How to make your station pay for itself

Getting an income from your internet radio station or show sponsorship is possible – but don’t expect anyone to come knocking on your door to hand you cash. You have to go to them. But before you do there are a few hoops you need to jump through first.

First off; you need to write and design a cool looking media kit. This sounds more complex than it actually is… In essence this can be a single page PDF you can email out potential advertisers (and your best bet are companies local to where you broadcast from).

Your media kit will include not only a little glossy content about how brilliant you are and how you serve your local community, but also key facts and figures.

These will include:

  • Your location
  • Contact information
  • Website URL
  • Listener numbers; daily and weekly
  • The shows you broadcast (breakfast 7am to 9am with Jon Smith etc)
  • The types of music you play
  • Specialist shows; news, jazz, 80s, talk back, etc
  • Time on air (state your start date)
  • Prices for ads and show sponsorship
  • Explain about the growth of online radio (see Edison Research and Arbitron for trend data).
  • Explain how and where your station can be heard
  • Don’t forget you are selling ad space on your station and website (and perhaps even your app)
  • Feature a map showing the area you concentrate on. Sure, you can likely be heard around the world, but ignore that for now – keep it local
  • Focus on your local district, town or village
  • Detail the potential audience and their ages. Cover off the demographics of your potential listenership (for example are you a new area with young families or do you operate within an older population)
  • Detail how you are promoting your station to your listeners (what ad campaigns and promotions are you doing?). This will help your advertiser have confidence in your station, even if they already listen to you
  • Detail future plans to demonstrate you are growing and have expansion plans
  • List what events you have already undertaken, especially any that have involved your station supporting the local community and charities etc. And list any outside broadcasts or live shows (station branded mobile disco/roadshow?)
  • List your social media presence (clickable in a PDF).
  • Explain the difference between ads and show / segment sponsorship. A sponsored show could be exclusive to the sponsor. “Breakfast brought to you by local eggs – the great way to start the day”.

The ideal media kit will talk your station up to its limit without crossing into untruths. Whatever you do, do not undersell yourself in your promotional material (leave that to the competitors).

Not sure how to design a media kit? Download some from other radio stations via their advertising tab to get the flavour of them. Use it as a template / rough guide.

Once you have your media kit all designed, proofed, checked and looking fantastic, decide who you should send it to.

Sales person

At this point you need someone to handle sales and close the deals. Someone who’s really comfortable handling rejection and who can overcome objections with confidence and reason in a business-like manner.

Make a list of key companies in your target broadcast area.

Separate out the ones where your team might know the owner or ad manager. Call these people first, because you already have a relationship with them.

Once you’ve seen these firms, start on the cold calls. This takes time and can be very frustrating as you get the run-around. The trick is to get to the decision maker, the person who can actually agree to an ad campaign and pay you.

When setting up appointments be sure to establish if the person you are meeting can sign the contract.

After a long presentation where you have answered dozens of questions your heart will sink when the person you’ve met tells you they will have to run it by their boss and they will decide if the owner/manager gets to see it.

Don’t expect to close any deals during a cold call – they won’t know you from a bar of soap. You want to call, introduce yourself, get them excited about your station and make an appointment to go see them.

Take an advertising contract with you.

Know when to call it quits with unresponsive firms. If you’ve left 10 voice emails and sent 5 emails and got no response, let it go. Put your energies somewhere else. But if you find yourself driving by, stop and knock on their door.

Selling your first ad will be great. A paying customer.

Now, don’t give everything away. If they want a display ad on your website charge them for the design, or give them the size specs so they can supply their own artwork. You might want to sell a set number of clicks per ad, and there are plenty of website plugins that can manage this for you.

If writing and producing a commercial you might want to charge for that too. What you don’t want to do is produce a fantastic radio ad, send it to them for sign off and then hear it on another station.
If you do it for free, you must retain ownership and rights to the commercial – so you own it.


You should also make it easy for clients to book commercial time with you – 24/7. Consider having a special page on your website where a customer can enter their details, select an ad campaign, paste in their script, and pay online.

DJ Reads

Remember also that not all clients want a produced advert. Some prefer the presenter to read out their sales message. You should charge more for this as these types of ads can rate higher than a pre-recorded commercial.


Given you will be charging a minimal price I’d get full payment upfront.

1) The moment you have to start chasing payment post broadcast you’ve lost. You are out of pocket, the client has had the benefit. You have to weigh up how many hours it will take to collect the cash against letting it go and putting energies elsewhere.

2) Sold a month-long campaign and the client doesn’t want to pay a full month up front? Bill a week in advance for 4 weeks.

3) Oh, the client wants a discount for a bulk booking? Been there, done that. This is how to handle it. They want to book three months and want a 30% discount. Have them pay the full price for two months and give them the third month free.

What you don’t want is to say is ‘first month free’ – they’ll take it and cancel before they have to pay.

You and your radio station has value. Don’t sell yourself short. Talk it up, back yourself, and at the bare minimum cover your operating costs. It can be done, it just takes time and effort.

Final thoughts…

Some of you will have huge audiences for your station and word of mouth will help market your station to potential advertisers. Some of you will just be starting out, have very low listener numbers and are asking for donations, seed money, and support from local companies and well-wishers.

Be certain of which one you are; don’t over-promise and under-deliver. Your advertisers may feel let down and won’t re-book with with you. It’s far better to have a bundle of regular advertisers who appreciate the value they get from supporting your station, than to have to continually replace advertisers who decide not to re-book with you.

If you can get advertisers signed up for 6 months or a year then even better. You do not want to keep selling ad space every week or every month.