A Web of Opportunities: Tracking and Using Air Show Outlets on the Internet

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There are a growing number of impressive, quality, air show websites, social media pages, podcasts and publications offering our industry new tools and opportunities. With each season, there comes increased use of thrilling video, stunning photographs and compelling content on the web. All of these places are hungry for sponsors, advertisers and even more content. They provide the air show community with more opportunities to market our services and talents. Each website offers ad space and — because most are supported by social media sites — you can pinpoint your message directly to their followers.

Connecting   

Social websites like Facebook offer low cost ways to advertise. Herb Gillen of Herb Gillen Advertising has been promoting air shows through social media for more than seven years and says, “With our air show clients, we have significantly increased the amount we spend on Facebook ads, and that has usually come from decreasing traditional ad buys (television, radio, print, etc.). The reason we do this is because we can be very targeted and we can track the results, and — most of all — it has worked beyond our expectations.”

Gillen explains, “The way it works is that we create an ad — usually with multiple images — that is targeted geographically, demographically, behaviorally, and psychographically. This is not new, but the new twist is that we create a tracking pixel and place it on our show website ticketing confirmation page. This lets us know which Facebook visitors actually made a ticket purchase; and, the pixel communicates this information back to Facebook, giving Facebook valuable information about the type of people who are clicking through and that we actually are converting into sales. With this information, Facebook starts showing our ads to similar types of people who are most likely to make a purchase. Each new piece of data helps make the ads better targeted. The more money we spend on the conversion web ads and the longer they run, the better they work. By the end of these campaigns, it was like turning on a faucet that spit out cash!”

While client confidentiality prohibits Herb from revealing sales figures for specific clients, he has provided a few results from three unnamed clients from 2015 that were directly tracked from Facebook web conversion campaigns (see image below).

While social media is one way to connect, advertising directly on a website is another. A lot of sites working in our industry use Google AdSense. Google automatically delivers ads that are targeted to your content or audience. They do this in several ways: With placement targeting, you choose specific ad placements on websites. Ads that are placement-targeted may not be precisely related to the content of a page, but are hand-picked by advertisers who’ve determined a match between what your users are interested in and what they have to offer. Personalized advertising enables advertisers to reach users based on their interests, demographics (e.g., “air shows”) and other criteria. (Note: Be sure and use both “airshows” and “air shows,” as our industry seems to split on the spelling.)

Do Your Homework

Sites such as Instagram, Snapchat, Vine, Twitter. Vimeo, Google +, YouTube, Pinterest and others provide you with the means to communicate even more about what you do and what you like as well as providing the service of being able to communicate to others whom you would not have access to otherwise. There are so many networks, it can be hard to focus.

In his book, The Ultimate Air Show Marketing Machine, ICAS member Eugene Loj warns, “In today’s technology-rich business environment, we tend to get caught up with too many choices. Every day, the growth of high-tech marketing options increases exponentially.” He suggests, “You’re better off adopting one or two simple technologies into your air show marketing and become proficient at leveraging them before adopting something else.”

Air show imagery does well on the web — especially video — and it often goes viral because it’s exciting and its fans are passionate. Loj says that’s what makes it a comparatively easy sell. “You need to have an event that people are irrationally passionate about. There is no need to push or pry; they’ll just buy. That’s a recipe for event success. When you have irrationally passionate buyers, things like a bad economy have far less negative impact.”

Choices

So what choices are out there in this fast changing world? I’ll focus on a few sites knowing that — by the time this is published — a few more will have popped up. All of them provide advertising and promotional opportunities for shows, performers and service providers.

AirShowStuff.com

AirshowStuff was started in 2005, as a simple weekend project, and has grown into a great industry site. Editor-in-Chief Ryan Sundheimer created the site while he was a high school tenth-grader after getting bitten by the air show bug in 2004-2005. Now, after more than a decade of continuously improving the content and sophistication of the site, Ryan — along with team members David Jacobson, Anthony Richards and Ricky Mathews — create all of the site’s content, providing quality photos, videos and informative posts. The team brings a wide array of skills and experience to the job (video, design, photography, meteorology, internet/computer technology, marketing) and typically attend 8-10 air shows each season.

“These days, we have many facets to the AirShowStuff operation,” says Ryan. “The centerpiece is our website which contains the blog for news items and posts to promote our other works. It gets 75,000 to 100,000 hits a month. We upload our videos to our YouTube channel, AirShowStuffVideos, which has 26,000 subscribers and several million video views. We just recently launched an online forum to fill the void left by other sites that have shut down. We promote all of this mostly on our Facebook page, where we have 39,000 followers. All totaled, we reach anywhere from 250,000 to 500,000 views on our content each month, depending on the time of year. We do get some money from advertisements and licensing our content, but it primarily goes toward the website costs and to defray travel costs,” says Sundheimer.

