Low traffic levels and the corresponding low ROI are the #1 reasons stations give for not moving forward with an online sponsorship strategy. But online sponsorship does not have to be an all or nothing proposition; there are ways to get in the game now, as you take the time you need to think about how to increase the value and traffic of your web offerings longer-term.
Dedicate the minimum inventory required (suggested 20K monthly pageviews) to sign up for NPM’s PMI Network. This is a quick, turnkey way to take advantage of a passive revenue stream and add to the larger aggregate value that public media as a network can offer online advertisers. You’ll begin to see modest sponsorship activity and revenue on your site while you take the time you need to think more strategically about ways to more fully engage your audience with your online content. The more impressions or pageviews you contribute to the network, the more revenue you may have. As a quick rule of thumb, stations that are able to contribute about 20,000 impressions a month earn between $75-$100 a month with no effort required.
Contextual links (i.e. Google’s Ad Sense, Outbrain) are another automated and fairly turnkey way to earn passive revenue or to supplement your other online sponsorship efforts. Just remember that these links, unlike NPM ad units, may not always adhere to public broadcasting guidelines and therefore may subject your station to unrelated business income tax (UBIT). ^top
Once up and running with a turnkey ad network, work internally to focus your efforts on increasing the value of your website and related online assets. Are you doing all you can to promote your website, specialty content and features across platforms? As traffic and engagement grows in certain areas, you can begin to transition certain premium online content to your in-house sales operation, while perhaps leveraging a turnkey network sales operation for remnant or other less-valuable inventory:
- Promotion: Your station website address (URL) should be integrated into all your communication channels: on-air, direct mail/marketing, and events.
- Social Media: Use social media to engage your audience on a regular basis. In 2013, if your site is not getting 10% of its traffic from social media outlets, you are behind the curve and missing an opportunity to build your brand digitally.
- Online Traffic Measurement: Do you have an accurate online traffic measurement tool to track key performance metrics like page views, unique visitors, time spent on site and total visits? This information will ultimately help you understand what you’ve got to sell. Google Analytics and NPR Digital Services’ Analytics Service are viable low- to no-cost options. For larger sites with significant traffic and agency buys, you may want to supplement your web metrics with syndicated audience data -- comScore’s MediaMetrix is the most widely used.
- SEO: How does your site measure up in terms of Search Engine Optimization (SEO)? Do you have resources to engage in Search Engine Marketing (SEM) to drive users to your station site?
Consider your station’s digital media strategy in terms of how your station can best serve and grow your audience online, and on their terms. The more your content speaks to user interests and behavior, the more time and traffic you will generate for your station’s online content offerings. The more traffic and user engagement you generate, the more revenue you stand to make across platforms and the better positioned you are for the future. As you begin to understand which of your content offerings may hold the most revenue potential, you can focus your own sales efforts on selling and maximizing these opportunities while continuing to outsource remnant/other inventory to a network or turnkey sales operation. ^top
Crafting a digital strategy can be a daunting prospect, but there are turnkey tools and resources out there to help you. Both PBS and NPR, as well as a host of national producers, offer a wide variety of embeddable online modules, widgets and content offerings—including online video and streaming audio-- designed to add value to your site as a local content destination. PBS.org surfaces local content if a user is localized that directs users to the station sites. NPR provides an API (Application Programming Interface) that enables stations to easily surface NPR content into local sites and serves as a source of fresh, original content that keeps users engaged. There are also scalable options for web design/hosting, and traffic management, which can be easily integrated with online ad serving tools.