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How Digital Distribution Will Impact PSAs

November 15, 2016

It is no surprise to see that digital distribution of all media products is fast becoming the de facto standard for distribution of media content, particularly for shorter videos such as PSA messages.

First let’s define the terms. Digital distribution (also called digital content delivery, online distribution, or electronic distribution), is the delivery of media content online, thus bypassing physical distribution methods, such as video tapes, CDs and DVDs. In additional to saving money on tapes and disks, digital distribution eliminates the need to print collateral materials such as storyboards, newsletters, bounce-back cards, etc. Finally, it provides the opportunity to preview messages online, and offers media high-quality files for download.

The “Pull” Distribution Model

In the pre-digital world, the media was spoiled because they had all the PSA messages they could ever use delivered right to their desktop, along with promotional materials explaining the importance of the campaigns.

Today, the standard way for stations to get PSAs in the digital world is to go to a site created by the digital distribution company and download them from the “cloud.”  Using a dashboard that has been created for PSAs, the media can preview the spots and download both the PSAs, as well as digital collateral materials such as storyboards, a newsletter and traffic instructions.  This schematic shows the overall process flow for digital distribution.

To provide more control over digital distribution, Goodwill Communications has its own digital distribution download site called PSA Digital™, and to see how we handle both TV and radio digital files, go to:

On the site, the media can preview PSAs online, access background information on the campaign, and download Nielsen SIGMA encoded files.

Role of Promotion

Since digitally distributed PSAs no longer go directly to the decision-maker, promotion is more important than ever, to ensure that the media decision-maker knows how to download your PSAs.

Here are some of the tactics we use to promote our client campaigns:

  • Posting client files to our PSA Digital Website, where they can be viewed and downloaded in broadcast quality with the Nielsen SIGMA code embedded in the files
  • Posting a digital storyboard, a newsletter, and traffic instructions on the media download site maintained by the digital distributor to provide background information on the client campaign
  • Using blast emails to let stations know where they can download PSAs; sending these to the media, as well as to state broadcast associations
  • Posting our client PSAs to our branded You Tube site called PSA USA
  • Posting  client  PSAs to the National Association of Broadcasters’ Spot Center download site to give the messages external credibility
  • Connecting client PSAs with social media such as You Tube and Facebook; writing blogs on the social issues being promoted via PSAs and sending background information on the campaign to online websites pertinent to the issue
  • Finally, and most importantly, we have our outreach specialist personally contact all the national cable networks in our database to pitch our client PSAs to them

Evaluation Impact

From the evaluation standpoint, we are still dealing with the implications of digital distribution, and to give us a better measurement of how digitally distributed campaigns compare to those involving hard copy materials, we created something we call our “benchmark report.”

This report takes data from 70 TV PSA campaigns we distributed from 2010 (when stations migrated to Hi-Def) to 2016, and parses the values they generated out by month.  We then compare how any given client campaign compares to this monthly standard.  This allows us to see how campaigns distributed digitally compared to those using hard copy materials. When a campaign is under-performing the standard,  we can also use this data to take corrective actions before the campaign has run its course

We are working with our digital distribution partner to develop other metrics of success, such as how many stations previewed the PSAs; how many stations downloaded them; and ultimately we may even be able to compare those that downloaded against users.

Unlike the old PSA distribution paradigm which was based on fairly routine ways of doing things, the digital world requires that we work harder to keep up with ever changing technology. Just as Sir Aldous Huxley wrote in his groundbreaking novel in 1931 called Brave New Worlds, we must either embrace these new ways of doing things, or we will no longer be relevant, as change swirls about us.


Bill Goodwill, CEO of Goodwill Communications, has written dozens of articles pertaining to various aspects of PSAs, many of which can be viewed at James Baumann, Goodwill Communications’ Chief Operating Officer, was formerly Executive VP/Media for the Ad Council, and is an expert on digital distribution.

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