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Broadcasting LIVE From Big Events

Jason Barrett

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As the sports radio business grows and revenues for the format increase, the same can’t be said for the commitment of radio stations to broadcast LIVE from big events. I’m not talking about individual games or personality driven agendas that don’t move the ratings needle. I’m talking about the moments in sports that a broadcaster is supposed to live for being at. You know, the events that your audience plan their day or week around because they can’t miss it!

2014floydmannyFrom the Super Bowl to the World Series to the NBA Finals and Stanley Cup, those are major events. The College Football Playoff and NCAA Tournament qualify as well. Certainly others could invade that conversation too such as a popular player from a local market going into the Hall of Fame, Mayweather fighting Pacquiao (if it ever happens) or depending on your market, a trip to Spring Training or NFL Training Camp to cover a popular local team.

So if these events matter to your hosts as well as to your audience, then why would sports stations not be broadcasting from them? The answer is simple – costs!

2014radiorowI’ve watched the amount of stations at radio row during the Super Bowl decrease every year and it baffles me. The one thing worth talking about on a sports radio station in late January/early February is the Super Bowl and yet radio operators have to be talked into heading to the host city to broadcast from it. Is there a lack of interest from the audience? No. What it comes down to is operators wanting to save money rather than thinking about the benefit for the audience, the impression it gives of the brand and challenging their sales departments to step up and activate sponsors.

Is it easy to turn a profit in one week? No. But there are certain things in sports radio that you do for profit and certain things you do to build credibility, trust and loyalty with your audience. Depending on a station’s approach, five to fifteen thousand dollars is a small expense for something as big as the Super Bowl, especially when it will cost you a lot more than that if you don’t have access to great content during an otherwise dead week. It’s even worse if your competitor goes and you don’t.

2014whiteflagSecondly, rather than waving the white flag and assuming your clients won’t spend additional money, how about having some confidence in the fact that they’ll want to have a bigger presence during the hottest event of the year, one which your brand has incredible access to. Business owners make irrational decisions when they are passionate and emotionally connected to big events and there’s no better time to test that theory than when your station commits to broadcasting from them. You’d be amazed at what some advertisers do to make sure they own the branding around a signature sporting event.

I raise this point not because I want to get ahead on discussion about the Super Bowl but rather because we’re in the midst of the World Series and it’s an event that sports radio should be all over yet isn’t. I’m fortunate to work for a company that gets it. We could sit back, not send anyone and just rely on local people being interested in the story since the Giants are in it but rather than do that, we’re sending our afternoon show to Kansas City to broadcast LIVE from it. We’re also adding post-game shows with our host Damon Bruce as well as created post-game shows after each home game from a local venue.

2014sfkcWhy do we do that? Because stations are expected to step up their game and treat the situation with the proper respect that it deserves and when a World Series takes place, it’s the biggest event in baseball for the year and you rally around it. Many of my guys probably get tired of me asking them to spend 2-3 hours hosting watch parties at local bars, taking photos with fans and heading to games to track down interviews but I believe that the bigger the moment, the bigger your station should look, feel and sound.

Today, many of the biggest events in sports have turned into great television productions but radio has been losing sight of what made it special. Being live and local and around teams, players and the key people of interest, is what keeps our format important to our audience. Why would we provide less coverage when bigger opportunities arise? That makes no sense.

2014spendSure it might require spending a few extra dollars or shifting things around in your budget but those sacrifices are needed when big situations pop up because it’s what the audience deserves. Staying in your studio and hamstringing your talent and audience by providing little to no special access or coverage is not worth the praise you’ll get for winning the battle on paper with your higher ups.

I do recognize that this is a business and certain bottom lines must be met. While we may want to send our crews everywhere, that isn’t reality but I also don’t think that it’s acceptable to be absent from the key sports events of the year, especially if the team in your own backyard is involved. For national networks, it makes sense to be at a lot more locations than local stations since they serve more people. For local stations though, if a team from your town is in the World Series or NBA Finals, you should be there. A case could be made for the Stanley Cup and College Football Playoff too but it depends on your market’s appetite for those stories.

2014radiorowOne event that should not require a battle is the Super Bowl. First of all, the #1 piece of content that moves our entire format is football. Secondly, audiences today are not split 90%/10% in favor of local team content. There are TONS of people in your respective areas who have interest in the entire NFL. That includes transplants who move to your town and continue following their hometown teams. Add to that increased interest in fantasy football and sports betting and it’s baffling to me why any programmer or host would have to make a case for being present at the biggest event in professional sports.

I’ve heard the argument in the past that it’s the same people doing interviews all over the place, it turns into a guest-fest, if the local team isn’t involved then it’s not important and I’m sure in some cases there’s a degree of relevance to it. I still though don’t buy that having too many high profile quality people on your radio station is a bad thing or that two teams which are playing for the ultimate prize in all of sports are any less of a story because they don’t happen to share the same zip code as my current radio station. Peyton Manning vs. Russell Wilson, Tom Brady vs. Eli Manning, Aaron Rodgers vs. Ben Roethlisberger – those are storylines local people will be talking about all week long and the next few days after the Super Bowl has been played. If they care enough about it, you should too.

2014fbfFunny enough I had this debate two years ago with a former colleague and he asked me why I felt a station needed to be there and I explained the points above that I’ve already laid out but he still didn’t agree. I then reminded him that my brand’s slogan for 4 months had been “Fueled by Football” and nowhere in that position did it say “Fueled by Local Football” or “Fueled by Football…until the biggest football event of the year occurs and we bail on it“. That seemed to connect with him because he saw the value in being consistent with the approach and hitching a brand’s wagon to the NFL, the most powerful brand in sports.

One final note on this subject. If you’re a talent and you don’t want to be there for these kind of events, shame on you. We are fortunate to do what we do and have the access that we have. If you don’t have the personal joy to talk about these events and get emotionally invested in them, then why are you on the air doing this brand of talk? Sports is fun and it provides emotional highs and lows for the audience and ourselves and being a storyteller who can take people on the journey through key events is something you should live for. If talking about the biggest events that matter to our listeners and being present and interacting with the key people involved in these storylines doesn’t appeal to you, it might be time to do a self-analysis and ask yourself whether or not this is the right format for you.

2014bebetterSome PD’s and Hosts will agree with me on this and others won’t. I’m sure everyone has valid reasons for why they do it the way they do and I respect that. I do believe that our industry can do a much better job of investing in the moments that matter most and rather than boxing ourselves in with the same negative views, we’ve got to start asking “how can we do it better, how can we own it and how can we give our audience a memorable content experience“?

Sure, you can choose not to cover big events and that’ll help your brand save some money. It may also help you win a short-term budget battle and make you look good on paper. I just wonder if that’s worth it, when the next piece of paper shows your ratings down during a time when they should easily go up. When that happens, is winning the battle still worth it if it means losing the war?

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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