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Selling Drama The TNT Way!

Jason Barrett

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For the past 10 years, if you’ve watched TNT television you likely heard the channel’s slogan “We Know Drama“. It’s a tagline in my opinion which was simply brilliant, because it reflected the channel’s programming choices. If you turned on TNT, you’d find either a movie, game or original program, and when you analyzed the content of that particular show, you’d find that it often included some form of drama which helped it fit perfectly into the channel’s strategy.

The slogan was introduced in June 2001, and at that time, former TNT General Manager Steve Koonin said “TNT’s promise is to engage the hearts and minds of our viewers with dramatic programming that offers a powerful combination of compelling stories and interesting characters, mixed with excitement, action, suspense, romance and humor. TNT’s slate of original movies and series, theatrical product, acquired series, championship sports and live event specials will deliver on this consumer proposition.”

Judging from what the channel featured during the past 13 years, they not only lived up to their promise, but viewership increased, and today it remains a strong presence in cable television. Clearly the interest in dramatic content was there, and TNT didn’t try to reinvent the wheel, they simply satisfied the appetite of those who were hungry.

Take a look back at this classic TV commercial created around the 2003 NBA Playoffs. TNT featured Spike Lee to sell the message and the result was a very identifiable spot which was easy for viewers to relate to.

When it comes to sports talk radio, I’ve heard numerous executives over the years refer to the format as the ultimate “soap opera for men“. In some ways, it’s hard for me to fathom that the world of sports could be mentioned in the same sentence with “One Life To Live” and “General Hospital” but when you step back and think about what the world of sports has to offer on a daily basis, it makes perfect sense. The presentation has shifted from x’s and o’s discussions and box score breakdowns to sports-bar conversations centered around personalities and teams. Coincidentally the ratings, platform distribution, and advertising dollars are all experiencing some of the highest performance levels in the format’s history.

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So why is it that people keep seeking out sports media content?

The answer is simple, they love drama!

Case in point, look at these headlines below which were posted within the past week on different media websites. All 5 are written about one of the most popular and polarizing basketball players on the planet, LeBron James.

As you look at these 5 examples, one word should stand out in defining what each story is about – Drama!

  • LeBron James, Pat Riley to meet
  • LeBron James has a Dwayne Wade problem
  • Cavs working to clear max space to land LeBron
  • Cavs explain why they took down Dan Gilbert’s letter to LeBron James
  • LeBron’s inner circle, including his wife, want him to sign with Cavaliers

Regardless of where you go to get your sports news, you go there because you’re curious, and emotionally engaged in the content. Whether you realize it or not, you’re lured in by the drama of the story. LeBron James right now is the NBA’s real life version of the Truman Show, and we’re all sitting back watching, listening, reading, and reacting to every piece of news, and deciding what’s best for him, his family, his future, and each team that wants him. It’s a classic case of media outlets feeding us drama, and each of us devouring it, and asking for seconds.

Your-Opinion-Matters

When you finish your show today, I want you to step back and reflect on what you presented to the audience. Look at each of your segments and what the conversation was built around. In most cases I bet you presented a question based off of a certain subject, and with that question you provided your opinion/answer to it. That my friends is called selling the drama!

If you weren’t doing that then I’d ask you to reassess your content, and figure out what you want your audience to sink their teeth into. If you have no hook and no drama in your presentation, than chances are you’re filling air time with no true purpose. By doing that you’re asking your listeners to standby while you figure it out, and they don’t have time for it. Your audience wants to show up and have you distract them from the everyday pressures they face by providing them with compelling and entertaining content. If you can’t do that, they’ll find someone who can.

Remember this, your audience isn’t turning to you because they want to know who won last night’s game, what Player X’s batting average is or how many of the next 10 games their favorite team plays at home vs. on the road. They can get that stuff by clicking on any sports website. They’re also not coming to you to hear how many phone calls you can take during the course of a 3-4 hour show. The only person keeping count of your caller totals is you and your producer.

