The Local Question

Local Internet advertising is getting a lot of attention these days, and rightly so. The market is growing and local advertisers are getting more sophisticated about the potential of the Internet. But local advertising means a lot of different things, and the addition of a local ad offering further complicates the selection process for sales partners, even beyond the selection criteria we’ve covered these last several weeks.

What does “local” mean in the context of ad sales? It can refer to local sites carrying ads for local businesses, regional businesses, or national and multi-national businesses. It can also mean regional and global sites, which, by nature of localized search capabilities or from registration or other target-enabling data, can serve ads to precise geo-targeted visitors. The ads then are targeted by locale, despite the global reach of the whole site. Though both issues constitute local advertising, the issues confronted by the selling site are very different.

Purely local sites can range from the rather small to quite substantial, with an equally wide range of ad opportunities. Many local sites are spin-offs of other local media properties (newspapers, radio or TV entities) and as such have the sales teams and client relationships to handle sales to local advertisers. But covering multi-national accounts can be a major challenge for such businesses; only the largest local media operations can support a global sales network on their own.

Television affiliates have their own national networks to handle multi-national advertisers, but what about the independents? That’s where a network like Real Media comes in; they specialize in aggregating local sites for larger advertisers who want to buy many locales without the hassle of contacting each separately.

Actually, saying a network like Real Media is misleading We are unaware of any other Internet ad network which specializes in national sales for local sites, though the model is well proven in print and broadcast.

The other take on local (selling geo-targeted ads on global sites to advertisers interested in reaching specific local markets) is much more widespread. Many of the rep firms and networks we’ve mentioned in past columns have added this capability in the past year. In fact, most of the major names in the Internet ad sales business have added local offerings of late. They each seem to have different ways of reaching and selling the local advertiser, so check for specifics when discussing a particular company’s capabilities.

If your site is enabled for ad targeting by geography, make sure you bring this area into the negotiation with any potential sales partner. How, and at what price, this high demand inventory will be sold will be an important factor in your financial calculations.

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