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The Talkers’ Heavy Hundred Misses The Mark

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On Thursday, Talker’s released its 4th annual Heavy Hundred of Sports Talk Radio, and as you’d expect it’s creating a lot of noise. Lists are very effective in terms of generating debate and discussion. When the focus becomes sports radio personalities and radio stations, that stirs even more emotion. Having created a few pieces like this myself, I know how subjective these things can be. So I recognize how difficult this project can be for the Talkers crew.

talkersTo assemble a piece like this and generate buzz is very easy. It’s the evidence though that supports each decision that determines if the list carries any weight. The outlet behind the piece also is important. There’s no question that Talkers has been a reputable source for talk radio for a long time. That’s why the “Heavy Hundred” creates interest throughout our industry. People in radio want to feel like their work is being recognized and measured by those who understand the challenges of doing it. Not by those who are uninformed or wearing rose colored glasses.

When I clicked on the link yesterday to review the list, I hoped to be pleased with the final result. I wanted to believe that quality research was done to showcase the industry’s best but once again I was left with more questions than answers. There also seems to be a bias directed towards certain shows, stations, and cities.

On Wednesday, Talkers posted on their website what some of their criteria was for the “Heavy Hundred”. They stressed that the final results are admittedly subjective and a number of factors determine who makes the cut. Which qualities mattered most though was not clear.

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I thought it was worth researching to find out which criteria was most important and if the decision making was done in collaboration with different radio companies and programmers or if it was done independently. Many stations and industry professionals have been led to believe that there is a group of industry executives determining these results.

I started my investigation by reaching out to more than 50 Program Directors and Corporate Executives. I asked them how involved they were in sharing feedback with Talkers for their process. Only one Program Director said they had shared their input with the company. Whether Talkers asked for it or even considered it is unknown.

Next, I reached out to Talkers to get an idea of how they handle the process. The three questions I posed were:

  • Who takes part in the selection committee for deciding the Top 100? (Are they strictly folks from the magazine/website or are managers from different radio groups included)
  • Which factors matter the most in determining where you slot a show? (Ex: Ratings, Revenue, Market size, Longevity, etc.)
  • If ratings are taken into account, are you looking at 6+, 12+ or the format’s key demo Men 25-54?

harrisonMichael Harrison, the company’s Editor and Publisher, didn’t address the questions directly but he did offer the publication’s perspective. He said “putting this list together is based on as much art and subjectivity as it is objective and empirical. In other words, this is not an “official” PPM-style ratings project based on a hard methodology – but rather, an impression based on a combination of information and opinions and that’s the way we want it to stay. Lists like this are thought-stimulators and not to be taken TOO seriously.”

What Michael said in his last line is very important to be aware of. The list is meant to be a fun, thought provoking piece, that highlights the best in the format through the eyes and ears of the editors at Talkers Magazine. It’s not industry involved by design and whether a show finishes 1st or 100th, simply earning recognition from an industry resource like Talkers should make a talent and radio station feel good.

But therein lies the issue. Talkers has done a great job at building a brand that the radio industry values. They have a larger responsibility to showcase the industry properly. A fun subjective list that’s not to be taken seriously is something we should expect from our friends on Facebook. Not from one of the radio industry’s leading publications.

Yesterday after the list was released, I received five different press releases from radio stations pumping up their people who were on the “Heavy Hundred”. That tells me that the industry takes this list very seriously. One particular quote stood out. David Dickey with 680 The Fan in Atlanta said “We are thrilled that experts in the sports industry recognize The Fan as the most credible and most consumed sports station in Atlanta, airing some of the best sports-talk shows in the country”.

There’s one problem with that quote. Experts in the sports industry did NOT participate in this project. It was done independently by the editors at Talkers.

Being a former Program Director who studies this format as intently as I do, there are a couple of issues I believe need to be addressed. Most of the Talkers group are based on the East Coast. Call me cynical but I don’t believe they are listening to sports stations in the South, Midwest, or West Coast on a regular basis. Nor do I believe they are in tune with how impactful, successful or not successful, some of those brands and personalities are.

nielsenI also know that gaining access to a station’s ratings and revenue is very difficult. Especially when you take into account that the key demo for the format (Men 25-54) isn’t made available to the public. You can dissect 6+ and 12+ numbers but those are not what accurately reflect a sports station’s performance. You can also see total revenue for a brand but that doesn’t tell you which personalities bring in the dough and which ones don’t.

As I analyzed the list, my initial impression is that many of the shows selected were chosen based on reputation of brand and longevity of show. I don’t believe ratings and revenue factored heavily into the equation as previously suggested. It feels more to me like “The Reputation 100” than a review of the best of 2015.

One other thing that I noticed that is very troublesome is that this list rarely changes. There’s no way in the world of radio ratings and revenue (where things change constantly) that you’re going to convince me that these shows have produced the same for the past 3 years. The only time you’ll see major changes are when shows no longer exist or guys who recently started with a station are lower one year and higher the next. Take some time and look at the lists for 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015. You’ll see a lot of the same results. Here is some photo evidence.

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A few years ago one of my shows made this list and at that time the program had been on the air less than six months and was rated 17th in the market. Another show on my station which didn’t make the list, had spent 2-3 years together and was consistently rated in the Top 5. They were also our highest generating revenue program. I wasn’t asked nor was my General Manager for any information about our station or personalities ratings or revenue.

While that was then, let’s take a look at now.

damonbruceIn San Francisco, Damon Bruce not only generates revenue for 95.7 The Game, but he’s been a Top 5 rated program throughout the past year. If you’re a Top 5 performer in the 4th largest market in America, how can you not be included as one of the industry’s Top 100?