They will though listen to a passionate discussion between a host and a caller provided there’s a question or angle being discussed, and they do appreciate information as long as it’s used to advance the angle you’re presenting. In a nutshell, information and filling content time doesn’t earn you an emotional investment from your audience – your ability to deliver a compelling discussion and unique opinion on the story that matters to your audience does.

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Whether we like it or not, people today care more about Johnny Manziel’s off the field behavior than any of his studying habits or practice throws. They know Carmelo Anthony’s free agent suitors better than the NY Knicks roster that he played on last season. They focus more on who got snubbed from the All-Star game, and how playing in the game could impact a player’s second half performance, more than they focus on the actual game itself. Every listener fancies themselves as a GM with solid knowledge of what each player makes, what each team spends, the length of each player’s contract, and how it will help/hurt their favorite team in the future.

Why do all of these items above matter to people? Because they’re dramatic, and they create thoughts and emotions inside of every one of us. These are feelings that can’t be turned off or brushed aside. Whether it’s joy, frustration, love, hate, passion, confusion or something else, the more people hear about it, the more interested they become, and the more they seek resolution and additional facts to our conversations, the more we invade their minds and cause them to think and feel. The more we do that, the better our chances of keeping them listening.

feelings

For an on-air talent, you are constantly selling drama to your audience because it’s the one ingredient that makes your show special each day. Nowhere on the planet can your show be duplicated. While the same stories may be discussed everywhere else, your personality, perspective, creative elements and delivery of the information keeps you unique.

However, your audience has distractions being thrown their way every day, so the only way to cut through the clutter and permanently rent space in their head is by using drama to your advantage. They want to take the roller coaster ride with you, and experience your ups, downs and in-between’s. It’s your job to keep them hanging on every word and sentence.

A colleague of mine (Jeff Schmidt) sent this to me months ago and it instantly connected with me. Take a look at these two stories below and look at the headlines. The story on the left is presented by Deadspin.com and the story on the right is presented by ESPN.com. When you look at the headline of each story, which one contains more passion and suspense?

Kluwe Stories

In my opinion, Deadspin used words to stir an emotion with the reader while ESPN focused on the facts and delivered a neutral headline. While the approach for both brands may be different, they both make sense. However if this were a sports radio segment, you’d hook a lot more people with the drama of the Deadspin headline than you would with the ESPN presentation.

Think for a second of how this relates to you. Your listener is either in a car or listening on a computer or mobile device and on each of these platforms have multiple choices. In most people’s phones there are 25-50 apps readily available to take them elsewhere, or if they’re in a car they have the option of FM/AM radio, a CD player, possibly satellite radio, or some other electronic device that they can connect to their dashboard and listen to. In either case, you’re already battling for an individual’s attention before you even get started.

If you’re lucky, you’re one of the first places the listener turns to because your brand/station has built trust and loyalty with them, or they’ve formed a connection with you or another on-air personality. From there, it comes down to picking the right content and manufacturing the drama in the most unique and entertaining way to keep them engaged.

Right_Vs._Wrong

Pick the wrong content, and they’re gone. Pick the right content, and present it in a safe and predictable way, and they’re gone. Select the right content, and construct enough angles and unique viewpoints to keep the listener wanting to take an emotional journey with you, and you’ve got a fighting chance.

Try it out when LeBron James finally signs with a team. I guarantee you’ll hear every station discuss the story, but the place where you’ll spend the majority of your time listening to it, will be with the outlet and personality that advances the story, and best captures and sells the drama and suspense and drama.

There is no better example of capturing drama than when you go to the movies, and spend 15-20 minutes waiting for your featured movie to start. Once those previews hit you know you’re immediately sucked in. For example, watch this trailer of the upcoming film “When The Game Stands Tall“. By the time the trailer is done playing you’ll know the focus of the story, the drama that occurs, and the question being asked that must be answered. The result, you’ve given Sony Pictures 2:44 of your time, and soon enough you’ll be spending your money to go watch it because the story drew you in.

