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Are You Willing To Break The Rules?

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Last week I was introduced to a new television program. The show is called “Startup U” and it features a number of students and young entrepreneurs who spend 7-weeks at a place in the Silicon Valley called Draper University. Each person introduces an idea for their own business, and is then tasked with developing their product and skills, working with instructors on ways to pitch themselves and their company, and enduring the wrath of many highly successful business leaders. At the end of the season, each person pitches their idea to billionaire venture capitalist Tim Draper, who chooses one person to invest in and help launch their product.

Similar to every other reality show, the cast are put through various challenges, forced to live together, and with each passing week you see the best and worst in people emerge. What made this show different though was that many of the ideas, strategies, reactions and coaching techniques were very similar to what I’ve endured during my career in radio. Even the final goal (winning Draper’s confidence and money) is no different than what broadcasters and radio companies must do each day (win over listeners and advertisers).

One particular challenge got the juices in my brain flowing. Two teams were asked to take part in a game of Volleyball, except Draper wanted them to change the game and make it better. Many involved in the game immediately questioned the purpose of the challenge, and others seemed unsure what to do because the concept of the original game had been permanently planted inside their heads. When new ideas were introduced, they included serving with both hands, serving multiple balls at once, and serving with your head.

While certain ideas were better than others, it got me to thinking “isn’t this the same exact challenge we face with radio“? I quickly recalled driving across the country in June from California to New York, and each time I reached another major city and flipped on a sports station, I heard a lot of the same things. Break times nearly identical. Voice talent, imaging and sports updates in sync with the companies who were running the format. Callers and Guests filling up each hour around a Host’s opinion on the local teams in the market. In a nutshell, there wasn’t much different between one station and the next, besides the personalities.

changeDraper challenged the people involved in the volleyball game that day to “break the rules, and make things better” and it got me thinking about whether or not enough of us in radio today care to do the same. There seems to be a lot of “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” thinking and that’s the type of mindset that eventually gets you caught. You can’t operate a winning brand with a narrow view of the present. If you’re not willing to embrace new ideas, take calculated risks and introduce new voices, styles, and concepts into your presentation, eventually it becomes stale, and when the audience tires of it, and drifts away, good luck getting them back.

I look around and I see an entire industry worrying about earning credit from a PPM meter, more than focusing on the importance of creating killer content that can’t be missed. I know, I’ve been guilty of it myself. But what about the world that awaits us? Are you prepared for the challenge that awaits from podcasting platforms? What about when digital dashboards overtake cars and many of the transplants in your market start listening to their favorite stations back home? How about when the age of your audience changes, and you find that today’s youth between the ages of 12-24 care about brands like YouTube, Spotify, Instagram, SnapChat, and Twitter and don’t even listen to radio?

Sure we have to keep our eyes on the current marketplace too and not be irresponsible, but those who develop great brands and hire talented people, can afford to break the rules, think different and challenge themselves to do things better. If you’ve earned the audience’s trust, they will stand by you while you introduce a few new ideas. If we’ve learned anything over the course of history it’s that people like new things.

I started racking my brain about the numerous things I hear on sports radio today, and what crazy ideas I would’ve come up with if Tim Draper had issued that challenge to me about improving sports radio instead of a game of volleyball. While I can’t say they’d all generate ratings, make more money, or even make sense, I know I wouldn’t have to be asked twice to break the rules to try and make things better. And after all, isn’t that why we do this job in the first place?

Here are some crazy things to think about. We can agree or disagree on their viability, but if you’re not thinking about what you’re going to do to make your product better and challenging yourself to do it, don’t be surprised when the day comes when your employer is looking for someone who does.

Commercial Breaks:

commercialsScan any sports station and you’re going to find the majority of them running 3 or 4 breaks per hour and the commercial inventory usually between 12 and 20 minutes per hour. That doesn’t include sports updates, traffic reports, weather reports, station promos, or recorded liners that lead a show in and out of a break. This is done because stations want to spread out the amount of minutes in a commercial break to not overload the audience, and because they’re trying to gain as much content time inside of a quarter hour to try and gain credit for listening from Nielsen.

However, Nielsen also recommends that stations take as few breaks as possible, as disruptions can often lead to tune outs which don’t return. So what would happen if a station ran one break during an hour during the quarter hour that produced the least amount of listening? For example, if listening was less between :45-:00, is a station better served trying to win the first 45 minutes of the hour and concede the final quarter hour or stick with it’s current formula?

