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NPR sees new ad opportunities

News, 08 June 2016

NEW YORK: National Public Radio is benefiting from growing interest in on-demand audio and the opportunities it offers in a digital environment that is less regulated than standard terrestrial radio.

The much-vaunted Serial podcast has been cited as a significant event in the evolution of digital audio, but according to Bryan Moffett, general manager of National Public Media (NPM), the sponsorship arm of NPR and PBS, "there wasn't a massive spike in our audience just because of it".

Both traffic and audience have been growing steadily year on year, he told Ad Exchanger – NPR first started podcasting more than ten years ago and currently boasts 7.2m monthly – as he suggested that other factors were also playing an important role.

"We're at the precipice of on-demand audio being adapted in a big way by the public," he said, "because platforms like Google, Spotify and Pandora are interested in getting this type of content in front of their users."

The growth of streaming is also opening up new advertising opportunities. Pre-roll dynamic insertion can now be supplemented with the dynamic insertion of mid-rolls.

NPR doesn't yet offer the latter – it still produces them into the show – but Moffett expects that when it does it will be able to monetise its back catalogue.

NPM President and CEO Gina Garrubbo added that the organisation's research showed the audience did not find such commercial messaging intrusive. "There's a positive rub-off on the sponsors who support the podcasts," she said.

It's an area that she's keen to protect and NPR will only sell its own inventory. "Even though digital is not FCC regulated, we have a somewhat muted approach, which our audience is used to and expects from us," she explained.

"We don't allow a hard sell. So it'd be difficult to have a third party sell inventory, if they don't understand our voice and what our audience is used to."

Those self-imposed restrictions also mean that programmatic does not figure highly in NPR's calculations.

"It's a lot easier to have a direct conversation with a sponsor who's already bought in to all the benefits of reaching our audiences," said Moffett. "They will change the messaging to be more effective for us. In programmatic, things happen so fast, that's hard to do."

Data sourced from Ad Exchanger; additional content by Warc staff