new york times self service advertisingHard to argue with a $5 CPM for advertising on a New York Times property, even if the ad run on its portfolio of hyperlocal properties. But what do the butcher, baker or candlestick maker know from CPMs?

The Times just announced on The Local, its clutch of microregional, citizen-journalism blogger sites, that it plans to make display advertising easy, self-service, and cheap. It’s inviting nieghborhood dry cleaners and hardware merchants to design, post, and allocate a capped budget to ad campaigns targeted to neighborhood audiences.

At the introductory price of $5 CPM, it sounds like a bargain. It’s still cheap advertising when the CPM climbs to $8 and $12 after launch, as PaidContent reports.

Any incremental ad dollars the Times can pull out of local advertisers won’t save the paper from its financial woes, but they won’t hurt, either. The question, really, is what else will the Times do to market this offering to local advertisers, and will the burden of those marketing efforts outweigh any revenues the product pulls in, at least for the foreseeable future?

For years, local weeklies and yellow pages attributed their revenue model to “feet on the street.” Massive sales forces were dispatched up and down Main Streets to sell advertising. Selling advertising to mom-and-pops who spend more time on “white, rye, or whole wheat” than “CPM or PPC?” is potentially an equally high touch proposition (heck, there are people who work in this business who still don’t know what “CPM” means). You can just bet the nice Korean lady at my local dry cleaners (the one who barely speaks English) is utterly oblivious to the intracacies of online advertising, self-service or otherwise.

The Times isn’t alone in facing these challenges. Sites like Craigslist are thriving, as well as eating the newspapers’ collective lunch, not just because they’re free, but also because the learning curve for placing a free online classified ad is…zero. Not so with display. Not even cheap display.

So the question facing the New York Times, as well as any other publisher hoping to monetize the mom ‘n’ pops of the world, is how will they educate their potential client base?