What if the station went with two breaks per hour? Maybe 15 minutes of spots in a row is insane, but what if it’s 7 minutes instead? Is there much of a difference to the audience between a 5 minute break and a 7 minute break? Are you better served with 2 long breaks or 3 semi-long breaks?

If you’re not a fan of long breaks, what about shorter ones? Is it more beneficial to hit the audience over the head with 3 breaks that are 4 minutes long apiece, or give them 6 breaks that are each 2 minutes long? You can also argue, is your talent better delivering focused content for 6 segments which are shorter in length, or 3 which are a lot longer.

I recognize that radio stations want to sell all the commercials they can, but reducing the total amount of minutes per hour and charging premium dollars for ads is where the world is going. I’m sure doing that would lead to a short-term loss in revenue, and no operator or company wants to hear that, but I can watch a YouTube video or listen to a few songs on Spotify with only a :15-:30 second distraction. I can listen to a podcast with a few verbal plugs in content and no disruptions, and I can watch a show on HBO without commercials because I pay for the channel (SiriusXM). You can only force the audience to stomach long commercial breaks for so long. Once they go, then what are you going to tell your advertisers?

Not to mention, if people are coming to you for sports, why are you bombarding them with weather reports, stock reports and traffic reports? Are those items sports related? When was the last time you put on SportsCenter, NFL Live, Baseball Tonight or any other sports show and said “damn, I really want to know the weather”? If it’s strictly about attaching a client to a benchmark, create something different – maybe a team related report, a host commentary, a :60 debate between two personalities, or attach them to your products through social media or website. Your air time is precious and shouldn’t be cluttered.

Imaging Voices and Presentations:

I love Jim Cutler and Paul Turner, and think they are the very best voice talents in our industry today. What I wish we had though were more Jim Cutler’s and Paul Turner’s. Too many stations sound the same, and that’s because a lot of us do what others do, and we seek out those who we already know. If the format looked for on-air talent that way, we’d all be screwed.

I hired Steve Stone to be my voice guy in San Francisco, and I think the work he’s done in making 95.7 The Game sound unique is excellent. I also know how incredible Dawn Cutler is and I wonder “why aren’t more stations utilizing her full-time“?

tvIt raises the question about creating unique brand identities. What I love about television is how so many brands are different. I can turn on ESPN, Fox Sports 1, CBS, NBC or my local sports channels and I won’t hear the same thing. I can watch HBO, FX, TNT, USA and Showtime and the graphics, writing, imaging and voice talent will all be original. If it can be done on that level, then why can’t it be that way in radio?

Must every ESPN sports station and CBS sports station have the same uniformed sound and layout beyond the personalities? And it’s not just the voices, the bells and whistles with much of the imaging are laid out similarly too. I understand the reasons why certain brands do it, but I can equally call into question how it makes them predictable, and we can debate all day about whether or not it generates ratings.

Maybe I’m naive, but I believe there are some outstanding imaging directors and program directors out there who have the ability to make their brands sound distinctive. Each market and group of people are different, yet the same company formula exists. If a connection is made with the audience, and the brand name isn’t compromised, then does it matter if the people on the front lines take a different approach? Why must hundreds of sports stations have the same look, feel and sound, and stifle creativity?

Sports Updates:

While they were important to the audience 10-15 years ago, today many of them are filled with the same stories you hear the talent talking about. They also are often behind the pace of social media, which is where sports fans are seeking out their content first. I’ve always enjoyed them for one reason, it introduces another voice into the show, which provides room for extra creativity, but the update itself has become white noise in many cases.

scOnce again, if you turn on an ESPN or CBS sports station though, you’ll hear the same exact approach. ESPN brands will give you SportsCenter updates 2-3x per hour, and CBS brands provide 20/20 Sports Flashes 3x per hour. Does the listening audience really seek out this content and value it?

I believe the update is beneficial if it’s going to feature audio in it from other points of the broadcast day to try and engage the listener and give them reasons to listen more, or seek out the content later on the station’s website. I also believe it has value to advertisers since they can get a :10 tag included in them, and when done multiple times per hour, that can lead to numerous messages for the client. But what about the listener?

