By Meg Heckman

It’s becoming an almost common sight in convention halls and conference centers all over America: Dozens, sometimes hundreds, of small business owners packed in rows, sipping coffee and listening to a passionate presentation about how to grow their brands online.

These gatherings are among the most visible aspects of a fast-growing trend that’s fueling the vast and potentially-lucrative digital marketing scene. It used to be that local businesses turned to a print publication, a phone directory or a few minutes on TV as an advertising vehicle. Now, those same businesses want to ugse a different platform — the Web — but they need help to do it well.

The result is a big-money competition for local digital advertising dollars, with legacy publishers, national pureplays, small-town startups and local search providers jumping in with both feet. It’s too soon to say who will be the most successful, but one thing is certain: Digital marketing services will be a big part of the local media business for years to come.

Read the three part series here