November 28, 2022

We all have seen the transition and growth in digital marketing.  Consider the new research that shows digital advertising increased by 35% to reach $189 billion in 2021, according to the IAB Internet Advertising Revenue Report. Podcasts have had a major impact on the audio ad marketplace.

At the same time,’s Global Audio Advertising predicts that digital advertising will grow 5.7% per year for the next five years.   

Add to this projection that Juniper Research shows that the digital ad industry will suffer $81 billion in losses in 2022 from digital ad fraud — an increase of over 15% from $65 billion in 2021 — and you have the perfect opportunity for public media to increase sponsored digital revenue.

The unique value proposition of public media digital assets is strong:

  • High engagement on public media station’s digital assets
  • A trusted environment – no political advertising – and a high standard of journalism, free from ad fraud
  • Association with your station and the beloved NPR brand; we know the Halo Effect applies to digital
  • Cookieless environment: Public media can offer display ads without tracking cookies 
  • Highly sought-after streaming audio and video pre-rolls, and, at many stations, rich media digital ads
  • Podcast sponsorship: It’s still a new and shiny addition to marketing

Here are what corporate support managers at four different stations that have see double-digit growth have to say about how to increase sponsored digital ad revenue. You may find inspiration from how they identified challenges and created solutions.

From Dyonisia Giatas with Maine Public Radio:

  • Our digital sales revenue numbers were pretty flat several years ago and we realized we didn’t have a consistent way of reporting numbers, impressions/stream starts.  
  • We started creating a monthly digital ad inventory metrics report for the team. It’s a one-sheet that covers all numbers for all of our digital products. The reps can easily insert it into our media kit or use it as a stand-alone. This gave the reps more confidence when speaking with clients about web products. 
  • We also monetized our newsletters and have grown the number of newsletters sent over the past 6-8 years increasing sponsored ad opportunities.
  • In 2019-2020, right before the pandemic hit, we increased rates on all of our digital offerings which also helped increase revenue.   
  • We are always looking for more digital sponsorship opportunities. Last year we increased the number of sponsors allowed for our streaming audio pre-rolls and added a leaderboard location on our website as a new feature to sell to clients.

From Bob Kastl with WUNC in North Carolina:

  • Four years ago it seemed to take forever for our sponsored digital web display ads to be posted, causing uncertainty, so our corporate support reps didn’t have confidence in selling them.
  • We shifted to me and two members of our corporate support team posting the digital ads ourselves increasing confidence in delivery and the team started selling the display ads more.
  • We sell SOV (share of voice) and we were also selling our streaming audio pre-roll offering 3-5 positions.
  • By 2021 we started feeling the pressure of the work of posting and managing our increased ad inventory and believed it was time to use an outside digital ad operations manager. We started working with NPM ad ops.
  • Now we offer digital on just about every call and our corporate support team feels confident on how much inventory we have and on our delivery. We now offer more than 10 shares of voice on streaming audio pre-roll. Digital ad offerings have really helped fill the gap when we are sold out on broadcast messages like we have been in the last couple of months.

From James Pickens with Texas Public Radio:

  • My biggest goal has been to make the corporate support team comfortable with what we can offer digitally and how the process will work. This alone has been the biggest influencer on our success. Additionally, making sure that digital is part of our sales playbook. It’s not an add-on or some “extra.” 
  • Including digital opportunities with everything we send out, including website, podcasts, newsletter.
  • We have a daily newsletter with 23k subscribers. Instead of selling monthly, we sell weekly, which has increased sales.
  • Working closer with podcast development to get ahead of the curve. Developing a cost model so we can create an appropriate value for podcast sponsorship and have a realistic expectation of revenue and deliverables (Working closely with the news director at the beginning of the process to make sure expectations are being met on both ends).
  • Next? Increasing sponsorship opportunities with dynamic ad insertion for streaming audio and podcasts. We’re working out the technical issues with this. 
  • Increasing opportunities for email sponsorship with our B2B sponsors and maximizing and monetizing all available opportunities for sponsorship of our website through geotargeting and other targeted opportunities without going too far.

From Jennifer Vangrevenhof with KUER in Salt Lake City, Utah:

  • [We] require account managers to ask for digital on every order whether new or a re-sign to change proposal habits.
  • Discuss digital product availability and pacing over last year at each weekly sales meeting bringing it to top of mind with account managers.
  • Adding more digital products to our sponsored digital ad menu such as streaming audio pre-roll messaging.
  • Creating broadcast + digital packages and assigning a significant amount of that package revenue to digital whereas it may have been bonused in the past.
  • No more bonusing digital – digital always has revenue attached to it.