Five Ways to Increase Digital Sponsorship Revenue in FY21

Corporate Support, digital revenue, COVID-19

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Public and commercial radio have seen website and digital platform traffic surging in the last three months during the COVID-19 pandemic. Listening habits are shifting from broadcast to digital platforms and smartphones specifically are being used even more than they have been in the past. This is a shift in behavior that can be leveraged for more digital revenue if planning and preparations for success are made now. Are you ready?

Borrell Associates shared in their April 2020 webinar that Phase 3 of business reopening will be an opportunity for media if we are prepared. Borrell Associates research predicts a boost in advertising revenue this summer. Here are five ways you can increase your digital revenue in FY21 when businesses reopen and when some events that were delayed this spring come back in Phase 3.

1. Review your digital ad revenue.

Compare your year-to-date FY20 digital revenue to that of FY19 (using your data from Greater Public’s FY19 Benchmarks for Public Radio Fundraising) to see if your sponsorship team is increasing digital sales. Many teams look to double digital revenue year over year. If you are already maxing out your digital capacity, look for new digital ad units you can offer or ad units that could be better utilized.

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Start Finding Valuable Donors Online Using Basic Digital Advertising

Membership, digital revenue, digital marketing

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As more people in station audiences interact with stations strictly online, it’s crucial that public media stations meet these audiences where they are. One effective way to do that is to use digital advertising to acquire new donors and increase revenue.

What is digital advertising?

Digital advertising combines all of your digital donor outreach efforts into a single, cohesive strategy. It includes graphic ads with a call to action, called retargeting, like the ads that follow you around the Internet after you search for a new pair of shoes online, for example. It also includes social media efforts, robust email marketing and fundraising campaigns, demographic ad targeting, and your Google Ad Grant.

Demographic ad targeting creates a lookalike audience made up of people who match the demographic of your current membership. Ideally this lookalike audience will be highly receptive to your message and will be willing to invest in your station. This is very similar to strategies used in acquisition-mail list planning, for example, where the mail is targeted to donors who are predisposed to support your cause.

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The Digital Metrics That Matter Most for Public Media Fundraising

Membership, Corporate Support, digital revenue, General Management

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In public media's ongoing quest to connect to audiences via digital platforms, it's important to realize that what we decide to measure can ultimately affect what we do to increase our audiences

This became a focal point for a small conference organized last spring by the Station Resource Group and the Wyncote Foundation in cooperation with NPR. The gathering was aimed at “strengthening the digital news service within public media.” But the team quickly agreed that there wasn't a shared understanding for how to measure digital success.

So a working group of public media organizations formed in order to define a shared framework for measuring successful growth on digital platforms. 

The group winnowed down a lengthy list of possible metrics to four essential areas of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) - or audience-focused goals - along with the metrics considered to be most important within each, organized by platform:

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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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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:

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Get Great at Converting App Users into Members

Membership, Social/Mobile, digital revenue

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Recent estimates indicate that 60-80% of NPR One app users are not currently local station members. Many stations also have access to email leads generated from the users of their own station apps. Here are some proven techniques for engaging with these email leads to inspire app users to become station members.

Welcome users of your station app with an email reminding them of the many online services you offer, e.g., streaming, schedules, events, etc.

Even better, create a three-email “welcome series” that can be automated for new leads. The series should be service-oriented but contain a donate/join button. The last of the three messages should specifically ask for membership. (Don’t forget to add a challenge or match if you have one.)

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Four Ways to Educate Your Clients About the Future of Smart Speakers in Public Radio

Corporate Support, digital revenue

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If you haven’t already seen The Smart Audio Report, fielded by NPR and Edison Research earlier this year, it contains some interesting and encouraging information about the impact of smart speakers (Alexa Echo aka Alexa, Google Home etc.) on public radio and audio consumption in general.