Our industry has been slow to embrace the web, something that Sundheimer commented on, saying, “We often find there is a big information gap between the average attendee and the show. We frequently get questions from people who think that we are the organizers of their local show just because we mentioned it. Sometimes, even we struggle to find the info they seek because it just isn’t out there, and I think the industry as a whole can stand to do a much better job of reaching these people and making their information visible.”

The feedback he’s getting suggests the industry may be losing touch with the average fan. “I think that my time with AirShowStuff has given me a good dual perspective, both from the fan side as well as the business side. I see a lot of people in the industry who have forgotten what things are like to the average fan, and I see some who neglect the business side of things. I think this ‘middle man’ viewpoint could be a great asset to the industry and I hope to get more involved and put it to good use in the future.”

WarbirdRadio.com

The site’s creator is fellow air show announcer Matt Jolley, and he says, “Yes we’re open to advertising and sponsorship from shows and air show acts.” Matt’s site is different; it features live broadcasts and downloadable, on-demand features focused on vintage planes. He explains, “Across the globe, military aviation enthusiasts are tirelessly working to save examples of vintage military aircraft; however, the survival of the stories these artifacts tell are not guaranteed. Every day, Warbird Radio.com works to save these stories from airmen past and present. Today, Warbird Radio.com offers shows from around the world, focused on veteran interviews, topical military aviation news, aircraft restorations and museum features, as well as aviation event news. It’s free to listen to and serves a niche for aviation enthusiasts and history students the world over.”

Jolley’s on-demand programs have an impressive reach. Last year, an average of 22,650 shows were downloaded per 15-week period and the live channel accumulates 500 total listening hours per month across 28 countries. His supporting social pages reach an additional 20,000. If targeted, all can offer a way to connect your act or your show to his followers. The webpage provides plenty of opportunity to reach thousands via a sponsorship or placing advertising amongst the over 1,050 hours of quality programming available.

Jolley comes from a journalistic background and is proud of his work. WarbirdRadio.com won a national Edward R. Murrow Award from the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) for its feature reporting, specifically, an interview with WWII P-38/P-51 pilot Ralph Maloof. “We started Warbird Radio.com in 2009 because we believe the stories of our airmen — past and present — are important. This history matters, but it sure is nice to know our peers at the RTDNA like what we’re doing and consider us worthy of an Edward R. Murrow award,” says Matt.

LiveAirShowTV.com

Another award winner is Jeff Lee who leads the team at LiveAirShowTV. It also has a significant following, both on-line and with its supporting social pages. The Facebook page has 15,526 followers.

Jeff has been in the television and production business for more than 30 years, first directing local news and then commercial and corporate production. He has a deep appreciation for flying and the air show industry and now uses his talents to bring air shows live to the web. His team creates dynamic video of the events and does a good job of covering the entire industry by sharing posts from other sources. The website is a great resource for knowing what’s happening in the air show community on a daily basis.

Jeff doesn’t do it alone; his team includes Barbara Long (production/crew coordinator), Mark Allen (who has hosted/written and/or produced nearly 2,000 episodes of television programming), and his son, Bryan Lee (operations director, who handles logistics and video playback in the control room during live broadcasts).

Lee has been deeply connected to aviation since his father flew the family around Texas and the Southwest in their Piper Comanche. In 2000, at the Reno Air Races, Jeff shot and edited People, Passion, Pistons and Power for World of Wings. This experience allowed him to bring together his love of aviation with his passion for telling stories with video. The show aired on what is now the Speed Channel. That event led to Jeff becoming the Director of Media Productions for Aviation Nation, the Nellis Air Force Base-Las Vegas Air Show. Always looking ahead, Jeff and his team know the power of the web and the opportunity it brings to presenting the excitement air shows generate.

AirShowVid.com

AirShowVid.com is billed as, “Your premium ticket for aerotainment” on the web and their tag line is, “Where Aviation Lives.” It features air show coverage, aviation documentaries, aircraft photography and aviation videos. With supporting social media like their Facebook page which has 32,420 “likes,” there is opportunity to target their followers. Also, their supporting Vimeo page features their quality videos so that you can share them as content for your own web / social pages.

www.airshowmag.com

World Air Show News (WASN) was published continuously from 1986 to May 2004 as a trade magazine. In July 2004, it was relaunched as a colorful, lively magazine of air shows distributed six times per year, and has recently added an on-line presence. Their team of over 60 contributors covers air shows and air show people.

