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.
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.