KLRN Passport Drives Membership Growth and Added Insight into Donor Viewing Preferences

Since it launched, Passport has been a primary driver for membership growth at KLRN, a PBS member station in San Antonio. More than 2,800 members have watched Passport since April 2016, and 55% of these were first-time donors. These viewers accounted for 61% of KLRN’s online donations and 41% of online revenues.

Eager to learn more about this group, KLRN’s webmaster, Patrick Driscoll, began digging into the analytics data associated with these Passport viewers.

“What I’ve done so far is build two databases,” he says. “One of them takes the viewer data we get every month and cross-references it with member data.” Passport viewers are assigned a specific member ID, allowing KLRN to determine Passport viewing habits based on member types.

First Time Donors by Acquisition Type

“The second one works kind of like a referral database,” says Driscoll. He explains that PBS adds a digital tag to links associated with Passport videos. A viewer might load a video, then follow a link from that video to KLRN’s Passport donation page. That tag makes it possible for the viewer to return easily to whatever video he or she wanted to watch. But it also has a secondary use—it allows Driscoll to see what people wanted to watch when they considered donating, or ended up donating.

“It tracks the videos that are sending people to our Passport donation page,” he says. “I’ve taken that and used the Google Analytics API and have gone through a whole year of data. I’m able to see how many referrals and donations we’re getting from each of those videos.”

He dug through the first year of Passport, tracking the 14-month period between April 1, 2016, and May 31, 2017. Overall, Victoria served as the top channel, generating 13% of total referrals to KLRN’s Passport donation pages. Poldark, NOVA, Sherlock, and Downton Abbey also were strong sources.

But when it comes to viewing habits, the top channels that major-gift donors watched held a surprise. A whopping 43 percent of views were for PBS NewsHour, with Frontline in second-place with 15 percent. Washington Week scored another 11 percent. “That’s a pretty stark contrast,” Driscoll says. “The people who give us the most money, they’re most interested in things like current events.” The top channels for first-time donors also followed that trend. While Masterpiece was first with 15 percent, that was followed by PBS NewsHour at 14 percent. “I think that’s pretty significant, especially when you consider the state of news today,” he says. “That’s very interesting.”

Top Channel by Donor Type

Another interesting stat Driscoll has found is that more than half of Passport viewers were first-time donors. “I think Passport is reaching a new audience we probably haven’t reached before,” he says. Other stations have discovered that younger viewers comprise a significant section of Passport viewers—after all, the Millennial demographic is the one most comfortable with online streaming. Driscoll thinks this is very important. “We have this potential to reach a new audience and bring them into PBS and KLRN,” he says.

While they are comfortable with the technology, Passport donors tend to give less. Typically, they give the KLRN minimum of $60—a transactional donation that’s just enough to enjoy the Passport benefit—compared to an average donation of $140. But they represent the new, younger donors KLRN knows it needs to attract for future sustainability. Despite being so price-sensitive, these Passport donors are also turning out to be loyal. For the 14-month period, the station has so far has retained 94 percent of them, compared to 89 percent of other donors. In June, Passport viewers represented a third of KLRN members up for monthly renewals. Driscoll is continuing to track that data for the next year, as renewals cycle through.

In the meantime, he’s hoping these two databases will help KLRN create momentum for future digital campaigns. The station will rely on the data to build donor profiles, segment members based on Passport viewing habits, and keep up on trending shows. It can also personalize email and web page content for members. His first step will involve applying this data to inexpensive communication like email campaigns and high-traffic webpages.

Before engaging in a larger marketing campaign, he says, “we want to do the small things first and track the successes and data we’re getting from that. We have the potential to customize content, like viewing data, per donor.” Driscoll envisions a personalized renewal email that reminds a passionate PBS NewsHour viewer why supporting KLRN is so important.

“It’s something that speaks directly to them. It helps us connect with them in the best way we can.” The same could be said about Passport itself.