Local TV: What’s On(line)?

Watch the news on your local TV station on any given day, and you’ll see local broadcast media continue to be an advertising staple for many small and midsize businesses. What would that half hour be without idiosyncratic spots for the nearby car dealer or furniture store? While some of these advertisers are now replacing or supplementing TV ads with local paid search, they may be overlooking another online opportunity.

You might be, too.

TV station Web sites are a lot more robust than they used to be. They’re still a source for news, weather, TV listings, and traffic updates, but they’ve also become lifestyle portals. The average station’s site provides everything: entertainment updates, horoscopes, a classified ad marketplace, a career section, and a list of community events, which some stations even let users update, wiki style.

Rich in content, TV stations are their own brands, known and trusted by consumers, online and off-. An affinity with local stations can benefit advertisers. According to a study conducted for Internet Broadcasting Systems, the nation’s largest platform of TV station sites, 80 percent of site users find ads on its sites more relevant than those on national news sites because the sites are local. Additionally, over two-thirds of survey respondents said they’re more likely to click on local news site ads than those on national news sites.

That TV station sites are part of larger networks also makes them appealing to branded national advertisers eager to target by community or region. Marketers can purchase placements across a network of TV sites or on a specific local station without having to deal directly with individual station sites. Internet Broadcasting represents over 70 station sites, while competitor Clear Channel Communications owns 40 stations in 25 markets nationwide. Internet Broadcasting handles all interactive media directly. Ad sales for Clear Channel’s station sites, however, are managed by Inergize Digital Media, the interactive Web services division of Clear Channel Television. Inergize acts as the go-between for station sites and potential advertisers, running potential campaigns past the sites for approval.

Those with a broader objective aren’t likely to have trouble finding impressions, either. Internet Broadcasting boasts 12.9 million monthly visitors across its network and has been seeing a 50 percent traffic increase year over year. Clear Channel offers 3 million unique visitors per month and 72 million pageviews.

Where ad units and placements are concerned, the opportunities aren’t so different from those available on national lifestyle and news portals like MSN and AOL. Campaigns can involve anything, from standard banner units — including pre-roll video — to customized opportunities.

Because the sites themselves are locally specialized, some station site publishers are willing to work with advertisers to create equally unique promotions. Internet Broadcasting, for example, will work with advertisers to design and develop original sponsored content such as articles and video tutorials. Section sponsorships, meanwhile, afford the ability to skin (define) existing site content like weather radar, local sports, and community news slideshows with a client’s brand.

It isn’t uncommon for TV station sites to make it into media plans for small local advertiser campaigns, but they’re also well worth considering for national brands. If they want to connect with consumers by region, they need only look to the local TV news.

Meet Tessa at Search Engine Strategies April 10-13 at the Hilton New York in New York City.

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