This column has been updated.
Earlier this month, at MediaPost’s Publishing Insider Summit, National Public Media’s president-CEO Gina Garrubbo spoke NPR's exploding podcast audience and how its sponsorship subsidiary National Public Media (NPR) delivers sponsored messages to listeners in an effective and engaging way.
According to Garrubbo, "85% of public-media podcast listeners would rather listen to sponsor messages than subscribe to a commercial-free app."
While NPR may be most well known for the broadcast arm, it offers a broad array of platforms that deliver content to a hungry audience.
The NPR.org website boasts powerful advertising metrics. Sponsorship opportunities across the site include persistent banners, digital audio, custom brand canvas and in-story banners.
NPR.org banners perform 400% above industry benchmarks for CTR and have a 92% viewability rate. The display units also show a 9.1% interaction rate.
Additionally, 69% of NPR.org’s audience hold a positive opinion of companies that support the website, 73% have taken action in response to a sponsorship message and 65% prefer to buy products from NPR sponsors.
In May, NPM launched NPM Creative, a new in-house creative studio catering to all NPR digital platforms, including podcasts, radio, web and the organization’s popular app.
Erica Osher, senior director of NPM Creative, told Publishing Insider: “As brands look for more authentic, brand-safe partners to help them tell stories and drive engagement, we saw an opportunity to build a unique approach anchored around audio and high-quality custom creative.”
For example, NPM Creative offers custom audio production through its flagship product Brand Soundscapes, extensive creative testing and optimization solutions, while investing in building new products “that capitalize on the ever-expanding list of platforms where NPR content and thus, its sponsors, may be discovered.”
NPM Creative is careful to consider the voice and aesthetic of NPR when creating products for sponsors.
“We collaborate closely with NPR’s digital teams in the design of our sponsorship products, conduct extensive user tests, and tailor creative to fit with both the design and flow of NPR’s editorial products,” Osher said.
“It is important to note, however, that we take care to differentiate sponsorship from editorial content through messaging and design signals. A clear distinction is essential to maintain trust between NPR and its audience and to ensure that all engagement with sponsorship occurs with intention.”
Osher cites NPM’s work with one sponsor, the craft beer company Lagunitas Brewing Company, as being a prime example of how working closely with a sponsor can benefit the entire NPR ecosystem.
For the past four years, Lagunitas has sponsored NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Contest. Over the course of those years, the organization has found ways to expand sponsorship opportunities for the brewing company.
This year, NPM Creative created content for Lagunitas through Brand Soundscapes. Producers went on-site to the company’s breweries in Petaluma, CA and Portland, OR, and captured the sounds of the brewery, interviewed employees about the connection between music and recipe creation and to find out how the company helps local non-profits through the use of their community rooms.
This content was distributed across NRP’s digital platforms and this summer Brand Soundscapes segments will be released on smart speakers for the first time ever.
The audio content produced via Brand Soundscapes lets brands distribute it across their own platforms and channels. The ease of sharing was made possible by a careful study of NPR’s own experiments with social audio and other open source projects. That resulted in NPM Creative building a Social Audio Tool specifically for the needs of brands.
“With NPM Creative, we hope to find new ways to drive revenue to support the NPR mission, while maintaining a great user experience for the audience and results to sponsors,” Osher said.
“NPR digital revenue has increased 425% in the last four years. NPM Creative supports this continued growth with the work we are doing to make NPR’s digital sponsorship products more engaging and valuable to sponsors and to innovate on and extend those opportunities to new, developing platforms.”