Orlando station’s podcast on space exploration draws national audience

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Every week, a new podcast begins by asking, “Are we there yet?”

With NASA in its backyard, NPR member station WMFE in Orlando, Fla., is capitalizing on its local coverage to make money from a podcast drawing a national audience. In conversations with engineers, scientists, visionaries and others, host Brendan Byrne discusses advances in space exploration.

Chris Barch, WMFE

Barch

The podcast has been downloaded more than 150,000 times by people in 75 countries and reaches roughly 4,500 listeners per week, according to Chris Barch, WMFE’s director of corporate marketing. The station didn’t start the podcast to generate revenue. “We were going to do this regardless of whether we sold it or not,” said Barch, who spoke during a panel on digital audio sponsorship at the Public Media Development and Marketing Conference last week in Boston.

Selling advertising for a national podcast can be tricky for a local station, Barch said. He suggested reaching out to local clients who want to reach a national audience, such as online universities and business-to-business technology companies.

In general, colleges and universities are go-tos for digital advertising. Local WMFE sponsor Rollins College, a liberal arts school in nearby Winter Park, Fla., saw website banner ads and podcast pre-roll banners perform better in digital offerings than in Pandora, the personalized music streaming service that is dominating digital listening, Barch said. To him, that signaled a win for public media.

“We’re finally getting somewhere,” Barch thought. “Pandora has the numbers, but we have the audience.”

WMFE sells advertisers month-long runs of spots, which Barch said isn’t ideal but is easier for clients and sales representatives. A monthly sponsorship costs $2,500 and requires a three-month minimum commitment. Each podcast features three sponsors.

Packages include 25 podcast promotion spots on WMFE-FM; logos on all promotional materials, plus website and email marketing recognition; 30 20-second sponsorship spots each week; pre- and post-roll spots read by WMFE staffers; and banners on the podcast’s web page.