Ross Yaeger

Director of Digital, Market Enginuity

Recent Posts

Best Practices for Pitching Digital Sales

Corporate Support, digital sponsorship

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Before the recent pandemic, public media stations had been enjoying years of solid growth in digital advertising. COVID-19 will certainly impact revenue for the near term, but digital is still one of the fastest growing media platforms in the world. That’s not likely to go away. Our audiences continue to listen more and more to our digital audio content. And now that many listeners work from home, they are engaging with our digital content in increasing numbers. 

As we work to establish a “new normal” in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to be ready to talk about the value of our digital offerings, so we are well-positioned to monetize our increased traffic and audience engagement when digital advertising revenue begins to come back.

Here are three areas to focus on when pitching digital:

Know Your Selling Points

  • Audience: Our digital audience is just as high-quality as broadcast, but tends to be younger, more affluent, more highly educated, more diverse.
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How to Handle Common Objections to Digital Sponsorship

Corporate Support

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Just like with other advertising platforms, underwriters who are considering digital sponsorship can have recurring concerns that prevent them from signing deals, whether they are skeptical about digital advertising in general, or perhaps have unrealistic expectations of what digital marketing alone can achieve.

Concern: Is Digital Sponsorship Generally Effective?

It's not uncommon to hear that underwriters have concerns about digital in general, or feel their click-through rates are too low. These underwriters may be accustomed to cheaper CPMs, and may have a dislike or distrust of mobile media.

Although digital is known to be effective and generates a massive amount of underwriting revenue, some underwriters have general concerns about digital and hesitate to allocate a portion of their budget to this type of sponsorship. These are usually underwriters who have a lack of personal experience with buying digital.

Response: Examples of Success

If a potential sponsor believes digital isn't as effective as traditional media, try sharing relevant examples and success stories. We recommend showing examples of competitors running digital ads; is a website that provides insights into where advertisers are running their ads, and can be a good source for advertisers, for example.

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Your Cheat Sheet for Digital Sponsorship Calculations

Corporate Support

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There’s one reality that every sales rep runs into when becoming a great digital salesperson:

You’re going to have to do some math.

To be clear, it’s not complicated math. And for those of us who do not enjoy spending our time working on calculations, I say: Don’t be intimidated!

Sure, if you read this blog post and never revisit the calculations, the formulas you need for digital sales may feel out of reach. But, if you write down these formulas, tape them to your office wall so you can review them - maybe even try some metrics-calculating practice sessions with your underwriting or digital team - they will become second nature to you.

Calculating CPM

Our first essential calculation is CPM, one of the most frequently used digital calculations:

Revenue = ( Impressions / 1,000 ) x CPM

This is one of those key metrics that everyone selling digital needs to know backwards and forwards.

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Position the Wins of Public Media Sponsorship Against the Trend of Programmatic Ad-Buying

sales strategy, Corporate Support

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The digital media environment continues to change at a rapid pace. In order to sell digital sponsorship with confidence, we need to stay ahead of the pace of change by educating ourselves about the latest trends.

The trend toward programmatic ad buying continues to increase, and this is a bit of a pain point for us in public media. Because of our language restrictions, we can't wholeheartedly embrace this trend alongside other advertisers. 

Clients who engage in programmatic buying are using a publisher or ad network/agency to set a determined budget, upper/lower CPM, and start/end dates. The process is self-service so when the buyer clicks "go," the buy is executed automatically, non-stop, until the budget or end-date is reached. 

If you're talking to a prospect about digital sponsorship, you should assume they're engaging in some sort of programmatic buying. Common platforms are through Google and Facebook, but the practice is becoming more universal. In fact, an April report from eMarketer shows that $46 billion will be spent on programmatic advertising this year, meaning that 82.5 percent of digital display ads in the U.S. will be purchased through automated channels.

This doesn't mean there's not a valuable place for public media sponsorship.

Radio advertisers like digital.

There a strong case to be made to your clients for broadcast and digital to be sold together. Why? Because:

  • Merging broadcasting and digital gives additional reach and/or repetition.
  • 85% of radio advertisers also buy digital (RAB and BA 2017).
  • Digital generates 7.5% of average station revenue (RAB and BA 2017). This will grow as digital migration continues.
  • Public media’s audience, content, community, and uncluttered environment still entice buyers.

Be ready to position against programmatic.

Programmatic has a low barrier to entry, is low-maintenance, and increasingly common. But it  does have its weaknesses.  Significant percentages of media buyers cites the following - legitimate - concerns about programmatic: (eMarketer 2017)
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Major Digital Sales Trends for 2018

Corporate Support, digital revenue

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Digital isn’t exactly known for being a stable, unchanging environment. It seems like almost every day, some kind of new gadget, merger, or platform is launched. All the while, digital advertising is growing faster than TV and radio combined (eMarketer Q4 2017). With all that change, it’s good to ask where public media digital sales is going. Here are the major trends to be aware of.