If we really value the audience, I’m not sure this content is vital. I’d rather see a radio station take their update anchor and put them into a position where they’re writing more content for the website, producing videos on the website, engaging more thru the station and their own personal social media pages, and sending them out to appearances and games to help the station gain something of larger value. I believe the anchor who has the ability to interact with a talk show host and take on more of a personality role in a show is a great thing, but I don’t believe that 3-6 minutes per hour of content time rehashing scores, game times, injury updates, and other lesser news, has great importance to the audience.

Show Lengths:

Based on economics, companies today will usually put a personality on the air for 3-4 hours per day. Hosts like it because they get to talk a lot and try out a number of things, and overall the approach makes sense because there are only so many hours in a day and you can’t employ 40 personalities per day or expect a host to be sharp doing a 6-8 hour daily show.

The one problem though is when it comes to judging its effectiveness. How many personalities really evaluate each of their hours, their content selections, their interview performances, the gains/decreases in caller activity, and whether or not they were better skilled at providing a 1-2 hour show versus a 3-4 hour show?

Most of sports radio today functions with people doing what they think and feel, and there’s no reason for them not to do that. But that’s because there’s not a lot of analysis being done on what does and doesn’t work. We usually give a personality their ratings, tell them if they gained or decreased month to month, and give them a pat on the back and tell them to keep moving forward. Rarely is the focus placed on “why” the numbers grew or dipped, or how to best take advantage of each hour of broadcasting time.

fallonIf you look at the best televison programs that deliver massive audiences, they usually involve a large cast, and are either 30 or 60 minutes in length. They maximize every single second of those programs with incredible content, and put hours upon hours into the presentation, including a lot of writing. For example, Jimmy Fallon delivers a 1-hour nightly show, yet he and his writing team will spend all day and night, making sure the product is crisp before it hits the air.

If radio employed Jimmy Fallon, it would expect him to deliver the same quality bits, interviews, punchlines and storytelling, yet throw him on the air for 4 hours per day with minimal preparation time, let alone surround him with a cast of 1 to 2 people. When the performance suffers, the blame shifts on the individual, the audience or the meters, not the process or support towards producing dynamic content.

I’m not sure it makes financial sense for radio stations to deliver 30-minute shows or 1-hour shows versus 3-4 hour shows but podcasters are doing this and growing larger and larger because they provide content which is often polished and shorter in length. People don’t have 3-4 hours of time to give to us, and they’d rather hear 1 great hour, instead of 3-4 good ones.

Show Styles:

routineLook at the rundown for most sports shows across the country and you’ll see the following hourly layout: 2-3 topics discussed, 1 guest, calls and tweets from the audience. Even when personalities promote their shows, it’s usually the same way – “Can’t wait to discuss last night’s game + guest A at ___ time and guest B at ____ time.”

If the show is built around the personality tweeting out the promotional message, shouldn’t it start with what they care about? If it’s a big guest I get that (EX: Podcast One last week had an exclusive sitdown with Shaq and Kobe – that you promote all day and night), but if you don’t provide some suspense in what you’re going to discuss, and just rely on the appointment times of a guest, you’re not leading the show.

That said, there are better ways to lay out a show too. If a host is great at taking calls but bad at interviews, why book guests on their show in the first place? If the situation is reversed, maybe it’s better to feature 6-7 guests and keep the host away from engaging with callers. The key is concentrating on their strengths and keeping each day interesting, not formulaic.

Have you ever considered making one day of your week only a football day? Only a baseball day? Only a day where interactions come from Facebook, Twitter, Email, Text or Calls? Maybe you create a day where you’re offering a series of 1-hour in-studio panels on themed subjects (EX: hour 1 = the host and 2 guests talking non-stop NFL, hour 2  the host and 2 guests talking non-stop baseball, etc.).

Some of this may work, some of it may not. Much of that depends on the host, producer, program director, and audience habits, but the point is that different things can be done, if you’re willing to open your mind to them. Not every day needs to feature the same layout, with the only difference being your topics.

Promos:

A good friend of mine Scott Masteller refers to promos as “content advancers“. While the word “promo” is seen as a commercial given to the station’s programming team to tout messages of their brand’s greatness, “content advancers” portray a message that the best content will be highlighted and discussed throughout the broadcast day. That makes sense to me.

