TV-station managers once viewed broadcasting and the Web as separate. Different screens (TVs and computer monitors) receive different streams of content and advertising and attract different audiences.
But 42% of intensive TV viewers are also intensive Internet users. Realism and the vast potential of synergy are increasingly defeating resistance to change and fears of diluting revenues.
Internet advertising grew at a compound annual rate of 51.4% in its first decade, reports the media-research and consulting firm Borrell Associates. This outpaced broadcast TV's 42.7% advertising growth and cable's 37.3%. Stations have a choice: Get on board or miss the train—or the rocket.
Television stations naturally want to ride the wave by fine-tuning the appeal of their online property. Increasingly, they turn to “rich” media, which offers such online ad capabilities as video, expandable banners and floating ads. Rigorous frequency controls and detailed measurement mechanisms efficiently focus these resources.
Rich media is often tarred with the same brush as the pop-up window, as even such widely visited national Web sites as Yahoo! and About.com have discovered. However, national studies suggest that Internet users regard several ads every hour or so as acceptable within their overall online experience.
Unfortunately, some airtime sales staff don't understand online-advertising tools and must develop familiarity with them to sell online space effectively. Successfully selling requires a genuine commitment to Websites as a vehicle for promoting local-market advertisers as well as educating sales staff to create a strategy for advertisers.
Many stations are making this two-fold commitment, in part because leveraging messages and media is so convenient and so powerful. Television enjoys a simple structural advantage that other advertising media lack: Television is also rich media; it is audio and video, just like effective Internet advertising.
So converting a TV spot into a rich-media ad is usually straightforward and cost-effective. But rich media allows advertisers to track both raw visitor numbers and click-through numbers, indicating greater interest in a brand, product or service. It adds real-time reporting that a broadcast commercial cannot deliver.
A commitment to developing the Website as a significant advertising property allows stations to pursue some advertisers that may previously have favored print or other media.
For example, a Columbus, Ohio, station group increased its online-ad revenues by 3,000% in its first year of using rich media in online advertising.
As usual, investment follows success. Across America, TV stations increased their online-ad share by two points in the past 12 months. Some station groups are generating as much as 15.5% of all locally spent online advertising.
TV Websites are budgeting an average 45% growth in the hope of gathering increased market share. The rich-media online-advertising wave is gathering strength.