Audiences and usage continue to grow.

The good news is that digital is thriving and our audiences absolutely want to engage with us there. While most digital channels are experiencing solid growth, a few seem to be particular important for public media. For example, monthly online radio listening, or streaming, now reaches 61% of the U.S. audience, with younger audiences scoring significantly higher (Infinite Dial 2017). Mobile is also growing rapidly and accounts for a surprisingly high percentage of digital audio listening. On top of that, podcast listening continues to grow rapidly. While only 24% of the U.S. market listened to podcasts monthly (Infinite Dial 2018), it’s an area where public media seems to perform particularly well. Of Podtrac’s top five podcast publishers for January of 2018, four have public media focuses.

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The Two Biggest Ad Trends in Public Radio and TV Right Now (And What to Watch Out For)

Corporate Support, digital revenue

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The digital sponsorship landscape is constantly shifting, but there are two major trends that are very exciting to watch right now. Each of these areas presents challenges to public radio and television sales teams, but they also contain many opportunities for the growth and opportunity of our industry.


We’re all used to mobile websites and apps, but their growth over the last three years has been pretty mind-boggling. Unfortunately, that isn’t all great news. Mobile ads tend to get lower prices in the marketplace, so that can translate to fewer revenue opportunities. After the cry of “mobile, mobile, mobile!” that we’ve been hearing, this can feel like a let-down for stations already struggling with digital. On the other hand, there are advertisers interested in it who know that it’s a critical customer touch point.

On the upside, it’s created a new platform for stations to interact with their audiences. Mobile gives underwriters another way to reinforce messaging, on other channels like radio, TV, standard websites and newsletters. Because of this, I’ve found packaging mobile with other types of media can be an effective way to monetize it.

I also think stations need to explore engaging mobile ad products to help keep their CPMs higher. Things like expanding ads and in-banner video can capture underwriter imagination and the private sector is having some good luck with them.

Native Advertising

There’s been rapid adoption of native advertising in the digital sponsorship landscape. Many in public media feel this is increasingly at odds with the non-commercial values that public media uses to differentiate itself on-air. But it’s important to reconcile these concepts so we can be more proactive (and less reactive) in terms of defining our own future and the corresponding business model.

I saw a lot of native advertising in my days in the private sector. Most was done in a responsible manner, but I also saw some instances where I very much questioned the ethics of it. Based on that background, I tend to be cautious about it, but I also think some types of native advertising can be done responsibly.

Obviously, maintaining integrity is key. Stations that implement native advertising should make sure they don’t let it unduly influence their coverage or day-to-day operations. That probably means setting up some serious guidelines on what can and can’t be done. It might also mean that stations need to pass on some opportunities along the way.

I’m also a huge believer in transparency with the audience. Stations should always disclose when content has been funded by an advertiser. I think this is a no-brainer, and will be critical in maintaining our integrity.

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The Single Most Important Message About Digital Sales for Public Radio and TV

sales strategy, Corporate Support, digital revenue

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What’s the one thing you must understand about selling digital sponsorship effectively in public radio and public television today? Well, that depends on your station role. GMs, sales managers, account executives, and digital folks need to work together to form a cohesive team. But each plays a slightly different role in a successful digital sponsorship strategy.

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Demystifying Digital Sponsorship Part VI: Position Yourself Against Ad Networks

Corporate Support, digital revenue

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If you're trying to position your digital products against programmatic, you're not alone. There are several discussion points you can raise with your client to get them to consider shifting some of their budget away from programmatic. To start, it may make sense to ask them who manages their campaigns. Since they might be using a consultant for this, this may uncover some hidden labor costs that make programmatic buying less attractive. Also, if your clients are using employees who are new to programmatic buying, there's a good chance their campaigns aren’t as effective as they could be.

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Demystifying Digital Sponsorship Part V: How to Calculate Digital Metrics

Corporate Support, digital revenue

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In this series we're exploring the essentials of digital underwriting. We've examined what digital underwriters are looking for, beefed up our vocabulary, familiarized ourselves with the most-used ad products, and mastered strategies to educate clients about CPM. Now it's time to calculate the key metrics that will come up when discussing digital media with underwriters.

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Demystifying Digital Sponsorship Part IV: Combat Low CPMs

Corporate Support, digital revenue

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Today we'll discuss how to approach a client who has come to expect low CPMs. This happens more than we'd like. It's usually because...

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