Possibility of native ads on pubradio sparks concern

DENVER — A public radio station’s foray into native advertising, which seamlessly integrates paid content into a website’s editorial fare, stirred strong opinions at a July 10 session at the annual Public Media Development & Marketing Conference. Attendees packed the room to hear about plans for native advertising on the site of Southern California Public Radio in Pasadena, Calif. The broadcaster received a $33,000 grant in April from the Investigative News Network and the Knight Foundation to experiment with native advertising, also known as sponsored content. Over the six-month pilot stage, which ends in December, SCPR will develop a native-advertising framework for online and mobile platforms. “SCPR believes that the framework emerging from this grant will map out the common ground between the interests of its audience, underwriters, and journalistic principles,” INN said in a statement about the grant when it was announced. “At its conclusion, the organization will be much closer to determining whether sponsored content is a viable revenue stream for mission-driven, nonprofit content producers.”

According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, native advertising encompasses “paid ads that are so cohesive with the page content, assimilated into the design, and consistent with the platform behavior that the viewer simply feels that they belong.”

In experimenting with native advertising, SCPR joins nonprofits Voice of San Diego and the Texas Tribune, which began placing native ads on their websites this year.

Stations retool pledge drives to account for rise in sustainers

DENVER — An increase in sustaining memberships has provided a welcome source of stable income for some public radio stations, but it has also prompted some to rethink their strategies for on-air fund drives. Under a sustaining membership, a donor sets up automatic monthly contributions to a station instead of giving on an annual basis. That reduces the pressure during on-air fund drives to convince listeners to renew their memberships, and stations are responding by redoubling efforts to enlist new members during pledge campaigns. Executives from two stations described their approaches in a July 10 panel discussion here at the Public Media Development & Marketing Conference. “Our drives are no longer a renewal machine,” said Jacquie Fuller, on-air fundraising manager for Minnesota Public Radio.

Hawaii Public Radio overcomes challenges to win prize for outstanding fundraising

DEI gives its Benchmarks Award each year to a consistently top-performing station in terms of net revenue per hour of listening. While the median station raises .95 cents in underwriting revenue per listener-hour, HPR last year sold 2.25 cents per listener-hour — all handled by HPR’s single underwriting salesperson. In presenting the award, Robin Turnau, president and c.e.o. of Vermont Public Radio and DEI treasurer, cited HPR’s peculiar challenges. “Their location is one of the top vacation destinations in the world. They deal daily with the challenges of serving a transient population, while raising funds from a permanent listenership where the local median income is only modest, while the cost of living is extraordinarily high,” said Turnau, noting that HPR’s net-revenue-per-listener-hour stat put it in the top 10 percent of DEI surveys for both membership and mid-level giving.

Wisconsin Public Radio’s Dopart was hailed as PRADO development professional of the year

Since becoming WPR’s director of membership director in 2005, Rebecca Dopart has upped membership revenue by 30 percent — from $5 million to $6.5 million — and increased the number of donors from 40,000 to almost 49,000. Since she assumed the additional title of director of corporate support two years ago, sales have risen nearly 30 percent, to around $1.8 million. “She turned a team that suffered from low morale into one that has sold so many spots that their underwriting rates had to be increased and new avails created,” said Gordon Bayliss, v.p. of sales and marketing at WBFO-FM/WNED-FM/WNED-TV in Buffalo, N.Y., and PRADO’s immediate past president, in presenting the award. “She achieved those results by providing the team with training retreats, instituting new contact management software, creating a copy review team and a new media kit, and by simply applying her own can-do attitude and moral support of each team member.”

This is the 16th year for the PRADO award, which honors the station-based fundraising professional who has demonstrated excellence at his or her public radio station. Dopart received the award at the Public Media Development and Marketing Conference (PMDMC) July 13 in Seattle.

PBS to produce sessions on TV fundraising at PMDMC

Next year’s Public Media Development and Marketing Conference, the annual event organized by pubradio’s Development Exchange Inc., will include a new track for pubTV professionals, produced by PBS. The conference runs July 12-14 in Seattle. The track will focus on pledge practices, fundraising and community engagement around children’s programming, and television-specific research. DEI and PBS announced the collaboration in a statement Dec. 6.