Whether it’s a movie, a sporting event, an argument between co-workers or a sports talk radio show, people have a passion for drama. They seek it out and remain consumed by it, and that’s not going to change anytime soon. Don’t believe me? Check your Facebook feed or Twitter timeline. It’s happening every second of every hour.

Sometimes a slogan doesn’t make any sense for a brand, but in the case of TNT they created something which fit like a glove, and they delivered on that promise to perfection. That’s an example of effective research, smart strategy, and consistent execution. When you do those things right, you win consistently and grow continuously.

101 Party

To wrap this up, I’ll leave you with one shred of evidence that’ll make you re-think whether or not you can afford for drama to not be a central part of your content focus each day. Currently when you look at the best performing sports radio stations across the country, the average amount of time spent listening is usually between 3-4 hours per week M-F 6A-7P. These stations also deliver somewhere between 5-10% of listening among Men 25-54, and that by industry standards is considered a pretty strong success.

One though could look at it the other way, and argue that your core programming which you pay top dollar for and promote heavily, is consumed for only 36-48 minutes per day out of a 780 minute window, and in your market, 90-95% of Men 25-54 don’t listen to you.

Now how’s that for drama!

Yes we can talk about the issues with PPM, we can blame things beyond our control such as signal issues, play by play events, lack of marketing, etc. but in every one of those scenarios, we’re emotionally invested in the subject and we’re ready to defend, explain and engage in the conversation. That my friends is what drama does.

TNT figured out how to capture the mind and eyes of the viewer,nand there’s no reason why sports radio can’t do the same, and capture the mind and ears of its audience. If ever there was a business built to understand and sell drama, it’s sports talk radio. If it can be done right, who knows, maybe one day we’ll present a brand new slogan – “We Own Drama“.

Barrett Blogs

BSM’s Black Friday SALE on BSM Summit Tickets is Underway!

Jason Barrett

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Each year I’m asked if there are ways to save money on tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit. I always answer yes but not everyone takes advantage of it. For those interested in doing so, here’s your shot.

For TODAY ONLY, individual tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit are reduced by $50.00. Two ticket and four ticket packages are also lowered at $50 per ticket. To secure your seat at a discounted price, just log on to BSMSummit.com. This sale ends tonight at 11:59pm ET.

If you’re flying to Los Angeles for the event, be sure to reserve your hotel room. Our hotel partner this year is the USC Hotel. It’s walking distance of our venue. Full details on hotel rooms can also be found via the conference website.

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Barrett Blogs

Mina Kimes, Bruce Gilbert, Mitch Rosen, and Stacey Kauffman Join the 2023 BSM Summit

“By the time we get to March, we should have somewhere between 40-60 participants involved in the conference.”

Jason Barrett

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The 2023 BSM Summit is returning to Los Angeles on March 21-22, 2023, live from the Founders Club at the Galen Center at the campus of the University of Southern California. Information on tickets and hotel rooms can be found at BSMSummit.com.

We’ve previously announced sixteen participants for our upcoming show, and I’m excited today to confirm the additions of four more more smart, successful professionals to be part of the event. Before I do that, I’d like to thank The Volume for signing on as our Badge sponsor, the Motor Racing Network for securing the gift bag sponsorship, and Bonneville International for coming on board as a Session sponsor. We do have some opportunities available but things are moving fast this year, so if you’re interested in being involved, email Stephanie Eads at Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com.

Now let’s talk about a few of the speaker additions for the show.

First, I am thrilled to welcome ESPN’s Mina Kimes to the Summit for her first appearance. Mina and I had the pleasure recently of connecting on a podcast (go listen to it) and I’ve been a fan of her work for years. Her intellect, wit, football acumen, and likeability have served her well on television, podcasts, and in print. She’s excelled as an analyst on NFL Live and Rams preseason football games, as a former host of the ESPN Daily podcast, and her appearances on Around The Horn and previously on Highly Questionable and the Dan Le Batard Show were always entertaining. I’m looking forward to having Mina join FS1’s Joy Taylor and ESPN LA 710 PD Amanda Brown for an insightful conversation about the industry.

