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Radio Bits, Characters and Impersonations with John Tobin

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One of the best things to happen to me during my career was something that I initially rejected, and felt was a major step backwards.

Jason studioIn 2002, I was hosting afternoons and programming 1340/1390 ESPN Radio in Poughkeepsie, NY. I spent a few years prior working for a smaller local station (WTBQ), so this was my first entry into working for a corporate group, and having an opportunity to test myself on a bigger station with a bigger audience against larger expectations.

Everything was going great, and I felt I was making inroads in my career, when all of a sudden, the bottom fell out.

I was called into the upstairs office, and informed by my GM (Chuck Benfer) that our new owners had made a decision to flip my sports station to Spanish. Chuck and I had a great relationship and he wanted to keep me around, so he asked if I would consider moving over to the rock station 101.5 WPDH, where I’d serve as Producer of the Morning Show “Wakin Up with Coop and Mikey“. I’d also host a weekly wrestling show on Sunday evenings, which allowed me to maintain my on-air chops.

wpdhjbIn that moment, I had to choose between staying in the business, and doing something outside of my comfort zone, or declining the opportunity, and pursuing other jobs in sports radio while being unemployed. Having a family to feed, I chose the paycheck, and to this day, I am extremely glad I did.

At the time, this was foreign territory for me, and while I loved Howard Stern, I wasn’t a big fan of morning shows on music stations. A lot of the entertainment felt forced and hokey to me, and I worried that I’d be involved in a similar situation. Waking up at 3am also didn’t have a lot of appeal, but getting a 2 second cameo on the first season of “American Chopper” made up for it (sort of).

I often reflect on the 2 years I spent working outside of sports radio as a huge positive, because it taught me a lot about being able to entertain an audience in a short period of time. It also pushed me creatively to think about things differently, and take chances with content that I might not have otherwise considered.

When you’re hosting a sports talk show, you do a lot of reading, and you beat to death the two or three local stories with a few opinions, phone calls, and interviews. Rarely do you look at each minute of your show as being critically important. The mindset usually is “we have 3-4 hours to cover, so there’s plenty of time to do things, and the audience will accept it”.

When you work on a morning show that plays music, and allows for short talk segments, your content selection and execution has to be crisp, and if you miss on an opportunity, it could be another 30-45 minutes before you get a chance to redeem yourself. That is a personal hell for any on-air entertainer.

johntobinMy time with WPDH lasted a little over a year, and I moved from there to another rock radio station (PYX 106 in Albany, NY) where I spent 6 months producing the “Wakin Up With The Wolf” show with Bob Wohlfeld, Ellen Z, Ethan Youker and my personal favorite, John Tobin.

John built a strong brand at WPDH prior to moving to PYX 106, and although we knew each other, and shared mutual friends, we had never directly worked together. He delivered big ratings on the shows he was part of, and I was a big fan of his work, so I knew it’d be fun collaborating, and learning from him.

I quickly learned that despite being a phenomenal morning talent, John hated waking up and doing mornings. However, once the light went on, he was ready to perform. His natural talents and energy took over, and his ability to be spontaneous, and keep his partners on the edge of their seats, fueled the show to have incredible success.

johntobin3That talent led to him having multiple successes in Albany. He made a huge impact on the morning show on PYX 106 , and then switched gears and hosted an afternoon sports talk show on the Fox Sports Radio affiliate with Freddie Coleman. Freddie as you know has since gone on to a very successful career at ESPN Radio.

What I learned during the time I worked with John was that there is a method to the madness when it comes to creating bits, characters, impersonations, and parodies. John is creatively brilliant, and enjoys performing, but he’s also a harsh critic. He’s not afraid to throw an idea away, even if it might be suitable to the rest of the room. If it’s not great, doesn’t leave the audience craving more, and doesn’t leave the cast on the show in stitches, he’ll revisit the idea later, or throw it out and work on something else.

As someone who listens to, and appreciates great comedy in radio, I believe bits, characters, impersonations, stunts and parodies can greatly enhance and compliment a show. Look around the country today and you’ll find a number of people doing this well. Lance Zierlein in Houston, Joe Conklin on WIP, Mike Bell in Atlanta, Whitey Gleason in Sacramento, Jay Mohr at Fox Sports, and Gregg Giannotti at the CBS Sports Radio Network all come to mind. Another guy who’s still developing but also has a knack for this is Clayton Miller.

johnnybTurn on your television and you’ll also find shows like Family Guy, The Simpsons, South Park, and the Impractical Jokers who employ this same approach, and make a LOT of money, and generate large audiences. I watched the same strategy work firsthand for one of my best friends’ brothers, Johnny Brennan, who created the Jerky Boys, and built his brand into a mainstream success.