However, if you listen to a lot of CBS sports stations, they put less stock in promos. While you can question why they wouldn’t use their time to promote things more, I recall attending a sports radio conference and hearing Jim Cutler say it best “A promo to the listener is a commercial disruption“. If the goal is to stay in content and eliminate interruptions, you can make the case that promos aren’t necessary.

sbIf they’re going to be utilized, then shouldn’t the writing, imaging, and frequency of them be analyzed? Some stations try to promote 10-15 things during a given week rather than concentrating on 3-4. Think about this, if you were running CBS Television during the week of the Super Bowl, you’d promote the game again and again. Sure you may have other shows on the air, and they’ll be promoted through other channels (social media, email, newsletter, website, text clubs, etc.) but priority #1 on the air would be the promotion of the Super Bowl.

Look at your radio station and ask yourself “which of my brand items is my Super Bowl“? Do you have 3-4 of them? If you’re not creating promos that stand out, offer something of value, and sound big, then ask yourself if they really need to occupy :30 seconds of air time.

Additionally, do you need 1 promo per hour? 2 per hour? 10 per hour? If a message is pushed enough and carries with it something of substance, it can be branded into the listener’s brain. The question is, how much is enough?

Often station programmers implement clocks and in them come set times for promos, usually a few times per hour. The only problem with that is predictability. While it may be a pain in the ass, mixing it up isn’t a bad thing. If you have higher audiences during two hours of morning and afternoon drive, you may want to push the messaging hard, and not run anything during the lighter times. It’s all about getting the most value, and utilizing your time wisely.

Liners:

linersI hear some stations go in and out of breaks with music beds. Some do it without any music or production. Others meanwhile have produced liners voiced by the station’s voice talent or a local athlete, which identify the name of the show, station, a slogan, etc.

There’s no right or wrong, but if you look at it from the standpoint of “is this worth airing 3-4x per hour, and taking up :30-:60 seconds of my broadcast time” then you should have a better grasp of whether or not it’s valuable. If you’re not going to use the liner to reinforce your brand position or offer something creative or memorable, get it off the air. They’re denying your best asset (your on-air talent) more content time, which could make a stronger impact with the audience. If you can’t put some time into the writing and imaging, and use them effectively, then save yourself the extra minute. It will only hurt you if it’s not done well.

The only question I have here is whether or not they serve a purpose even when they are done well. I can watch a show without liners leading into segments and it never takes away from my experience of enjoying it. Secondly, does a station need to have them in place every segment? Can you use them 1x per hour leading in or 1x per hour bumping out? Why must it be “always leading into segments“, “always bumping out of segments” or “not at all“. Once again, unpredictability keeps an audience engaged, and maximizing our seconds is necessary for having success.

Conclusion:

There are a number of things about sports radio that could easily be better. The most important one in my opinion is eliminating its predictability. The point of this article wasn’t to suggest that everything we’re doing needs an overhaul because that’s not the case at all. However, we should be thinking about whether or not we’re taking advantage of everything we have at our disposal, and if we’re testing ourselves as best we can. If we’re doing things because they’re simple and it’s how they’ve always been done, then that’s a bad reason to do it. Especially when the future depends on our ability to adapt and create.

suWhen I watched “Startup U”, I found myself thinking of the sports radio format, where it ranks, how it operates, what challenges it faces from other media platforms, and whether or not we have enough operators with the skill necessary to reinvent and make the format cooler. If our industry’s future was on the line, and we had to deliver a winning pitch to a room full of investors, how do you think we’d do? I’d like to believe we’d emerge victorious, but I’m not so sure we would. I guess that answer was predictable though.

 

Barrett Blogs

Would Local Radio Benefit From Hosting An Annual Upfront?

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How many times have you heard this sentence uttered at conferences or in one of the trades; radio has to do a better job of telling its story. Sounds reasonable enough right? After all, your brands and companies stand a better chance of being more consumed and invested in the more that others know about them.

But what specifically about your brand’s story matters to those listening or spending money on it? Which outlets are you supposed to share that news with to grow your listenership and advertising? And who is telling the story? Is it someone who works for your company and has a motive to advance a professional agenda, or someone who’s independent and may point out a few holes in your strategy, execution, and results?