Next is another newcomer. I’m looking forward to having Audacy San Francisco and Sacramento Regional Vice President Stacey Kauffman in the building for our 2023 show. In addition to overseeing a number of music brands, Stacey also oversees a dominant news/talk outlet, and two sports radio brands. Among them are my former station 95.7 The Game in San Francisco, and ESPN 1320 in Sacramento. I’m looking forward to having her participate in our GM panel with Good Karma’s Sam Pines, iHeart’s Don Martin, and led by Bonneville’s Executive Vice President Scott Sutherland.

From there, it’s time to welcome back two of the sharpest sports radio minds in the business. Bruce Gilbert is the SVP of Sports for Westwood One and Cumulus Media. He’s seen and done it all on the local and national level and anytime he’s in the room to share his programming knowledge with attendees, everyone leaves the room smarter. I’m anticipating another great conversation on the state of sports radio, which FOX Sports Radio VP of programming Scott Shapiro will be a part of.

Another student of the game and one of the top programmers in the format today is 670 The Score in Chicago PD, Mitch Rosen. The former Mark Chernoff Award recipient and recently appointed VP of the BetQL Network juggles managing a top 3 market sports brand while being charged with moving an emerging sports betting network forward. Count on Mr. Rosen to offer his insights and opinions during another of our branding and programming discussions.

By the time we get to March, we should have somewhere between 40-60 participants involved in the conference. My focus now is on finalizing our business and digital sessions, research, tech and sports betting panels, securing our locations and sponsorships for the After Party and Kickoff Party, plus working out the details for a few high-profile executive appearances and a couple of surprises.

For those looking to attend and save a few dollars on tickets, we’ll be holding a special Black Friday Sale this Friday November 25th. Just log on to BSMSummit.com that day to save $50 on individual tickets. In addition, thanks to the generosity of voice talent extraordinaire Steve Kamer, we’ll be giving away 10 tickets leading up to the conference. Stay tuned for details on the giveaway in the months ahead.

Still to come is an announcement about our special ticket rate for college students looking to attend the show and learn. We also do an annual contest for college kids to attend the event for free which I’m hoping to have ready in the next few weeks. It’s also likely we’ll give away a few tickets to industry professionals leading up to Christmas, so keep an eye out.

If you work in the sports media industry and value making connections, celebrating those who create an impact, and learning about the business from folks who have experienced success, failure, and everything in between, the Summit is worth your time. I’m excited to have Mina, Bruce, Mitch and Stacey join us for the show, and look forward to spending a few days with the industry’s best and brightest this March! Hope to see you there.

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Barrett Blogs

Barrett Media is Making Changes To Better Serve Our Sports and News Media Readers

“We had the right plan of attack in 2020, but poor timing. So we’re learning from the past and adjusting for the future.”

Jason Barrett

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When I launched this website all I wanted to do was share news, insight and stories about broadcasters and brands. My love, passion and respect for this business is strong, and I know many of you reading this feel similar. I spent two great decades in radio watching how little attention was paid to those who played a big part in their audiences lives. The occasional clickbait story and contract drama would find their way into the newspapers but rarely did you learn about the twists and turns of a broadcaster’s career, their approach to content or the tactics and strategies needed to succeed in the industry. When personal reasons led me home to NY in 2015, I decided I was going to try my best to change that.

Since launching this brand, we’ve done a good job informing and entertaining media industry professionals, while also helping consulting clients and advertising partners improve their businesses. We’ve earned respect from the industry’s top stars, programming minds and mainstream media outlets, growing traffic from 50K per month to 500K and monthly social impressions from a few thousand to a few million. Along the way we’ve added conferences, rankings, podcasts, a member directory, and as I’ve said before, this is the best and most important work I’ve ever done, and I’m not interested in doing anything else.

