Anyone who is engaged in the process of mass communication knows that the traditional broadcast media are in trouble.  Of course, the reason they’re in trouble is that new ways of communicating with the public are supplanting the old ways.  These internet-based options include traditional websites (imagine that – “traditional”!), blogs, podcasts, and plenty of online advertising. 

My main concern with all online advertising is that, whether it’s a banner or a graphic or text or a piece of audiovisual production, it goes out to the entire world.  Not exactly a realistic market for Abner’s Pen and Pencil Repair on Mulberry Street in DesMoines.  But connecting with local markets online is now much more viable for the local business person.  I can see two reasons why: localized search engines, and localized online radio stations.

Localized search engines.  More sophisticated search engines and browser personalizing are making your search easier.  Lately, when I type in something as broad as “restaurants” in my browser search engine, the first choices it provides are in the Houston area – not the world.  For a small fee, the same advertiser can be listed in the sponsor column to the right of the search results.

When you click on a particular restaurant name it takes you to their web page.  Why shouldn’t that page have an option for you to play a commercial?  Granted, many local advertisers don’t have the financial resources to produce a

full-blown TV spot, but even a simple one would be more

effective than just text and photos.  And if you kept the photos, but replaced the text with some fun audio commercials, you could get your message across effectively and memorably without a huge production budget.  

Another possibility is right in the search results.  Often when we click on a business’s name, it takes us to Citysearch.  The business is listed there, with a small blurb and contact info.  Why couldn’t the business include a link to a commercialright there on the Citysearch page?  Just a thought.

Localized online radio.  Granted, you can tune into an online radio station from anywhere in the world.  But the shrinking media, content standardization, and hunger for more of a local focus is suggesting that an online radio station can find a pretty good size market in its own backyard.

Also granted, lots of people have defected from commercial radio because they hate the commercials.  But if an online service is going to survive, they may be considering their advertising options.  If they’re willing to provide advertising on their station, and they’re willing to do a decent job with it, I think they’d be rewarded with buyers without defection of listeners. 

I think we’re at another turning point in the evolution of communications, and the role advertising plays in that.  We’re still feeling our way through this, but I do see a bright spot on the horizon.  Do you?

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