Tossed casually into a meandering media story in Sunday morning's New York Times is a reference to Spot Runner, a significant new Web-based ad service -- it's in beta -- that lets small businesses schedule local video advertising on cable/broadcast systems.
It's the local TV equivalent of Google's Adsense, a way for small businesses to buy advertising without having to talk with a sales rep, worry about production details, or for that matter put on a pair of pants. Like AdSense, it's inexpensive and it's something an entrepreneur can do at 11 p.m. or 6 a.m.
From a fairly extensive library, you pick a stock commercial like this one designed for carpet cleaning, you fill out some forms, and you pay with a credit card. Spot Runner recuts the voiceover and handles placement.
In my market, the Betty Boop ad would cost me about $350 for exclusivity. Presumably the airtime would cost more -- I can't tell and I'm not pulling out a credit card just to try it. But it does look remarkably easy and relatively cheap.
Both local TV stations and newspapers are hurting economically these days because traditional big retail advertisers are being replaced by national chains, such as Walmart and Best Buy, that buy mostly national advertising. Some of that money trickles down to local media, but it's a pittance compared with the good old days of local department stores.
To compensate, they have to find ways to go after smaller advertisers. Most newspapers and TV stations never call on the majority of potential accounts in their areas. Many entrepreneurs are bad credit risks. Many can't afford the rates. Cost of sales eats up any potential profit. A self-service, Web-based system fixes all of that.