Does Your Station Have a Digital Inventory List?

Back in 2019 radio’s digital ad revenue topped $1 billion for the first time and now totals more than 20% of radio’s overall revenue.  So, are you making the most of your digital footprint to be part of that windfall?

Back in the old days of digital, you sold some banners on your website and called it a day.  Many have placed some Adsense banner ads throughout their site and declared “good enough”.  With the advent of mobile apps, voice skills, podcasting and other ways of getting your content in front of your audience, you now have a much broader base to build revenue.

Knowing there are so many options, your agency, and smart local clients will ask, “What do you have available?”  Unfortunately, many sellers will not have a clear answer.  A radio station website alone can provide many of the same opportunities as your radio station, but as you grow your website and other digital assets, there are oh so many more opportunities to sell.

“Inventory” is the total amount of space that you have available for advertisements at any given time.  If you operate a radio station, surely your sales manager maintains an inventory list like this showing all available commercials in each hour/daypart as well as sponsorships and other on-air features that might be open for clients to purchase.

Smart online publishers have maintained a digital inventory list for years, most starting with an Excel spreadsheet or Word document.  Many early adopters have migrated to online reports that integrate with their banner management system so that lists are always current to the minute.

Once you create this list for your website, then move to other online assets that are available for client sponsorships (we’ll get to those in a minute).

Start with an Excel spreadsheet.  Here’s what your list should include…

Regular Banner Ad Positions
This list will include all banner ad positions on the homepage as well as all subpages where the ad-block may be different.  For example, the top 728×90 may be the same for all pages on your website or “run of site”.  Your homepage may have one ad block while all subpages have a different “run of site” ad-block.  Make notes of each location and the size.  You may also want to add the cost of ads that will be in each location so that your sellers will have a baseline to negotiate with.

Be sure to note every position on your website and set a maximum number of available ad spots that can be sold for each one.

Have multiple ads rotated in one position?  Be careful to limit the number because the client will not be given adequate exposure.

Post/Page Feature Sponsorships
Knowing their clients, some clients may not wish to be in the regular rotation of ads on each page, so include in your digital inventory list every page/feature sponsorship opportunity that’s available that might interest their clients.

For example, a storm shelter client may wish to only sponsor the top position on the weather page.  Ideally, a sponsorship rate should be more than the regular “run of site” rate.

Other examples of what to include here would be…

– School/Weather Closings
– Local Sports Team Page (Huge opportunity)
– Obituaries (Funeral Homes, Flower Shops)
– Event Calendar
– Local Sports Category
– Daily Poll Sponsor
– Contest sponsor
– Pet of the Day, ____ of the Day.

Premium Sponsorships
Premium sponsorships can be “out of the box” ways to give your clients exposure outside the typical banner ad space/sponsorship.  A “page takeover” would be a good example of a premium sponsorship.  In a page takeover, one client rules every position on the page.  You can choose or even upsell changing the background image for them on this page to match their message.

Streaming/Social Media/Podcasts/E-Mail
If your station provides Facebook mentions for a fee, then your digital inventory list should also include the pricing and availability of these as well.  Social media platforms do not allow direct advertising, but they do allow mentions like, “Thanks to Joe’s Pizza on Main Street for the fantastic lunch today!  Have you tried the ‘Joe’s Favorite’ yet?”  An upsell to the simple mention might be including a video with the post, live stream to Youtube/Facebook, etc.  There are so many opportunities using social that won’t violate their terms of service.

Then you have your “Listen Live” or Podcasts sponsor.  This might be a simple text link but include a custom “Listen Live” image and/or banner ad within the stream player.  Include what the client gets in the form of simple links or pre/post-roll commercials.

What else can you think of that your station does online that could possibly have a client’s name attached to?

– E-Mail Blasts
– SMS Blasts
– Alexa, Google, and Siri voice skills?  Those can come with pre-rolls as well.
– Youtube client tours by your talent

Don’t try to do everything we’ve mentioned here.  Start with the basics and expand as your team is comfortable.  The point is to generate a document that covers all the bases right now.

To get you started, we’ve created a sample Excel Spreadsheet that shows the avails a typical website might have on any given day.  We’ve included what each ad inside the location might cost, so the salesperson knows how much to ask for ads in each location.

Download the Digital Inventory List Excel Spreadsheet

The clients are fake and the monthly rate values are just a suggested starting point.  Your market may demand more or less depending on the content and the number of visitors you receive each month.  More visitors should demand higher pricing, which is why promoting your website heavily each day.  The list should constantly be evolving.

Have something to show clients when they ask what opportunities are available on your radio station website.  And ensure that your salespeople are communicating digital’s true value to advertisers.  I’ve just scratched the surface here.  There are so many more opportunities for your clients and ways for you to generate revenue than a simple banner ad on the homepage.

If you are just starting out with a fresh new website and your sales team has no experience with selling digital, then it’s perfectly fine to start out with Adsense or another third-party ad service.  Just remember that the payout isn’t impressive and is literally nothing compared to what you can make selling the same space on your own.  Plus, Adsense can deny or stop serving your website if you are not updating content regularly.

Jim Sherwood serves as chief creative, brand strategist, lead developer, meticulous project manager, and station collaborator for all Skyrocket Radio sites and projects.