A few weeks ago I was driving in my car listening to NPR during a pledge drive. As I listened to the announcer hawk mugs and even special solar/crank powered radios in exchange for signing up for a monthly “pledge” and heard him referring to donors as members, I realized that public radio is actually selling subscriptions, but calling it something else.
As we know, NPR is an audio service supported by its members (as well as some other revenue sources). In 2011, which was the most recent year I could find info for – NPR received an average weekly donation of just under ten bucks per listener per week. (That’s the total $ amount of pledges divided by listeners and weeks.)
While Pandora One and Spotify struggle to get users to pay less than $10 a month for their service, NPR manages just fine, netting 4 times that per listener.
Why is NPR is so successful at getting listeners to pay for programming? For one thing, they don’t call them subscription fees. Instead, they call them pledges – a far more honorable term, and they make every listener who donates a member, and send them a hat or a mug. It’s a clever marketing approach!
What else are they doing that online audio subscription services can do as well? Well, for one, they hold annoying on-air pledge drives, where they stop the programming, not for a few short commercials, but for highly intrusive on-air begging by personalities. It’s really obnoxious, and it works. Listeners respond.
Other tactics that NPR uses to extract donations – err, I mean pledges – from its listeners include bribery (as in the mug, hat, or solar powered radio mentioned above), flattery (our listeners like you are so smart), making listeners feel guilty, and – this is the best one – threatening to continue the on-air fundraising tirade unless everyone calls in with pledges right away.
So what can subscription services learn from NPR? I think the membership approach is a good one – remember the old American Express campaign “Membership has its privileges?” Creating a strong brand that people want to associate themselves with, and then selling that association – that seems to be a formula that works for public radio and a strategy subscription services may want to go to school on…
Yesterday Amazon announced a new feature that allows Twitter users to add something to their Amazon shopping cart by replying to a tweet with the hashtag #amazoncart. After connecting their Twitter and Amazon accounts, they can reply to a tweet for a product that has an amazon link and the product will be placed into their shopping cart for purchase. Later, they can visit their shopping cart and complete the sale.
“Add it now, buy it later” is the slogan used in the promo video by Amazon.
This is a pretty innovative strategy on the part of Amazon. Think about it — it encourages everyone who is selling anything to create a link for that product in Amazon and tweet about it. What’s more, if you actually take a little more sophisticated approach, you create your own little Amazon store, tweet the links to products in there, and enjoy some revenue sharing on the deal.
Amazon has more than 200 million registered users, all with credit cards associated with them. They have one of the easiest shopping cart platforms, with their proprietary 1-click purchasing. And they sell just about everything.
With their new “add it now, buy it later” promotion, consumers can easily react to a product they see tweeted, place it in their shopping cart, and purchase immediately or later. Either way, Amazon has placed itself in the middle of the transaction, making it easier for both the buyer and seller.
There are simply tons of ways that this can be used to make advertising more effective. For example, stations with a strong Twitter following can put their Twitter feeds to work. With advertiser permission, stations can tweet product links and run a coordinated ad campaign on their station and Twitter, extending the reach and impact of the ad campaign – and the bond with the advertiser. (Of course, this is for brand and product campaigns, not brick and mortar campaigns.)
Exciting possibilities exist with both iTunes and Amazon, who have so many registered users’ credit cards and make it so easy to buy. Now Amazon has figured out a great way to make it easy and attractive for everyone to want to use their platform to conduct business, and to encourage anyone with a Twitter following to promote Amazon links.