As professionals working in the media business, we’re supposed to be experts in the field of communications. But are we? We’re good at relaying news when it makes us look good or highlights a competitor coming up short. How do we respond though when the story isn’t told the we want it to? Better yet, how many times do sports/news talk brands relay information that isn’t tied to quarterly ratings, revenue or a new contract being signed? We like to celebrate the numbers that matter to us and our teams, but we don’t spend much time thinking about if those numbers matter to the right groups – the audience and the advertisers.

Having covered the sports and news media business for the past seven years, and published nearly eighteen thousand pieces of content, you’d be stunned if you saw how many nuggets of information get sent to us from industry folks looking for publicity vs. having to chase people down for details or read things on social media or listen to or watch shows to promote relevant material. Spoiler alert, most of what we produce comes from digging. There are a handful of outlets and PR folks who are great, and five or six PD’s who do an excellent job consistently promoting news or cool things associated with their brands and people. Some talent are good too at sharing content or tips that our website may have an interest in.

Whether I give the green light to publish the material or not, I appreciate that folks look for ways to keep their brands and shows on everyone’s radar. Brand leaders and marketing directors should be battling daily in my opinion for recognition anywhere and everywhere it’s available. If nobody is talking about your brand then you have to give them a reason to.

I’m writing this column today because I just spent a day in New York City at the Disney Upfront, which was attended by a few thousand advertising professionals. Though I’d have preferred a greater focus on ESPN than what was offered, I understand that a company the size of Disney with so many rich content offerings is going to have to condense things or they’d literally need a full week of Upfronts to cover it all. They’re also trying to reach buyers and advertising professionals who have interests in more than just sports.

What stood out to me while I was in attendance was how much detail went into putting on a show to inform, entertain, and engage advertising professionals. Disney understands the value of telling its story to the right crowd, and they rolled out the heavy hitters for it. There was a strong mix of stars, executives, promotion of upcoming shows, breaking news about network deals, access to the people responsible for bringing advertising to life, and of course, free drinks. It was easy for everyone in the room to gain an understanding of the company’s culture, vision, success, and plans to capture more market share.

As I sat in my seat, I wondered ‘why doesn’t radio do this on a local level‘? I’m not talking about entertaining clients in a suite, having a business dinner for a small group of clients or inviting business owners and agency reps to the office for a rollout of forthcoming plans. I’m talking about creating an annual event that showcases the power of a cluster, the stars who are connected to the company’s various brands, unveiling new shows, promotions and deals, and using the event as a driver to attract more business.

Too often I see our industry rely on things that have worked in the past. We assume that if it worked before there’s no need to reinvent the wheel for the client. Sometimes that’s even true. Maybe the advertiser likes to keep things simple and communicate by phone, email or in-person lunch meetings. Maybe a creative powerpoint presentation is all you need to get them to say yes. If it’s working and you feel that’s the best way forward to close business, continue with that approach. There’s more than one way to reach the finish line.

But I believe that most people like being exposed to fresh ideas, and given a peak behind the curtain. The word ‘new’ excites people. Why do you think Apple introduces a new iPhone each year or two. We lose sight sometimes of how important our brands and people are to those not inside the walls of our offices. We forget that whether a client spends ten thousand or ten million dollars per year with our company, they still like to be entertained. When you allow business people to feel the excitement associated with your brand’s upcoming events, see the presentations on a screen, and hear from and interact with the stars involved in it, you make them feel more special. I think you stand a better chance of closing deals and building stronger relationships that way.

Given that many local clusters have relationships with hotels, theaters, teams, restaurants, etc. there’s no reason you can’t find a central location, and put together an advertiser appreciation day that makes partners feel valued. You don’t have to rent out Pier 36 like Disney or secure the field at a baseball stadium to make a strong impression. We show listeners they’re valued regularly by giving away tickets, cash, fan appreciation parties, etc. and guess what, it works! Yes there are expenses involved putting on events, and no manager wants to hear about spending money without feeling confident they’ll generate a return on investment. That said, taking calculated risks is essential to growing a business. Every day that goes by where you operate with a ‘relying on the past’ mindset, and refuse to invest in growth opportunities, is one that leaves open the door for others to make sure your future is less promising.