If I’ve learned anything over seven years of operating a digital content company it’s that you need skill, strategy, passion, differentiating content, and good people to create impact. You also need luck, support, curiosity and an understanding of when to double down, cut bait or pivot. It’s why I added Stephanie Eads as our Director of Sales and hired additional editors, columnists and features reporters earlier this year. To run a brand like ours properly, time and investment are needed. We’ve consistently grown and continue to invest in our future, and it’s my hope that more groups will recognize the value we provide, and give greater consideration to marketing with us in the future.

But with growth comes challenges. Sometimes you can have the right idea but bad timing. I learned that when we launched Barrett News Media.

We introduced BNM in September 2020, two months before the election when emotions were high and COVID was a daily discussion. I wasn’t comfortable then of blending BNM and BSM content because I knew we’d built a trusted sports media resource, and I didn’t want to shrink one audience while trying to grow another. Given how personal the election and COVID became for folks, I knew the content mix would look and feel awkward on our site.

So we made the decision to start BNM with its own website. We ran the two brands independently and had the right plan of attack, but discovered that our timing wasn’t great.

The first nine months readership was light, which I expected since we were new and trying to build an audience from scratch. I believed in the long-term mission, which was why I stuck with it through all of the growing pains, but I also felt a responsibility to make sure our BNM writing team and the advertising partners we forged relationships with were being seen by as many people as possible. We continued with the original plan until May 2021 when after a number of back and forth debates, I finally agreed to merge the two sites. I figured if WFAN could thrive with Imus in the Morning and Mike and the Mad Dog in the afternoon, and the NY Times, LA Times, KOA, KMOX and numerous other newspaper and radio brands could find a way to blend sports and news/talk, then so could we.

And it worked.

We dove in and started to showcase both formats, building social channels and groups for each, growing newsletter databases, and with the addition of a few top notch writers, BNM began making bigger strides. Now featured under the BSM roof, the site looked bigger, the supply of daily content became massive, and our people were enjoying the increased attention.

Except now we had other issues. Too many stories meant many weren’t being read and more mistakes were slipping through the cracks. None of our crew strive to misspell a word or write a sloppy headline but when the staff and workload doubles and you’re trying to focus on two different formats, things can get missed. Hey, we’re all human.

Then a few other things happened that forced a larger discussion with my editors.

First, I thought about how much original material we were creating for BSM from our podcast network, Summit, Countdown to Coverage series, Meet the Market Managers, BSM Top 20, and began to ask myself ‘if we’re doing all of this for sports readers, what does that tell folks who read us for news?’ We then ran a survey to learn what people valued about our brand and though most of the feedback was excellent, I saw how strong the response was to our sports content, and how news had grown but felt second fiddle to those offering feedback.

Then, Andy Bloom wrote an interesting column explaining why radio hosts would be wise to stop talking about Donald Trump. It was the type of piece that should’ve been front and center on a news site all day but with 3 featured slots on the site and 7 original columns coming in that day, they couldn’t all be highlighted the way they sometimes should be. We’re actually going through that again today. That said, Andy’s column cut through. A few sports media folks didn’t like seeing it on the site, which wasn’t a surprise since Trump is a polarizing personality, but the content resonated well with the news/talk crowd.

National talk radio host Mike Gallagher was among the folks to see Andy’s piece, and he spent time on his show talking about the column. Mike’s segment was excellent, and when he referenced the article, he did the professional thing and credited our website – Barrett SPORTS Media. I was appreciative of Mike spending time on his program discussing our content but it was a reminder that we had news living under a sports roof and it deserved better than that.

I then read some of Pete Mundo, Doug Pucci and Rick Schultz’s columns and Jim Cryns’ features on Chris Ruddy, Phil Boyce, and David Santrella, and knew we were doing a lot of quality work but each time we produced stories, folks were reminded that it lived on a SPORTS site. I met a few folks who valued the site, recognized the increased focus we put on our news/talk coverage, and hoped we had plans to do more. Jim also received feedback along the lines of “good to see you guys finally in the news space, hope there’s more to come.”

