Why Broadcasters Need to Embrace Digital Hyperlocal

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televisionLocal radio and television stations are the masters of the 50-mile radius. These stations have built a $40 billion industry by super-serving advertisers wanting to reach customers in their markets. As an advertising category, radio and television stations are comfortable, but their business is not growing. Radio revenue is down 20+% since 2008 and will not grow in 2013. Television remains at pre-2008 revenue levels.

Meanwhile, there are lots of hyperlocal marketing opportunities being missed daily by traditional broadcast media. This isn’t because stations don’t want the revenue — it’s because they are so understaffed and under-funded, it’s simply difficult to devote resources to learning new technologies. But this may be exactly the right time to start investing their (very small) resources to upgrade mobile apps and improve online capabilities to tap hyperlocal dollars.

The primary reason to embrace hyperlocal now is that “local” and “hyperlocal” are fast becoming key buzzwords at small and large agencies and media buying houses. Yes, there are many expensive studies that prove the efficacy of hyperlocal tech and commerce — but you don’t have time to read them. What matters is that when your sellers walk into an ad agency and say the word “hyperlocal,” they will be lauded.

Hyperlocal initiatives solve the biggest objection retailers have to buying local radio and TV: “Your signal covers too big an area, there is too much waste.” And hyperlocal apps have the ability to address audiences from the entire coverage area to a specific location at a specific time.

ROI Footprints
Retailers want one thing: Foot traffic. They want to see their stores full, and if a visitor doesn’t buy, they believe he or she could buy on the next visit. Combine the urgency of live radio or TV with hyperlocal apps, and you can really get people walking through retailers’ doors.

For example: A viewer downloads a station app. The app can send a link, a text or an alert every time a viewer passes a Dunkin Donuts. The alert delivers, to the smart phone, an instant discount or free gift that is only good for a very limited time.

But What I Really Need Is…
Combine a profound viewer need with an advertiser need and the foot traffic increases. What do parents traveling with small kids want most? Clean bathrooms.

Stores may not want their clean bathrooms featured in on-air copy — but they may potentially love being included in your mobile, family-friendly retailer directory. Special offers could be made via retailers listed in the directory.  When a viewer needs that restroom, they search your app, find family friendly retailers and also find 10 bucks off Snuggies at Von’s. Von’s pays for that privilege.

Embarrass Your Competitors
Hyperlocal can be used to demoralize and embarrass the competition. Your audience loves Taylor Swift but your station failed to secure sponsorship rights for her local concert. Tell your listeners to enjoy the concert and promote the fact that while they are there, your station will be sending out links for free RED CDs.

Your app can also feature traffic information about how to get home from the concert safely and fast (i.e. “Your official station for Taylor Swift traffic information.”) The prize giveaway and traffic reports are sold to local retailers and match the zip of the user.

Cash Register in the Viewer’s Pocket
Hyperlocal is visible ROI. Every dynamic link sent to your viewers can be monetized. Every coupon, discount, free gift, ticket transaction, good or service purchased can be monetized and tracked. Now a station can financially participate in transactions and should. The latest Pew study on local TV states:

“One potential revenue source that most local stations have not exploited is e-commerce. Less than a third said they offered special deals, sponsorships, classifieds or merchandise for sale on their websites, according to the annual RTDNA/Hofstra survey. “This is mystifying to me,” said the survey director, Bob Papper. “They are leaving money on the table.”

Consider the benefits to an advertiser of direct mail: Precise target, to the home or office, zip marketing, couponing, surveys. Downsides: Extraordinary costs, environmental issues, uncontrollable postage rates, horror stories of non-delivery, 1% response rate.

Hyperlocal represents all the benefits of telemarketing and direct mail without any of the costs, bad publicity or long ramp-up times. You can come up with an idea right now, deliver it to your audience right now, and be home in time for diner.

This speed and flexibility of hyperlocal deployment matches the production pace of local radio and television stations, making it a comfortable marketing arm for the staff and a logical one for advertisers.

Walter SaboWalter Sabo is CEO of executive-on-demand corporation Sabo Media based in Manhattan. Walter’s team was the first to monetize online video webstars through his company HITVIEWS. As a leader in radio programming he guided the build-out of all 145 Sirius Satellite Radio channels and held EVP level positions at NBC and ABC. Walter can be reached at [email protected].