There are likely a few examples of groups doing a smaller scaled version of what I’m suggesting. If you’re doing this already, I’d love to hear about it. Hit me up through email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com. By and large though, I don’t see a lot of must-see, must-discuss events like this created that lead to a surplus of press, increased relationships, and most importantly, increased sales. Yet it can be done. Judging from some of the feedback I received yesterday talking to people in the room, it makes an impression, and it matters.

I don’t claim to know how many ad agency executives and buyers returned to the office from the Disney Upfront and reached out to sign new advertising deals with the company. What I am confident in is that Disney wouldn’t invest resources in creating this event nor would other national groups like NBC, FOX, CBS, WarnerMedia, etc. if they didn’t feel it was beneficial to their business. Rather than relying on ratings and revenue stories that serve our own interests, maybe we’d help ourselves more by allowing our partners and potential clients to experience what makes our brands special. It works with our listeners, and can work with advertisers too.

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Takeaways From The NAB Show and Six Days in Las Vegas

“I’m certainly not afraid to be critical but my enthusiasm for the NAB Show was elevated this year.”

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Six days on the road can sometimes be exhausting. Six days in Las Vegas, and it’s guaranteed. That was my world last week, as I along with more than fifty thousand people headed to sin city to take in the 2022 NAB Show.

The event didn’t draw as many as it had in the past, but after two years of inactivity due to the pandemic, it was good to be back. Judging from some of the vendors I talked to, the sessions I attended, and the feedback I received from folks I met with, though far from perfect, it was a solid return for an important event. Seeing people interact, celebrate others, and talk about ways to improve the business was a positive reminder of the world being closer to the normal of 2019 than the normal of 2020-2021. The only negative from the week, the consistent failure of Uber to appear in the right place at the right time. But that had zero to do with the NAB.

It feels like whenever I attend industry conferences, there are two different type of reviews that follow. Some writers attend the show and see the glass half full. Others see the glass half empty. I’m certainly not afraid to be critical but my enthusiasm was elevated this year. Maybe it was because BSM was a media partner or maybe it was due to the show not happening for years and just being happy to be among friends, peers, and clients and operate like normal. Either way, my glass was definitely half full.

For those who see events this way, it’s likely they’ll remember the numerous opportunities they had to create and reestablish relationships. They’ll also recall the access to different speakers, sessions, products, and the excellent research shared with those in attendance. The great work done by the BFOA to recognize industry difference makers during their Wednesday breakfast was another positive experience, as was the Sunday night industry gathering at The Mayfair Supper Club.

Included in the conference were sessions with a number of industry leaders. Radio CEO’s took the stage to point out the industry’s wins and growth, credit their employees, and call out audio competitors, big tech, and advertisers for not spending more with the industry. When David Field, Bob Pittman, Ginny Morris and Caroline Beasley speak, people listen. Though their companies operate differently, hearing them share their views on the state of the business is important. I always learn something new when they address the room.

But though a lot of ground gets covered during these interviews, there are a few issues that don’t get talked about enough. For instance, ineffective measurement remains a big problem for the radio business. Things like this shouldn’t happen, but they do. NBC and WarnerMedia took bold steps to address problems with TV measurement. Does radio have the courage to take a similar risk? That’s an area I’d like to see addressed more by higher ups.

I can’t help but wonder how much money we lose from this issue. Companies spend millions for a ratings service that delivers subpar results, and the accountability that follows is often maddening. Given the data we have access to digitally, it’s stunning that radio’s report card for over the air listening is determined by outdated technology. And if we’re going to tell folks that wearables are the missing ingredient for addressing this problem, don’t be shocked if the press that follows is largely negative. The industry and its advertising partners deserve better. So too do the reps at Nielsen who have to absorb the hits, and make the most of a tough situation.

Speaking of advertising, this is another one of those critical areas that deserves another point of view. Case in point, I talked to a few ad agency professionals at the show. Similar to what I’ve heard before, they’re tired of hearing radio leaders blame them for the industry’s present position. This has been a hot button topic with executives for years. I often wonder, do we help or hurt ourselves by publicly calling out advertisers and ad agencies? How would you feel if you ran an agency which spent millions on the industry and were told ‘you don’t do enough’? I’m a champion of radio/audio, and am bullish on spoken word’s ability to deliver results for clients, but having attended these shows for nearly seven years, it might be time for a new approach and message. Or maybe it’s time to put one of our CEO’s with one of theirs and have a bigger discussion. Just a thought.