Bear in mind, all of these elements have to be executed well in order to be effective, and the talent has to have great ability to pull them off. When done right, they create a surprise in the programming, and keep an audience craving more, and sharing their listening experience with anyone around them who will listen. When done poorly, it can add a speed bump the size of a mountain into your show.

I thought it’d be fascinating to get inside the brain of someone who does this well, and knows what to look for and avoid when introducing new elements into a show. John was gracious enough to take some time and share his own personal account for what goes into the creative process, and if you’re curious to learn what works, what doesn’t, and the challenge with executing each strategy, I think you’ll enjoy this.

On an unrelated note, if you work on a show and John is ever coming through your city doing stand-up, or you’re just looking for someone to add some entertainment value to your show, get in touch with him. He’s very entertaining and skilled in creating memorable radio moments.

Here’s a quick sample from one of his standup performances. Be advised, there’s some colorful language in it.

Creating Bits, Characters and Impersonations by John Tobin

When it comes to radio bits, here are some simple do’s and don’ts.

DO: Be Funny!

DON’T: Be Unfunny!

Sounds obvious, right? However, executing this requires a sense of what the audience will react to with laughter. A sharp sense. I recognize that this is the equivalent of telling a would-be musician, “be musical“, but that’s the reality of it.

Let’s talk about a few different types of bits.

goodellFLY on the WALL: “Gee, I wonder how the conversation went when Goodell sat down with Brady and his reps.

This will take some imagination and probably 2-3 voices. Basically, it’s sketch comedy. Let it build. These are fun to create and will allow you to depart from the typical, “Host A and Host B discuss an issue.” Work it out. Record it. Roll it out on the air.

Song Parodies and Produced Pieces:

A song parody is a great vehicle for humor. If you don’t believe me, look at the size of Weird Al’s pool. Try to jam your parody with jokes. Write the jokes first. Keep them on the side. Then make them rhyme. Try them out on people. The stronger ones go deeper into the tune.

The punchline of a parody is typically a pun on the title of the original song. If the pun is the only laugh, keep the parody short. Give the context with the verse, drop the punchline on them and scram.

EMPHASIS: If there’s only one joke don’t try to extend the bit.

There’s nothing worse than a parody with a throwaway (non-humorous) verse that goes beyond the punchline. All you’re doing at that point is offering another throwaway verse and making the audience wait for the same punchline, which is no longer a punchline since they’ve already heard it.

If you’re loading it up with funny lines, by all means go 2 verses (and if it’s hilarious, go for three, as long as the third verse has some kind of twist). Recognize when you have a one-joke bit, and resist beating a dead horse.

ACDC2I used to argue with a partner about a particular bit by a band that called itself, “Hayseed Dixie“, who covered AC/DC songs in bluegrass style. “She was a fast machine / she kept her motor clean“, check please. I get it, “You Shook Me (all night long)” over banjos and washboards.

I get it. No, really, I get it. TURN IT OFF.

It’s funny…. for about 15 seconds….then it gets tedious because the joke is over. We used to argue every time because he insisted on playing the full 2 minutes. But the joke is OVER! This is where your sense of “audience” has to come to the rescue.

As far as a tempo, bear in mind that you want them to hear every syllable, so, not too fast. Too slow is bad too, because you don’t want the audience to have SO much time that they can figure out where you’re going. Pace is important.

John Tobin’s “Sofa King” Commercial

LIVE Character Bits:

These have always been a favorite of mine. If you can break into (and think as) a character it adds such a dimension to the show. If you do it spontaneously, even better. Surprise everyone in the room. Of course, you need to have that sort of leeway, but if you do, it’s always a turning point in the mood and feel of the show. Such a great pivot.

tobinIf spontaneity isn’t something you can get away with in your particular situation, you can open a break by having the character introduced, “Joining us in the studio“.

One way we’d shoehorn a character into the program was via a corny “knock on the door” which was literally knuckles on the console. “Oh, hey, look who’s here!”, and off you go.

