By Alan McGlade, Forbes Contributor
Mobile with geo-location has gotten a lot of companies and investors excited about the possibility of triggering alerts and ads based on a user’s whereabouts. If you’re on a road trip, surely it would be useful to know that there is a Cracker Barrel coming up at the next exit and they have a clean bathroom that is in working order. But day to day most people have fairly predictable routines, frequenting businesses near their home or office. Local newspapers, radio, cable advertising and direct mail built substantial enterprises around engaging neighborhood customers. The online equivalent is beginning to emerge and it doesn’t require geo-location based push notifications.
Local media has been migrating to the web over the last five years as their original products decline. Newspapers have introduced digital publications and many radio stations stream their programming in its entirety. There are also a variety of national services that are consumed locally – weather reports for instance. A quick survey of Austin, Texas uncovered 85 hyper-local media sites with content that is specifically geared to audiences ranging from the Austin metro area to specific neighborhoods such as Hyde Park or the Warehouse District. These sites offer local businesses a relevant way to reach a neighborhood audience that is most likely to frequent their establishment.
I was recently introduced to a company called Local Yokel Media, a digital advertising start-up in the hyper-local market. Their ad platform enables local, regional or national marketers to target communities within a defined service area on local websites and content. According to BIA/Kelsey, local digital advertising will exceed $42 billion by 2015. However, there is no efficient way to target and serve locally relevant ads to consumers at scale. Local Yokel is trying to solve this problem by signing up thousands of local publishers and aggregating and organizing their ad availabilities.
The company essentially acts as a specialized Supply Side Platform. Their business model revolves around the premise that the closer the proximity a local merchant’s ad message is to their potential customer, the more valuable the advertising is. Target customers are regional advertising agencies and their clients. These may include car dealerships, regional colleges, regional banks, restaurant chains and retailers with meaningful ad budgets. There is a local angle for national chains as well who want to promote a local store opening or a market specific promotion. According to Local Yokel’s founder, Dick O’Hare, “Local digital advertising is still inefficient and underdeveloped but the opportunity is huge. Marketers big and small want to get more embedded in their local communities. Reaching hyper-local audiences is an effective way to do this.”
There is strong evidence to suggest the potential is there as new local media replaces the old and becomes easily accessible to advertisers looking for a tight geographic footprint. “John Anderson, you could use a Guinness …. at the 219 West happy hour in the Warehouse District!”