Sandra (Sandy) Parnau is the Publisher. Jeff Parnau, Editor-at-Large, is a long-time air show fan and commercial pilot, and has been involved in publishing his entire life. Jim Froneberger, Editor, began as a feature writer, but now manages the development of the editorial content you read in each issue. Denise Decker and Michael J. Gallagher, contributing editors, supply a significant portion of the feature content. They each seem to attend more air shows in a single season than most people do in ten years. Kerry J. Newstead is the Canadian editor; he also maintains a comprehensive air show calendar and helps coordinate the extensive team of freelance contributors. Scott Slocum, Senior Photographer, is a former editor of a regional general aviation magazine. Scott has emerged as one of the top air-to-air photographers in the business. Brad Haskin, Air Racing Editor, is a regular at the National Championship Air Races in Reno.

Hugh Oldham, who they refer to as “air show evangelist,” is a columnist and unleashes his irrepressible wit and provokes on a regular basis. Greg Koontz, the resident ACE, brings the performer perspective to their pages in another regular column.

indytransponder

Indytransponder.blogspot.com is a collection of headlines, links and articles related to what they call “aviation edutainment” which includes air shows and air racing. Additionally, they highlight aviation heritage and content directed at youth’s aero interest. The team is made up of Roger Bishop, Mike Souders, Martt Clupper and Marilyn Dash. A supporting Facebook page has 1,011 followers.

airspeedonline.com

Airspeed is primarily a podcast serving between 12,000 and 19,000 episode copies every month. Steve Tupper, who manages the site, says, “The aviation news-media and social-media community is far-flung, but very tight-knit and supports a culture of sharing and cross-pollination through shared projects.”

Viewers/listeners consume another thousand or so copies of Airspeed media through Airspeed’s posts on Vimeo and other outlets. Airspeed is also a central framework for aviation media projects like feature films and a touchpoint for other activities surrounding aviation and aerospace. 

Canadian Airshow Buzz

A public group on Facebook put together and administered by 19 year-old Ernest Gutschik and Nike Chute. Chute is a videographer at Jetstream Media while Gutschick says on the page that he is CEO at CenturyHornet Videos, works in administration at Toronto Pearson Aviation, and studies Aviation Management at Georgian College. Both are avid air show fans and their group is for air show fans to interact together in one place. Although it has just under 300 members, their posts are well shared and followers include an impressive number of Canadian producers and performers.

www.milavia.net

Milavia stands for military aviation. On this website, you can find information, pictures, downloads and links related to military aviation. It started with focusing on modern combat aircraft, the main fighters, ground attack aircraft and bombers that are in service today. The popular site is a personal project of Niels Hillebrand who created it as a hobby in 2002. Today, it is a more collaborative project with nearly 80 contributors and thousands of followers worldwide. 

www.airshows.co.uk

UK Airshow Review has been around since 1996, when it was established as a small Internet presence for webmaster Paul Osborne to share his opinions on air shows in the United Kingdom. Since that time, the site has grown exponentially in its popularity and now includes a more global reach. It is free to use and not-for-profit with any money made being re-invested into the site or activities for the community of supporters it has spawned from its popular forums.

Paul now has a team of 18 volunteers from all walks of life and additional content is generated from many guest contributors. Today, the website contains reports from as far afield as North America, Brazil and Australia, and as diverse in content as U.S. Navy carrier operations to helicopter banner towing. The site has a partnership with Aircraft Magazine (formerly Aircraft Illustrated), one of the UK’s leading aviation magazines.

There are plans for more expansion that will include the addition of blogs to be maintained by professionals involved in the air show and aviation industries, as well as regular news updates and editorial features that will bring the air show world to their large community of followers.

CONNECT

Traditional ads are inefficient. One of many social media advertising benefits is that social platforms offer very effective targeting capabilities to address that problem. You’re likely already posting content. Some of these posts will resonate with followers; others won’t. Track which ones are being clicked, liked, shared, and commented on. These high-performing messages make the best candidates for social ads.

Web and social media advertising has quickly become a powerful player in the on-line advertising game. Social networks are a good option for advertisers because of the advanced targeting options, reliable conversion tracking, and prevalence on mobile devices. In terms of return on investment, more than 95 percent of social media managers say Facebook offers the best return, followed by Twitter and Instagram. If you need help in understanding all of this, there are several ICAS members who work in the field: Herb Gillen, Eugene Loj, Diana Spremo and others you can reach out to.

All of the websites featured in this article use supporting social media to help promote their content. Connecting with them by sharing that content, targeting a campaign or contacting them to place ads directly is a great way to increase awareness of your brand, show, service or act.

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Ric Peterson
Ric Peterson is an an air show announcer and award-winning broadcast journalist based in Odessa, Ontario.