococean.com, the city’s official tourism website, is municipally-owned and run by the city’s contracted advertising agency, MGH. It offers a search and listing feature to any resort business that joins the town’s Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Local golf promoter Tom Perlozzo also suggested that the city could issue some sort of e-newsletter or digital magazine via the site, which would provide further opportunities for expanded listings and advertising, as Perlozzo’s own company does via Global Golfer magazine.

“It would be a way to increase advertising and membership [for the CVB],” Perlozzo said.

However, Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association Director Susan Jones said she would prefer not to see banner ads on the site.

“Looking at other resorts, none of their official sites have ads,” Jones said. “I personally would not want to see ococean.com cluttered up.”

“We spend $5 million in advertising to direct people to the site, and then they see banners all over the place,” agreed Councilman and commission member Dennis Dare.

Jones also noted that the idea behind the $200 flat-rate membership for the CVB was designed to be equitable.

“A lot of the small guys can’t pay for ads like that,” Jones said. “Is it really fair to all the CVB members?”

But Ferrante said he would expect ads on ococean.com to be the “most equitable form of advertising,” given that the ads would be easy to value-engineer depending on their frequency of appearance and format.

“It’s entirely a matter of what you want to spend,” he said.

“I don’t think it should be affordable,” added Council Secretary and commission chairwoman Mary Knight. “We get so much traffic on that site, it’s a much bigger value [than other forms of advertising].”

The Web site saw 253,000 unique visitors last year, according to city Tourism Director Donna Abbott. Even if advertising was not considered, “we just need more businesses to put up the $200 for a membership in order to expand the site,” Abbot said.

If the site was redeveloped to allow for different tiers of business listings, “then you could just buy an expanded listing [for your business],” Dare said. “You could step it up as much as you want to.”

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