As commercial radio broadcasters, we think of advertising dollars first and foremost when it comes to revenue. Even as radio stations grow their digital revenue streams, the majority of “digital revenue” comes from digital advertising. In fact, there are other potential sources of online revenue that radio stations ought to consider.
In public radio, stations are increasingly exploring the idea of replacing pledge drives, where they ask for one-time annual donations, with a sustaining subscription model: asking listeners to make a small, recurring donation. The latter model mimics what many people are already doing with services like Netflix, Hulu, satellite radio, or even cable and internet providers. In our latest Public Radio Techsurvey, 50% of all public radio station donors are now sustaining members. Moreover, younger members are more likely to opt for this model.
Public Radio: Percentage of Sustaining Members
Is there a way commercial radio stations can take advantage of the “sustaining membership” model?
Radio stations can create membership websites which, for a small monthly fee, allow listeners to log in and access premium features or content. There are considerations here because radio has always been a totally free medium. But as consumers become accustomed to paying more for VIP access or so-called “gold” memberships that provide extra perks, this type of model could become plausible if stations provided true value.
What could commercial stations offer to members? There's a long list of possibilities:
- An archive of past interviews
- An archive of past podcast episodes
- Exclusive contests
- Special concert discounts
- Advance concert ticket sales
- Station merchandise
Best of all, because membership revenue is recurring, it is easy to forecast and anticipate issues. Perhaps it's time for radio to borrow and adapt a digital idea from public radio.
All of these models can be easily and inexpensively researched by tapping into station email databases to ascertain their viability. If you'd like to explore this path for your station and/or a personality show, contact us.
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