With ‘Smartbinge,’ WNYC aims to raise national profile for digital content

By Andrew Lapin

Radiolab, hosted by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich, is an enormously popular podcast - but most listeners don't realize it's a WNYC program. (Photo: MarcoAntonio.com)

WNYC wants to make sure its listeners know that popular podcasts such as Radiolab, hosted by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich, are station productions. (Photo: MarcoAntonio.com)

In an effort to position itself as a national brand in public radio, New York’s WNYC is launching an ad campaign likening its programs’ listeners to Netflix-style binge watchers.

The Smartbinge campaign will consist of targeted digital ad buys and a landing page on WNYC.org to encourage listeners from around the country to listen to substantial amounts of WNYC programming. Other elements include Twitter hashtags, geotargeted Facebook ads, paid search results and sponsored blog posts.

WNYC is spending around $200,000 on the campaign, working with creative and public-relations teams Cataldi Public Relations and Eyeballs.

As WNYC increases digital offerings with streams and a mobile app, it has its sights set on an audience beyond New York. “Becoming a national brand is a natural extension of becoming a digital brand,” Noreen O’Loughlin, v.p. of integrated marketing at New York Public Radio, wrote via email.

Twenty-nine percent of WNYC’s app users and 37 percent of listeners to its web stream live outside of New York. WNYC’s Radiolab and Freakonomics Radio “have national audiences that far outweigh the local audiences,” and Freakonomics boasts “a substantial listenership in Europe,” according to O’Loughlin.

Each of those programs is downloaded upwards of 5 million times a month, but some listeners aren’t aware that WNYC produces them, O’Loughlin said. One of the campaign’s primary goals is to inform those listeners that WNYC is behind the shows, O’Loughlin said. But with Smartbinge, WNYC also hopes to draw listeners unfamiliar with its programming.

WNYC announced the campaign June 17 but has delayed its start until it resolves technical difficulties with the appearance of the Smartbinge site on Safari mobile web browsers. (UPDATE: It launched June 24.) In July, WNYC plans to release “How to Smartbinge” videos starring comedian Eugene Mirman.

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