Jul 12, 2012

NPR Digital looks to geo-targeting, ad injection to raise online revenue

SEATTLE — A  push for more locally targeted content and ads may be the answer for attracting more web users and listeners to public radio stations' digital content, NPR Digital representatives said during a sponsor showcase on July 12 during the 2012 Public Media Development and Marketing Conference.

"Trying to be all things to all people might not get it done in terms of building a digital audience," NPR Digital g.m. Bob Kempf said, emphasizing the need to free stations to focus on local content.

The digital team demonstrated a new geo-targeting feature they've incorporated into NPR's Facebook page. It allows the social media site to sense where users are clicking from and highlight content based on their location. In a four-month pilot program, visitors who resided in Seattle saw a total of 60 locally focused stories produced by KPLU, the news and jazz station serving Seattle and Tacoma. The resulting click-throughs drew more than 50,000 additional visits to KPLU's site, driving usage that set new records for online traffic in a day and month, as well as a spurt in the story engagement rate among Seattle users. The story engagement metric, which is measured through "Likes," comments and shares, was more than six times that of the global engagement rate.

NPR Digital is rolling out geo-targeting to four additional stations and plans to expand the program in the fall.

Additionally, the digital team is testing a "local news" box, a small section on the homepage that uses IP addresses to detect a user's station and automatically generate localized content from the station's website. They've seen an 18-percent success rate from visitors in the select markets where the box is being tested.

Bryan Moffett, v.p. of digital strategy and operations for National Public Media, shared estimates of the growth in aggregate values of digital sponsorship credits of public media stations. Some categories, namely web banners, are projected to grow exponentially in value by 2015 — to $10.5 million from $4,200 in 2010. The inventory of mobile banner credits is valued at more than $6.7 million, up from $450,000. Credits attached to station audio streams would grow to $44.1 million by 2015,  more than triple their value of $12.5 million in 2010.

To automate the online credits and ads, NPR Digital is developing a new technology called Ad Injector that allows stations to insert localized credits in audio streams, replacing the spots that run on broadcast. This sponsorship program will be made available to all member stations following a 90-day alpha pilot.

Kempf dismissed concerns that Ad Injector would interfere with stations' blanket licensing agreements for streaming national content: "We've determined that injecting an ad is not altering the national [agreement]," he said.

Editor's note: Earlier versions of this post misinterpreted a slide that Moffet presented on the values of public media stations' digital credit inventories in 2010 and 2015.

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