Three easy ways CBC Radio can start making some money online, right now

Over at Now Daily, Susan G. Cole outlines Six steps to save the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. She concludes by asking “Any other ideas?”

I have a couple, specifically geared towards making money for CBC Radio, which faces a planned cut of $14.4-million from its budget, as part of a plan to make up a $171-million shortfall. Now, these ideas won’t necessarily save CBC, but they could generate some extra cash.

If you ask me, CBC Radio is missing out on some really simple ways to generate revenue online.

Yup, I think we should do that. Make money online. Because as Mark Ramsey said during his keynote at las year’s Public Radio Program Director’s Conference:

It’s a different world online. Don’t go online and create the expectation that this is going to be as non-commercial as offline. Because if you create that expectation you will be held to it. And you will be worse for it. You will be worse for it.

Here then, are three ways off the top of my head that CBC Radio can make some dough, online, right now.

1. Help sell books, take a cut

FACT: CBC Radio puts a lot of authors on air

FACT: Amazon and Indigo are in the business of selling books, and both have affiliate programs that’ll pay referring sites up to 8.5% commission

What could this mean for CBC Radio? Let’s take Canada Reads for example. We know that Canada Reads generates books sales: “sales of Michael Ondaatje’s In The Skin of A Lion increased by 80,000 in 2002, the year of its appearance on Canada Reads. Its publisher, Random House of Canada attributed much of this increase to Canada Reads.”

So, a nationwide bump of 80,000 books. Let’s (optimistically) say you could drive 10% of those books sales (8,000 units) through an affiliate link at cbc.ca/canadareads. The current Amazon price for In the Skin of a Lion is $15.33. So then:

8.5% of 8000 books at $15.33 = $10,424.40

Ten thousand bucks for sending a little traffic Amazon’s way? Consider that Canada Reads picks not just one, but five books every year, and you’ve got a halfway decent way to offset production costs for that show. Set up affiliate links on the Writers and Company and the Words at Large sites, and literary programming might just get a financial shot in the arm. Would a little “Buy at Amazon.ca” and/or “Buy at Indigo” link be that offensive?

2. Help sell music, take a cut

FACT: The CBC Radio 2 site has an incredibly helpful Playlists page that tells you what music was played at what time on what shows

FACT: There’s no way to actually buy any music from that Playlists page

Again, one revenue opportunity is affiliate links. Apple has an iTunes affiliate program that pays 5 cents per song. So write a script that scrapes the existing playlist data and generates iTunes affiliate links. I can’t say I have any idea how many 5-cent drops in the bucket you’d get, but I’m positive it’s more than zero, which is what the Playlist page is making now.

Also, why can’t I buy any music from CBCRadio3.com via iTunes, kicking some dough to both the indie artists and the broadcaster that helped me find them?

3. Sell some freaking podcast ads sponsorhips

Hundreds of thousands of CBC podcasts are downloaded weekly. Smart, connected Canadians listen to those podcasts. That’s a valuable audience, reachable for cheap.

Remember back in 2007 when CBC Radio started running “sponsorship messages” at the beginning of each podcast? Something like “The delivery of this podcast is sponsored by GM” or some such thing. Those messages brought in a large amount of money. They’ve since been replaced with promos for other CBC programs.

Personally, I certainly wouldn’t mind hearing podcast sponsorship messages again, so long as they were sufficiently separated from the editorial content of the shows, and especially if they helped keep shows on the air.

And the CBC could be smarter about how they sell those sponsorships. They could sell them on a show-by-show basis, not just the blanket-style GM ads that ran in 2007. For example, why not sell tech sponsorships on the Spark and Search Engine podcasts?

Also, if I wanted to sponsor a CBC Radio podcast, where would I go? Who would I talk to? I have no idea. Here’s a thought — why not use those 20-second bumpers at the beginning of each podcast to say “Your sponsorship message here!”

What do you think? Should CBC Radio’s online presence be as non-commercial as the radio service, or could you handle ideas like these being put into place to help keep shows on the air?

Filed under: CBC, Public Radio, Radio

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Comments

  1. I *do* want to sponsor a CBC podcast (Spark).

    I am not GM, but I'd happily spend $500 to sponsor a single episode.

    I went to the advertising page on the website and sent in an inquiry several months ago. I have yet to hear back.

  2. I agree completely on the podcast ads. TVO added them and it hasn't affected my listening experience.

    And direct links to iTunes on the playlists are a great idea. (Kind of like the sales link on Obama's playlist) There are so many songs I would like to get on Radio 2 Morning but don't have time to write them down. Of course, there is only a limited time line on most of the playlists, so it would make it much easier if you could get the iTunes samples of the songs to locate yourself on the playlist.

  3. absolutely, absolutely, absolutely.

    i agree about all three of the above. please explain to the bigwigs that i said you have to be allowed to run things from now on. … good.

  4. Dan Misener says:

    Peter, it's embarrassing that no one has called you back. Looking into exactly who sells those spots, so we can at the very least make that information public.

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