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WBUR’s Public Radio BizLab & Podcast Donation Experiments by Lindsy Goldberg

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Presentation from Breakout session:
WBUR’s BizLab is an innovation lab identifying and testing new revenue streams for public media. With funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Knight Foundation, we collaborate with public radio stations across the country on testing new ways of raising funds. In this session, WAMU’s DCist team, Louisville Public Media’s do502.com events team, and WBUR’s podcast team will share their learnings from user-centered experiments designed to convert their largely passive communities into active donors. We will break down each experiment into the questions they were designed to answer, get the audience to guess the outcomes, and then provide a recipe for how to replicate the success at a variety of nonprofit news organizations

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WBUR’s Public Radio BizLab & Podcast Donation Experiments by Lindsy Goldberg

  1. 1. WBUR’s Public Radio BizLab & Podcast Donation Experiments
  2. 2. What is BizLab? ● A small team at 90.9 WBUR, Boston, running separately from core WBUR, quickly testing ideas for new revenue for public radio. ● Funded by WBUR, the Knight Foundation, the Lenfest Institute, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and individual donors.
  3. 3. What does BizLab do? ● We run lean innovation experiments internally at WBUR ● Current initiatives: ● Podcast monetization ● Affiliate marketing ● Event monetization ● Manage a six station collaboration with the same core mission. These six stations expressed interest in revenue innovation and were selected through an application and interview process
  4. 4. What does BizLab do? ● Inspired by the Lean Startup Method, we lead stations through a three phase process to design and test revenue generation experiments in market at their home organizations ● Three Phases: ●Qualitative Research and data analysis (inspired by design thinking/user centered design methodology), 6-8 weeks ●Three day iteration workshop in Boston at Boston University with BizLab team to synthesize research and design experiment, 3 days ●Rapid testing and experimentation, remainder of six month period
  5. 5. What does BizLab do? • System outreach via a semi-monthly webinar series and a monthly newsletter (our next webinar is on 7/23!) • Publicradiobizlab.org! • @WBURBizLab on Twitter • bizlab@wbur.org / LindsyG@bu.edu
  6. 6. Our Six Station Collaboration
  7. 7. Today’s Presenters: ● Lindsy Goldberg, Program Manager, WBUR BizLab ● Rachel Sadon, Editor-in-Chief, DCist ● Tajah McQueen, Events and Special Projects Coordinator, Louisville Public Media
  8. 8. Podcast Donation Experiments
  9. 9. A (very) quick primer on podcast monetization
  10. 10. • WBUR’s iLab produced podcasts, which appear on NPR’s website, have been filling a niche audio space since 2013-2014 • Our audience is 85% outside the state, 15% of circle round audience is international • BizLab saw this as an untapped opportunity, even in context with the nebulous podcast market
  11. 11. Podcast Donation Experiments: Overview ● We believed loyal podcast listeners would be willing to donate if asked ● We also believed we would have higher conversion rates if the donation process was streamlined for digital-savvy users
  12. 12. Podcast Donation Experiments: Overview ● To test our hypotheses, we varied our approaches by adjusting the following attributes in each of the three experiments: ■ Messaging ■ Message placement ■ Premium gifts ■ Donation Platforms
  13. 13. Experiment #1: Circle Round Camp Sweepstakes Premium Gift: Entry into a sweepstakes to win a fully paid stay at Camp Birch Hill in New Durham, NH for one child aged 8-11 Requested Donation Amount: $25 (one- time) Message Placement: mid-roll → host read pre-roll
  14. 14. Experiment #2: Circle Round Coloring Book Premium Gift: Coloring book designed to go along with certain episodes of the podcast Requested Donation Amount: $60 one time or $5/a month Message Placement: Mid-roll
  15. 15. Experiment #3: Endless Thread Six Second Songs Premium Gift: A custom six second song about a topic of the donor’s choice, written and performed by hosts Amory Sivertson and Ben Brock Johnson Requested Donation Amount: $10 Message Placement: Pre-roll (host read)
  16. 16. Results Circle Round Coloring Book Endless Thread Six-Second Song Circle Round Camp Sweepstakes Suggested Donation $60 or $5/mo $10 $25 Number of downloads during fundraiser Number of successful contributors Dollars raised $3,405.00 $2,675.00 $750.00 Conversion Rate (attempted to successful gifts Conversion Rate (downloads to successful gifts)
  17. 17. Results Circle Round Camp Sweepstakes Circle Round Coloring Book Endless Thread Six-Second Song Suggested Donation $25+ $5/mo or $60+ $10+
  18. 18. Results Circle Round Camp Sweepstakes Circle Round Coloring Book Endless Thread Six-Second Song Suggested Donation $25+ $5/mo or $60+ $10+ Dollars raised ($) $750.00 $3,405.00 $2,675.00
  19. 19. Results Circle Round Camp Sweepstakes Circle Round Coloring Book Endless Thread Six-Second Song Suggested Donation $25+ $5/mo or $60+ $10+ Dollars raised ($) $750.00 $3,405.00 $2,675.00 Number of successful donors 30 52 233
  20. 20. Results Circle Round Camp Sweepstakes Circle Round Coloring Book Endless Thread Six-Second Song Suggested Donation $25+ $5/mo or $60+ $10+ Dollars raised ($) $750.00 $3,405.00 $2,675.00 Number of successful donors 30 52 233 Donation Completion Rate (# started / # completed donations) 8.00% 11.50% 49.47%
  21. 21. Results Circle Round Camp Sweepstakes Circle Round Coloring Book Endless Thread Six-Second Song Suggested Donation $25+ $5/mo or $60+ $10+ Dollars raised ($) $750.00 $3,405.00 $2,675.00 Number of successful donors 30 52 233 Donation Completion Rate (# started / # completed donations) 8.00% 11.50% 49.47% Donation Conversion Rate (# downloads / # completed donations) 0.01% 0.02% 0.05%
  22. 22. Lessons Learned ● The donation ask should be done by the host, in a tone that matches the show. We learned that it is not effective to ask in a mid-roll or with unfamiliar voices. ● The ask can be quite long, sounding like podcast content from the host. Our two-minute ask was our most successful. ● Ask for either a one-time $20 donation or a $5/month sustaining donation. We found that one-time $10 was too little and more than $5/month didn’t work. ● Do not offer premiums at first. Premiums, especially specialized offers, narrows down the number of people willing to give.

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