I always found that characters who had an attitude worked best. Don’t be afraid to be a little aggressive and OWN the room. One character bit you can go to pretty easily is “the fan of your rival“. Think Red Sox fan. Think Yankee fan. Think Auburn/Alabama.

Use the accents, use the attitude, create a caricature. It’s a great device, and easy to score with since the resonance is built-in.

John Tobin’s character “Esteban” delivers bad pickup lines 

Phone-ins and Impersonations:

These are also fun and can be very short & sweet. One great use of an in-studio phone is the “second-life“. If, in the middle of a busy break,  you think of something funny to say but you can’t fit it into the show in that moment, do not despair. Sure, the moment may have passed for you to use the line as YOU, but if there’s a phone in the studio, you’re golden.

JohnTobin6I’ll grab the console phone and lean out of sight. My partner will see me wiggle four fingers (meaning Line 4, our Hotline) and give the call letters as he picks up. I’ll then do a 2-second re-set, “A minute ago you were saying“___<reset>___”  and I was thinking, “____<joke>_____”.

The phone-in can also be used in the exact same way as the LIVE character.

I started in radio as a freelance contributor to a morning show (i95 in CT). I used to write scripts at home and fax (yes, fax…Pony Express had shut down by then) the in-studio guys their parts. Their scripts would have only a slight hint of my line, because I didn’t want to tip the punchline. They’d take my call LIVE and we’d roll with it. For this, I received the grand sum of $12.50.

Impersonations:

As far as impressions go, it’s something you’re either born with, or not. Just like musicality. However, sometimes you can fake it.

smitsThe Rik Smits voice, for example, is completely something I ascribed to him. I have no idea how Rik sounds so I just created a character and made him into Arnold Schwarzenegger as a nasty pro wrestler. I was so committed to its delivery and its attitude that I established it as his voice. From what I understand, Rik is actually fairly soft spoken.

That’s one way out of doing an inaccurate impression. You decide what the impression is going to be and commit to it 500%. To make it work, try to find the salient characteristics of it and caricature them. That’s another way to bail out of not being able to nail an impression 100%.

John Tobin’s “I Am Enormous” as sung by the Rik Smits character

russoFor Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, the impression I performed was significant because he was local and he was popular. He also has a loud, over the top persona which was easy to parody. What you try to look for are things that other people might overlook.

For instance, “Mad Dog” does this “gasping-for-air inhale” after he laughs. I always exaggerated it and dragged it out to about two and a half seconds.

He also has a problem pronouncing the R and L. I did a bit once where he discussed nothing but the Royals, Orioles, and Oilers. All of which he pronounced identically ERLLOLRRLLERL.

WHO?

The ERLLOLRRLLERL.

WHO?

Kansas City!

I would get the character speaking so fast that everything became unintelligible except for every 19th word. Gibberish–gibberish-gibberish Yankee Stadium. Gibberish-gibberish-gibberish $10 beer. Of course, you want to latch onto a couple of catchphrases that the individual uses. In Chris’ case, “give me a break, for Pete’s sake and for crying out loud”, were all part of his repertoire.

John Tobin’s “Chris “Mad Dog” Russo” Impersonation

rizzutoOne bit I created and wrote was Phil Rizzuto’s Mini-Golf. The Scooter would call-in to announce his Grand Opening and every hole had a theme. Each theme centered around its own current sports story.

There was a Lawrence Taylor-themed hole. A Pete Rose-themed hole. Today, you could go with a Patriots/Brady-themed hole or maybe one for Rex Ryan. One theme/one joke. However many solid jokes you can come up with, that’s how many you talk about. Then, you’re done.

Another character I used to do was Dunkin Downe, a 6’9 goggle-wearing power forward with a sense of humorOne time Dunkin called in and did an entire bit on the size of the Piston’s Vinnie Johnson’s head. “Vinnie Johnson was standing on a corner in his blue Pistons warmup….a woman pulled down his bottom lip trying to mail a letter, man.”

In my opinion, voices kill. They add such a dimension to a program and can differentiate you from your competition. If you have that kind of talent under your roof exploit it until you bleed.

You can reach John Tobin on Facebook here, and email him here. To hear more of his work check out Mad Mike Colvin’s Soundcloud page.

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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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