National Podcasts, Local Ads

Even though I’m a retired old-school podcaster, I’m still a voracious podcast listener. And over the last few weeks, I was surprised to hear ads for Hawaii companies while listening to National Public Radio podcasts.

On NPR’s “Pop Culture Happy Hour,” I heard a pre-roll ad for First Insurance Company of Hawaii. And preceding episodes of NPR’s TED Radio Hour, I’ve heard ads for First Hawaiian Bank.

I heard First Hawaiian Bank’s ad first, touting its “Priority Rewards” credit card. I figured there was a possibility that FHB was advertising nationally, hoping consumers in Delaware might want to earn rewards from a Hawaii-based financial institution. But the First Insurance ad made it clear that it was aimed specifically at listeners in Hawaii.

Until recently, podcasts were generally a niche medium that supported only a handful of show and ad networks that seemed to draw the same advertisers. While Audible and Squarespace would be happy to sell their product to people across the U.S., some advertisers just don’t need to reach the whole country. I’ve heard ads on TWiT for companies that only serve customers in one state. And Hawaii residents are all too familiar with being exposed to offers that aren’t valid here (or in Puerto Rico). I’m looking at you, Blue Apron.

It makes sense that podcasting is now big enough to support localized ads, but I’m not familiar with the technology that supports it. Tens of thousands of people download these NPR audio files, and somehow the server is able to attach different pre-roll ads to the content and send it out as a standard, single audio file? Pretty impressive.

I’m not able to find much information about localized podcast advertising, and it’s possible only NPR has figured it out. (Either that, or First Insurance is advertising in Delaware.) But if it becomes more widespread, it’s going to be a pretty big deal. Any given popular show on a specific topic is bound to have a pretty good audience in certain regions or cities, and the ability to buy ads that only reach local customers will mean more relevance and will definitely be more effective.

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