Wanting to better understand our opportunities and challenges, I reviewed our workflow, looked at which content was hitting and missing the mark, thought about the increased relationships we’d worked hard to develop, and the short-term and long-term goals for BNM. I knew it was time to choose a path. Did I want to think short-term and keep everything under one roof to protect our current traffic and avoid disrupting people or was it smarter to look at the big picture and create a destination where news/talk media content could be prioritized rather than treated as BSM’s step-child?

Though I spent most of my career in sports media and established BSM first, it’s important to me to serve the news/talk media industry our very best. I want every news/talk executive, host, programmer, market manager, agent, producer, seller and advertiser to know this format matters to us. Hopefully you’ve seen that in the content we’ve created over the past two years. My goal is to deliver for news media professionals what we have for sports media folks and though that may be a tall order, we’re going to bust our asses to make it happen. To prove that this isn’t just lip service, here’s what we’re going to do.

Starting next Monday November 28th, we are relaunching BarrettNewsMedia.com. ALL new content produced by the BNM writing team will be available daily under that URL. For the first 70-days we will display news media columns from our BNM writers on both sites and support them with promotion across both of our brands social channels. The goal is to have the two sites running independent of each other by February 6, 2023.

Also starting on Monday November 28th, we will begin distributing the BNM Rundown newsletter 5 days per week. We’ve been sending out the Rundown every M-W-F since October 2021, but the time has come for us to send it out daily. With increased distribution comes two small adjustments. We will reduce our daily story count from 10 to 8 and make it a goal to deliver it to your inbox each day by 3pm ET. If you haven’t signed up to receive the Rundown, please do. You can click here to register. Be sure to scroll down past the 8@8 area.

Additionally, Barrett News Media is going to release its first edition of the BNM Top 20 of 2022. This will come out December 12-16 and 19-20. The category winners will be decided by more than 50 news/talk radio program directors and executives. Among the categories to be featured will be best Major/Mid Market Local morning, midday, and afternoon show, best Local News/Talk PD, best Local News/Talk Station, best National Talk Radio Show, and best Original Digital Show. The voting process with format decision makers begins today and will continue for two weeks. I’ve already got a number of people involved but if you work in an executive or programming role in the news/talk format and wish to be part of it, send an email to me at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.

We have one other big thing coming to Barrett News Media in 2023, which I will announce right after the BNM Top 20 on Wednesday December 21st. I’m sure news/talk professionals will like what we have planned but for now, it’ll have to be a month long tease. I promise though to pay it off.

Additionally, I’m always looking for industry folks who know and love the business and enjoy writing about it. If you’ve programmed, hosted, sold or reported in the news/talk world and have something to offer, email me. Also, if you’re a host, producer, programmer, executive, promotions or PR person and think something from your brand warrants coverage on our site, send it along. Most of what we write comes from listening to stations and digging across the web and social media. Receiving your press releases and getting a heads up on things you’re doing always helps.

If you’re a fan of BSM, this won’t affect you much. The only difference you’ll notice in the coming months is a gradual reduction of news media content on the BSM website and our social accounts sharing a little about both formats over the next two months until we’re officially split in February. We are also going to dabble a little more in marketing, research and tech content that serves both formats. If you’re a reader who enjoys both forms of our content, you’ll soon have BarrettSportsMedia.com for sports, and BarrettNewsMedia.com for news.

Our first two years in the news/talk space have been very productive but we’ve only scratched the surface. Starting November 28th, news takes center stage on BarrettNewsMedia.com and sports gets less crowded on BarrettSportsMedia.com. We had the right plan of attack in 2020, but poor timing. So we’re learning from the past and adjusting for the future. If we can count on you to remember two URL’s (add them to your bookmarks) and sign up for our newsletters, then you can count on us to continue delivering exceptional coverage of the industry you love. As always, thanks for the continued support. It makes everything we do worthwhile.

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