Of the sessions that I attended, I thought Erica Farber’s ‘What Business Are You In?’ was excellent. I especially liked Taja Graham’s presentation on ‘Sharing Your Truth’. I also appreciated Eric Bischoff’s tips on ways to monetize podcasts, and am curious to see how Amazon’s AMP develops moving forward. My favorite session at the show though was “A GPS Session For Your Station’s Car Radio Strategy” led by Fred Jacobs. The insight shared by Joe D’Angelo of Xperi and Steve Newberry & Suzy Schultz of Quu was outstanding. Keeping the car companies on our side is vital to our survival, and how we position ourselves on the dashboard can’t be ignored. Other tech companies and audio operators take it seriously. We must too.

Sessions aside, it was great to check out the VSiN and Blue Wire studios, connect with a bunch of CEO’s, GM’s and Market Manager’s, and visit with Kevin Jones, Joe Fortenbaugh, Jeremiah Crowe, Jon Goulet, Bill Adee, Q Myers, Mike Golic Jr. and Stormy Buonantony. The NFL’s setup for the Draft, and the light show presented at the Bellagio was without a doubt spectacular, plus Stephanie had a chance to say hello to Raiders owner Mark Davis who was inside the back room of a Westgate restaurant where we were having a business lunch meeting. The personal tour we received at the Wynn showed off some of the best suites I’ve seen in Las Vegas, and I was finally able to witness Circa’s Stadium Swim in person, and meet owner Derek Stevens (heck of a suit game). What an outstanding hotel and casino.

Altogether, it was a productive trip. As someone who knows all about building and executing a conference, I appreciate the work that goes into pulling it off. This event is massive, and I have no idea how the NAB makes it happen so flawlessly. This was the first time my head of sales, Stephanie Eads, got to attend the show. She loved it. Our only negative, going back and forth between convention halls can get exhausting. Wisely, Stephanie and Guaranty Media CEO Flynn Foster took advantage of the underground Tesla ride to move from the North hall to the West hall. I wasn’t as bright. If that’s the worst part of the experience though, that’s pretty solid. I look forward to returning in 2023, and attending the NAB’s NYC show this fall.

Additional:

You’ve likely seen posts from BSM/BNM on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn promoting a number of open positions. I’m adding crew to help us pump out more content, and that means we need more editors, news writers, features reporter’s and columnists. If you’re currently involved or previously worked in the industry and love to write about it, send a resume and few writing samples by email to JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.

With that said, I’m excited to announce the addition of Ryan Brown as a weekly columnist for BSM. Ryan is part of ‘The Next Round’ in Birmingham, Alabama, which previously broadcast on WJOX as JOX Roundtable. The show left the terrestrial world in June 2021 to operate as its own entity. Ryan’s knowledge and opinions should provide a boost to the site, and I’m looking forward to featuring his columns every Tuesday. Keep an eye out for it tomorrow, and if you want to check out the guest piece he previously wrote for us, click here.

Demetri Ravanos and I have talked to a lot of people over the past month. More additions will be revealed soon. As always, thanks for the continued support of BSM and BNM.

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Six New Contributors Join Barrett Media

“These latest additions will make our product better. Now the challenge is finding others to help us continue growing.”

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Building a brand starts with a vision. Once that vision is defined, you identify the people who fit what you’re creating, lay out the game plan, and turn them loose to execute. If the product you’re creating is original, fills a gap in the marketplace, and the work turned in by your team is consistently excellent and promoted in the right locations, more times than not you’ll build an audience.

As you grow, the focus turns to studying what your audience wants, needs, and expects from your brand. Certain things you expect to be big turn out small, and the things you saw limited upside in create opportunities you never saw coming. It’s critical to be open minded and ready to pivot while also examining where and when people consume your product, which pieces of content do and don’t matter, and then use that information to direct your team to give folks more of what they value and less of what they don’t. Team members should want that feedback too. It tells them what is and isn’t worth spending their time on.

As I lay all of that out it may sound like I’m talking about a radio station or television operation. These are the things programmers do frequently to make sure the talent, shows, and brand is satisfying the expectations of an audience. But what I’m actually referring to is the brand you’ve made a choice to click on to read this column, Barrett Media.

