Not Too Late to Join the Digital Underwriting Revolution

Corporate Support, digital revenue

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This year has revealed major steps in digital across many stations in the public media landscape;  typical growth rates for digital compared to on-air are mind-boggling. Of course, this is due to smaller numbers being easier to grow quickly, but digital still represents an under-tapped revenue source for many, and a small (but growing!) percentage of the overall revenue pie.

If you are among the late adopters of digital, never fear. It is not too late to jump in. But do your homework first and make sure your entire team, from station-operations folks to your sales reps, are well trained and ready to go. What you don’t want is to have your first campaigns go sideways due to internal issues. This will not go over well with clients and will demoralize your team.  

So, what are the key things you need to know and do? Greater Public offers a thorough modular training series called Digital Leapfrog (for underwriting managers and for account executives), which is definitely worth investing an hour of your time each week to complete. (While some of the stats cited might be about a year old, the trends addressed are still very much on-point.)

Here is a summary of the most important points to consider when digging in to digital underwriting sales:

How do you want to sell your inventory?  

You can choose between a cost per thousand impressions model or simply, what is known as Share of Voice. Many stations that are just starting out prefer the Share of Voice model as it needs less tracking and post-sale analysis. Share of voice simply means selling a banner, for example, at a set price of say, $100 per week. The client would get 100% Share of Voice in that case. If you rotate two clients, they would get 50%Share of Voice. The CPM method means that you promise a certain number of impressions and charge an agreed-upon rate per thousand, such as $10 CPM.

Packaging vs. a la Carte

Do you want to offer companies the chance to pick and choose? If you do, then you’ll sell the best products first, and perhaps not the secondary ones at all. Do you offer digital-only or build digital into all on-air packages? You will most likely find that incorporating digital into all on-air packages will be the best way to get started. You may have to force this issue with a sales team that is not familiar with digital and
all that it has to offer to your clients.

Leveraging Premium Ad Products

This would be tying a certain underwriting commitment to your most valuable digital assets such as stream pre-rolls, or podcast sponsorships, which are very hot right now. Just beware that you don’t treat your premium products as added value! This brings us to our next essential point:

Value-Added Inventory

Do not sell digital assets as a bonus! This will bite you in the backside in the end. Digital has value for some sponsors as much - if not more than - your radio announcements.

Reviewing With Ad Operations

Be sure to learn your capacity. For example, can you have more than one display ad rotating or is it limited to one? Can you have more than one company on the stream, or just one? Is there a companion display ad that shows on the screen when someone opens the player? Much depends upon the ad-serving software you use, as well as upon the way you want to sell your inventory. 


Digital is taking a larger slice of local ad revenue than any other single platform. This can be seen as either a fierce competitor or a new revenue stream. If you don’t incorporate digital into your offerings, you may lose clients because they have digital edicts to fulfill. You can help them reach those goals, with a fantastic audience, and retain their on-air sponsorship dollars as well.  

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