Here are some key takeaways from the report:

  • Smart speaker owners LOVE their smart speakers. They own multiple, and would not want to go back to life without them.
  • Smart speakers are a conduit to more listening. Once someone has a smart speaker, they listen to more audio.
  • Smart-speaker owners index high for internet streaming sources. They are likely to have a paid subscription. This is especially true when it comes to music; smart-speaker owners spend lots of time listening to music, more so than to news.
  • But, listening to the news via these devices is also happening, as is listening to podcasts and audiobooks (to a lesser degree).
  • People like smart speakers to easily and gradually control aspects of their home, like turning on/off lights, adjusting the thermostat, etc.
  • Children love smart speakers and parents do too, since the speaker makes it easier to entertain the kids! Older and/or single users also value the companionship that the smart speaker provides.
  • Amazon’s Alexa dominates right now, but Google is looking at a new product due near Christmas time with a more affordable price point.
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Five Predictions About Digital Advertising (and a Key Recommendation for Public Radio)

PMDMC, Corporate Support, digital revenue, digital marketing

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At PMDMC 2017, Corey Elliott from Borrell Associates discussed the changing impact and growth of local digital advertising. He shared the following five predictions based on Borrell Associates survey data:

1. Advertisers will cut "weaker" media to fund digital.

  • 63% are increasing their digital spend.
  • 75% of “increasers” will be negatively impacting their non-digital budgets to do so, with print media taking the biggest hit.
  • These advertisers taught themselves that digital “works.”
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Five to Ways to Achieve Above-Average Online Giving From Your Website Visitors

Membership, Social/Mobile, digital revenue

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by Dick McPherson, CEO,

Thousands of visitors find your station’s website looking for content, information or occasionally a way to show support. The percent of visitors who contribute during their visit is a key benchmark of online fundraising success. For public radio stations, outside of a membership drive, this percentage tends to be very low. But there are some simple things we as fundraisers can do to increase the number of visitors who join or donate.

Goal: Your website should convert over 0.6% of your website visitors to complete a gift.

This benchmark comes from national studies of nonprofit sites, data from NPR and stations, and station interviews.

Many stations aren’t achieving this conversation rate. How is your station performing?

If you don’t know what your conversation rate is, use this formula:

Conversion of website visitors to donors = total number of gifts made using your online giving forms ÷ total unique visitors for a year.

If you’re converting less than 0.6% of your visitors, it may mean that not enough people are finding or visiting your online giving form. Or if they do find it, they may not find it persuasive or easy to use.

Here’s what to focus on to hit those above-average conversion rates:

1. Make sure your forms are mobile-responsive.

The majority of email is now read on mobile phones; many stations receive over half their web visits from mobile devices. When people find your online giving form on their mobile device, it’s vital that it be phone-friendly.

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How to Use Email as Your #1 Online Fundraising Tool

Social/Mobile, social media, digital revenue, email

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In the nonprofit sector as a whole, more online donations come from a click in an e-newsletter than from any other source. This is due in part to the fact that nonprofits are getting better at building their lists. But it’s also due to the sustained and growing use of email as an essential medium.

Email is not dead.

Global use of email is growing rapidly. The number of people using the internet worldwide is going to double in the next four years. This means more people getting online, more people signing up for social networks, and more people signing up for email accounts.

There are currently 4.4 billion email accounts worldwide and that number is expected to grow to 6.6 billion by 2019. This will bring the global adoption rate of email to 92%.

We have been eulogizing email for the last decade and let me tell you, this data shows us that email is the most important tool that you can use in online fundraising.

Given these statistics, I’m also perplexed by public media’s relatively low use of email fundraising compared with other organizations in the nonprofit sector. It’s often very difficult to find an e-newsletter subscribe option on public media websites. And the volume of e-newsletters from many stations seems to be low or non-existent, except during a member drive. This suggests an area of great opportunity.

Of course, you do need to know how to use email. 

Email is changing.

55% of email opens are now happening on a mobile device and more than half of traffic to is mobile. Your email design simply has to be mobile compatible.

The term “e-newsletter” came from a time when print newsletters were being duplicated to send via email. Email publications are not print publications. Today, it’s better to think of your e-newsletter as an email bulletin.

Send shorter emails, more frequently.

Instead of taking the 20 stories you would have put in a paper publication and sending those out once every three months, you should send fewer stories, and send them more frequently. Send three stories every two weeks, for example. Or create a weekly update of the most important news happening in your station and local community.


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