I’ve mentioned many times on this website how I started this operation by myself, and didn’t expect to have a team of writers involved in it. I was focused on consulting sports stations, sharing my programming views on this website, and as I cranked out content consistently, I discovered others loved the business like I did and had a desire to share their insights too. Rather than sticking to my original plan, I pivoted and increased our content offerings. In return, the audience grew, clients grew, and it’s led this brand to grow beyond my expectations. Now we cover sports AND news media, we run an annual conference, feature a membership program, create podcasts, deliver a daily 8@8 and three times per week BNM Rundown newsletter, and work with various brands and companies across the broadcasting industry. I’m extremely fortunate to be in this position and don’t take it for granted.

But with growth comes change. We’ve been blessed to have a lot of talented people contribute to this site over the years, and as they produce quality work, and others across the industry recognize it, they earn interest for their services. That then leads to some having to sign off for bigger opportunities. I see that as a great positive for the brand. Would it be nice to have more consistency and keep a crew together for years? Of course. I know it’d make Demetri’s life a lot easier. If we’re losing people for the right reasons though, and they’re landing opportunities that help them advance their careers, I’m going to be happy for their success, and trust that we’ll find others to keep us moving forward. The success of our team helps make what we do more attractive to others because it shows that if you do good consistent work here, you can put yourself in a position to attract attention.

Over the past two months, I have challenged Demetri Ravanos to invest more time talking to people about writing for us. Expanding our Barrett News Media roster is a priority. So too is adding quality people to help us improve Barrett Sports Media. BSM has had just under seven years to earn trust with readers. BNM has had less than two. We’ve put out ads on our website and newsletters, social posts, an ad on Indeed, and we’ve reached out directly to people who we’ve felt may be able to add something interesting to our brand. Most of my time is spent listening to stations and talking with clients, but my eyes are always roaming looking for content, and my mind is always thinking about what we can create next to make an impact.

I don’t judge our brand’s success based on clicks, shares, breaking news before other outlets or showing up in the top three listings on Google. I care more effort accuracy, timeliness, passion, consistency, storytelling, insight, and being fair and non-agenda driven. We’ve found our niche being able to tell stories about broadcasting professionals, relaying news, and offering expert knowledge to serve those involved in the broadcasting industry. If we continue to excel doing those things consistently, I’m confident our audience will reward us by reading and sharing more of our content. It’s why we never stop recruiting to keep things fresh.

Having said that, I am excited today to reveal six new additions to the Barrett Media staff. Peter Schwartz is a name and voice many in New York sports radio circles are familiar with. Peter has spent three decades working with various outlets and I’m thrilled to have him writing weekly feature stories for us. Brady Farkas is a talented host and former programmer who now works for WDEV in Burlington, VT. Karl Schoening is a play by play broadcaster who has worked in San Antonio sports radio and has had the added benefit of learning the industry from his talented father Bill who calls Spurs games. Each of them will produce bi-weekly feature stories for the brand. Jason Ence is in Louisville and has written about sports betting for Twin Spires while also working for ESPN 680. He’ll be writing sports betting content for us on a weekly basis. Jasper Jones will help us by adding news stories on Friday’s. He’s presently in Philadelphia learning the business working for Audacy. Last but not least, veteran author, Brewers writer, and former radio professional Jim Cryns comes on board to help us with features on news media professionals.

These six additions make us stronger, and I’m excited to have them join the team to help us add more quality content to the website. That said, we’re not done yet. Demetri and I are still talking with others and I expect to make a few more additions in the weeks ahead. As I said earlier, we want to improve the news media side of our operation and continue adding people to help us make a bigger dent in the sports media space. Broadcast companies invest in us to help them, and I believe it’s important to invest back.

If you’ve programmed, hosted a top rated show, worked in measurement, led a cluster as a GM, sold advertising, represented talent or have worked in digital and feel you have knowledge to share, reach out. I can’t promise we’ll have room but we’re always willing to listen. I’m not worried about whether or not you’ve written for professional publications. Passion, experience and unique insights matter much more than a resume or journalism degree.

I appreciate everyone who takes time to read our content, like and share it on social, and all involved with this brand who help bring it to life each day. The latest additions of Schwartz, Farkas, Schoening, Ence, Jones and Cryns will make our product better. Now the challenge is finding others to help us continue growing.

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