August 17, 2020

Digital ad revenue is more important now than ever before, given the shift to listening on digital platforms. NPR’s new Grove Content Management System (CMS) will replace Core Publisher for station websites and is intended to make website content management easier, more flexible, and more dynamic. The new CMS is being beta-tested by a handful of stations now.

Grove and Digital Sponsorship Ads

Grove CMS was designed to have parity with Core Publisher to make migration easy. The digital ads that were available in Core Publisher are also available in Grove’s CMS. Here are the digital ads that are “baked in” to Grove CMS which were, for the record, also available in Core Publisher:

  • 728 x 90 Banner ad (at the top) (Can be replaced with a 970×50 banner ad) (both of these can support Rich media ads that include In Banner Video or push downs
  • 300 x 250 ads (3 down the right rail)
  • 320 x 50 small smartphone banner (disappears when user scrolls)

If you are – or are considering – migrating to Grove, you may have questions about the more detailed capabilities of the new system. Here are answers to such questions, based on those raised during our recent PMDMC Summer Series session “Leveraging Grove for Sponsorship.”

  1. Does the Grove audio player still support pre-roll banners? 

Yes, Grove supports pre-roll ads. We will likely need to work directly with your site during set up to make sure they are working properly.

  1. Will stations be able to add rich media ads to their own site or must they go through NPM for them to be added? 

Stations can make their own rich media ads if they have someone who knows how to do this, or they can hire NPM Ad Ops to make rich media ads for them at a small cost. Stations, of course, are not required to use NPM’s services for developing their own rich media campaigns. They are able to go out and partner with their desired vendors and developers to incorporate rich media into their advertising portfolio. Nonetheless, with the PMI Ops service, the workflow is streamlined to be as simple as possible so that stations can focus on selling, while NPM’s ad operations team create, execute, and report on the rich media creatives.

  1. Will the migration affect existing podcast and RSS feeds? 

No, existing podcast and RSS feeds can be set up in Grove CMS, just like they are in Core Publisher. During migration to Grove they will make sure your podcast and RSS feeds are all set up correctly, to ensure no downtime once you go live.

  1. When viewing Grove CMS on a phone, will the right rail “stack” beneath the content in the left rail? 

Yes, that is correct. The mobile site is responsive and will stack appropriately.

  1. 60% of our users are on the mobile version of our site. Is there any chance we could have more mobile ad placements? 

The benefit of being on a unified platform is that we will be able to revisit front-end templates, sponsorship needs, and other feature requests in a holistic manner. NPR has added a note to their roadmap that there is a desire for improved mobile ad units so that they can review what’s possible down the line.

  1. Do In banner videos auto-play? or only when clicked? 

It is a best practice to have video ads play only when the user clicks them. Stations have been advised to follow NPR’s best practice for public media guidelines of having video ads play only when clicked upon by the user. When the rich media is implemented this way, the user gains more control over the ad experience, and the in-banner video ad is not as intrusive as often occurs on more commercial websites. That said, this guideline is only a suggestion, and stations are within their rights to choose to ignore guidelines and have in-banner videos immediately auto-play upon a page load. We don’t advise it, though!

  1. When placed, do ads auto-populate the rest of the site or can ad locations be defined specific to pages within the site? 

Ads can target specific locations that your station webmaster has tagged and identified in Google Ad Manager. The placement of ads is best handled by an ad server. As with Core Publisher, Grove continues to be integrated with Google Ad Manager (formerly known as DFP or Doubleclick for Publishers). The ad server is then used to handle the setup, trafficking, optimization, and reporting on ads across the station’s website. During the setup process with Grove, the station personnel responsible for setting up ads can choose which sections and categories of the website to integrate with Google Ad Manager, and then use the ad server to make the appropriate ad serving decisions, based upon the sponsor’s campaign requirements.

  1. Could you talk a bit about the costs associated with Grove? Will there be additional costs for training and updates?

For stations currently on Core Publisher, the migration to Grove is part of your MSA and therefore does not have additional costs. NPR is developing a remote training process right now that will also be included in the station migration to Grove. If you have more specific questions related to costs, or the MSA, please reach out to NPR Member Partnership.

  1. Can we use zip code geo-targeting in the existing old system or will that only be available in Grove? 

In the current system, zip code geo-targeting is handled via the integration between Core Publisher and Google Ad Manager (formerly known as DFP or Doubleclick for Publishers). If a station remains on Core Publisher, zip code functionality will still be able to work. If a station decides to migrate to Grove, zip code targeting functionality will continue to be supported via Grove’s integration with the ad serving software, ie. Google Ad Manager.

  1. Is Grove fully meta-tagged for external searchability?

Grove is built to make use of the best SEO practices available. If you choose to migrate to the platform NPR can help you make sure your site is appropriately optimized.

  1. Do you just roll over the expandable ad, or must you click on it? 

Users must engage with the rich media version of the ad by clicking on the ad to make it expand. Similar to the earlier question around the auto-play of in-banner videos, NPR has also advised stations to have the expandable ads expand only upon a user-initiated click, as opposed to expanding upon rollover.

This is because a click-to-expand action is more intentional, on the part of the user, than a possibly accidental rollover-to-expand action. Therefore, it is a sign of stronger engagement and frees the station to be more liberal with the copy that is revealed in the expanded panel.

But again, this recommendation to only expand-on-click is merely a suggestion, and stations are able to choose to follow a different action.

Thanks to Tutuwa Ahwoi, Director Spot Sales Operations, NPR, and Matti Henefield, Sr. Product Manager, Publishing, NPR, for their answers to many of these questions. Greater Public members can listen back to the Grove CMS webinar here. We’ll share more information as the migration to Grove CMS continues.