Generating Revenue from Sponsored Content

Sponsored content started in print publications and has been around for decades. Today, we’re exposed to sponsored content daily, and most of the time, we’re entirely unaware of it.  You may notice an actor holding a Starbucks coffee cup or a superhero driving a particular car brand.  These are types of sponsored content.  The items are not being sold in the form of a commercial; they are interwoven into the scenes.  Regardless, they are still paid forms of advertising.

If you follow celebrities and social media influencers, periodically, they will mention a particular brand they are using.  For example, you might find Selena Gomez talking about her favorite purse brand to her Instagram audience.  Sure, they may like and use the brands they mention, but those brands are paying big dollars for those mentions because they reach millions of followers.

As it applies to websites, sponsored content resembles the site’s regular news or editorial content but is paid for by an advertiser to promote its product or service.  You may have seen this content on major news or magazine websites.  So, why offer it on your radio station website?

Sponsored Content Works

Research shows that people remember branded content twice as much as a traditional banner ad. Instead of thinking they just saw an advertisement, your website visitors should feel like they’ve learned something that interests them. This makes the client brand within the article look more credible, memorable, and trustworthy.

In a 2016 research study, over 4,000 Forbes magazine readers were asked to view webpage content featuring brands like SONY, Maserati, and Boeing, followed by a post-exposure survey. The results demonstrated that:

  • Brand recall, brand favorability, and purchase consideration points rose.
  • Consumers were likelier to say they intended to seek more information about the brand.
  • Mentioning the brand name more often within the content caused the brands to be perceived as more educational (or providing service). So, they became more trusted.
  • 18-34-year-olds responded better to long informative articles, driving higher engagement consideration rates and aiding recall.
  • Consumers perceive sponsored content as more consumer-centric because it is less about selling products and more about providing value.

PDF to the full report here: https://ipglab.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/IPG-Lab-Forbes-Storytelling-The-Current-State-of-Branded-Content-Deck.pdf.

What kinds of sponsored content can your radio station take advantage of?

– Informational articles can appear alongside any other news content you offer.  An easy way for clients to help local website visitors is to re-write or re-purpose blog posts that they would write for their website visitors.

You can pitch this to clients as a way of setting them to be thought leaders and building trust.  While a traditional banner ad may display for a few months, their article, with links to their website, will live on your site forever.

– Air talent social media posts: Take a hint from celebrities and influencers.  They do not simply show a brand and say, you need to get this.  That would be a commercial and to some “spammy” content that would result in losing followers.  Instead, they weave the brand into an everyday conversation about something.

A local morning show guy in town has a friend who does ceramic coatings on cars.  He’ll often share a photo of a cool car in his buddy’s shop.  The post simply says, “Nice ride,” but I can see the business name on a sign in the background.  Whether the morning guy gets compensated for posting that or not, that’s excellent marketing for the business due to his number of followers.

– On-air mentions: Air talent can learn something new here.  Effectively weaving sponsored content into a conversation is a skill to be learned because it goes against what we do regularly.

We’re always taught to give the client’s name, address, phone number, and website.  But simply saying, “Oh, speaking of breakfast.  After the show yesterday, my wife brought me a few of those new donuts from Papas Donuts.  Mind-blowing!  Amazing!” (and then going into the next topic).  That can have a dramatic effect.  It’s not a “live commercial.”  It doesn’t sound like one because it doesn’t give any of what we usually give in a commercial.  This woven mention will likely leave the listener wanting to know more about Papas Donuts.

– Podcasts: One of my favorite podcasts is the Model Health Show.  Shawn Stevenson is excellent at interweaving paid content into his podcasts.  Some of his paid content can last 4-5 minutes.  For example, Shawn will start by mentioning how the country has become overweight and how ultra-processed foods have contributed to this epidemic.  He will transition into how numerous health studies show how chlorophyll has been shown to help weight loss.  Two to three minutes later, he finally finishes with the answer to weight loss being super-foods that contain chlorophyll.  And because their natural processing methods are the best way to get the most chlorophyll, the best place to get that is (fill in the blank).  Here are the details.

It’s fantastic because you do not realize that you’re listening to a commercial until three or four minutes into riveting information about how to lose weight and being informed about the benefits of chlorophyll.

I listen to several podcasts that contain ads.  Ads are easy to fast forward past in my podcast player. However, when the sponsored content is weaved into the content in such a way that it’s not apparent that you’re listening to a commercial, you’re hooked.  It’s a great way to ensure that your client’s commercial messages are not skipped over.

Preparing Sponsored Content

As you would imagine, writing sponsored content takes additional time to get right.  The traditional, in-your-face advertising tactics that we’ve become used to will not work as sponsored content.  If your client is writing the content article, ensure they know they are not writing a commercial for their business.  The business provides valuable information to everyone.

No matter who writes the content piece, here are some tips to keep in mind.

1) Provide substantial value to your audience. Your sponsored content should demonstrate its value immediately. The title and except should pique your visitor’s interest and deliver on its promise.

What do you want readers to take away from your sponsored content? If your client operates a lawn tractor store, they might discuss the best times to fertilize a lawn to ensure it stays green all year.  A local hunting outfitter store might offer tips on the easiest ways to stay safe in the woods.  Just be sure that the content they create will be valuable to your radio audience.  If your P1 listeners won’t find it helpful, it doesn’t belong on your website.

2) Ensure the content is natural and fits your audience.  Using the previous Selena Gomez purse example, it’s doubtful you will hear Selena touting how much she loves her new air conditioning unit or lawn tractor.  Likewise, it’s unlikely that fitness experts like Shawn Stevenson will promote website hosting services.  Both would be unnatural for their specific followers.

Some articles that would be useful would include “Best Summertime Activities” from the local YMCA, “Top 10 State Tourism Destinations” from a hotel chain, and “Top Tax Reductions that Are Often Missed” by your local tax preparation service.  I bet you could think of a lot more.

3) Stay away from text within images and logos.  If we’re talking about website content, logos look like advertisements, and text within images is a design disaster.  They can also look like advertisements.  Your content should focus on helpful information and not make the page look like a commercial.  This can be a hard sell for some clients who are not familiar with this concept, so plan to educate them on this.

4) Take time to create/tweak this content.  If you or your client think it would be simple to take a sixty-second script and turn it into a website article, please think again.  Quality over quantity is the best policy when creating sponsored content.  The goal is to provide something valuable for the reader, not to sell them something.

5) Never accept commercial content.  As I’ve mentioned, sponsored content must never be presented on your website if it sounds like a commercial.  Going against this rule to satisfy the client will hurt your whole website in the long run.  Your future visitors will start to look for commercial content and be less likely to click around.  This can dramatically affect your SEO and future sales, so saying “no” to a commercially driven article is the best policy.

Wrapping Up

According to a study by Neilsen and Mode Media, consumers can spend 2.5 minutes reading a sponsored article that interests them.  This makes sponsored content more valuable than any other website offering.

When implemented correctly, sponsored content can be a lucrative part of your digital strategy.  You’ll see more visitors and revenue, and so should your clients.

Need help with your radio station website?  We’re here for you.  Reach out to us.

Jim Sherwood serves as the chief creative, brand strategist, lead developer, meticulous project manager, and station collaborator for all Skyrocket Radio sites and projects. Jim is a 30+ year radio veteran with a resume spanning several small, medium, and large markets including roles as Digital Content Manager, Program Director, Production Manager, and Morning Show Host.