Talkers also said that in addition to ratings and revenue, a few other criteria were important. They included “effort, courage, uniqueness, recognition, impact and doing a show at the time of the list’s release”. Once again, Damon checks all of those boxes. So does Greg Papa and John Lund who work at the same station and have been in the Top 5 for the past 3 years and just finished #1 in October.

But that’s my former radio station so clearly I’m biased right? Well let’s switch coasts then.

Mark Madden does afternoons on 105.9 The X in Pittsburgh. He’s not on a full-time sports station, but he hosts a sports talk show for 4 hours a day in afternoon drive and delivers HUGE double digit ratings and revenue. He also possesses many of the attributes that Talkers said were important. He too though is not on the list. Three of the market’s shows on 93.7 The Fan made the list (deservingly so) so that eliminates any argument about the market being smaller.

innes12Staying in Pennsylvania, Josh Innes hosts afternoon drive on WIP in Philadelphia. He started in that slot in February with Tony Bruno and quickly the show was leading the afternoon ratings battle against Mike Missanelli who’s ranked 15th on the Talkers list. Bruno left the show in July which many thought would hurt the show. But WIP never lost momentum. Innes continued to win afternoons with a new crew.

If I were to ask Andy Bloom who runs WIP, I’m sure he’d tell me their station is making a lot of money by finishing in the top spot in Philadelphia. If Innes is winning in afternoons, and doing so with two different versions of his program during the past calendar year, that should only further help his standing right? Nope. He’s rated 49th.

Missanelli is an exceptional talent and deserves to be in the Top 15. That’s not the issue. A host who’s on a heritage brand and in the same conversation for afternoon ratings and providing many of the qualities that the publication said were necessary shouldn’t be 34 spots away.

That same issue exists in Chicago where Waddle & Silvy (58th) on ESPN 1000 have won multiple months against Boers and Bernstein (18th) on The Score and in Kansas City where “The Drive” with Danny Parkins and Carrington “CDot” Harrison aren’t even on the list, despite doing a great show and leading the ratings against Kevin Keitzman (42nd) from WHB. How Michael Kay of 98.7 ESPN New York is relegated to 56th (third year in a row 55th or 56th) is another head scratcher.

1053Moving south to Dallas, G-Bag Nation airs on 105.3 The Fan and is an incredible program. It beats The Ticket and ESPN 103.3 in middays and is often The Fan’s highest rated show. But once again, the show isn’t on the list. Their competitors who they beat consistently each month are. Norm Hitzges and Donovan Lewis from The Ticket are 79th and Steve Dennis and Mark Friedman are 83rd.

Ben & Skin (who are a really good show) work on the same station as G-Bag Nation and they finished 43rd despite delivering the same or lower numbers than the midday show. If G-Bag Nation produces the top ratings on their station, and beats the two shows (Hitzges & Lewis and Dennis & Friedo) that they line up against, then how are they left out?

Finally, I don’t need ratings evidence, only a good set of ears to know that Bomani Jones, Adam Schein and Dan Dakich are three of America’s best on-air talents. There’s no defense for them not being included. They are way too good to be left off.

In the grand scheme of things, this is only a list. We’re not dealing with a life threatening illness. But shouldn’t we expect some transparency when it involves voting on our entire industry? Is that too much to expect?

aiI remember when sports media people voted for MVP awards and made terrible decisions but couldn’t be held accountable because we didn’t know how they voted. Then two specific situations occurred and it’s been very different since. Fred Hickman voted for Allen Iverson as MVP over Shaq in 2000 and Keith Law placed Javier Vasquez above Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter in the 2009 NL Cy Young voting. Both men received a ton of backlash for their selections and with social media a major part of people’s lives now and accountability being important to the general public, it’s much harder to place a vote and hide.

What frustrates me most is that people in our format really do care about this. They want to be measured fairly and some checks and balances would go a long way towards getting it right. Furthermore, there are stations using this information in local marketplaces to create confusion and present a false narrative for their brands and personalities. It’s similar to when a radio station runs a promo touting itself as America’s #1 sports station, when the truth is that they’re not even rated #1 in their own market. Just because you say something is factual doesn’t mean that it actually is.

The last part I want to draw attention to is SiriusXM. I recognize that the focus of this type of list is going to be on ‘terrestrial’ radio but if we’re identifying the Top 100 sports hosts in America, then shouldn’t they be included? Stephen A. Smith, Evan Cohen and Mark Packer aren’t good enough to make the Top 100? Chris Russo, despite having an entire channel named after him is only the 35th most important? Really?

JBRadioInkIn talking to a number of Program Directors, they’re disappointed because they’re not asked about their shows and stations and they feel that Talkers aren’t privy to key information. I’ve often wondered why Program Directors weren’t interviewed as part of this process. Why consultants like Rick Scott, Tom Bigby and myself who follow the format nationwide and interact with stations and personalities aren’t asked to share a perspective. Why executives like Bruce Gilbert and Scott Masteller weren’t asked for feedback when they operated ESPN Radio and Fox Sports Radio and had regular communication with local stations across the country.

I’d think that Program Directors, Consultants, and Executives like Bruce, Mark Chernoff and Mike Thomas at CBS, Steve Cohen with SiriusXM, and Don Martin with Premiere/Fox Sports could lend some extra insight and information that would be beneficial. Some will say that by talking to them they’ll be biased towards their own people and while that’s probably true, they still have information that’s important. I’m not suggesting they be part of the final decision making process. That should absolutely belong to Talkers. But without knowing key details about many of these stations, it leaves a lot of industry people feeling like the list is very skewed and not well researched.

hiremeIf you’re an On-Air talent and you made the list, be appreciative towards the folks at Talkers who have highlighted your show and clearly value your work. However, just because you made the list, doesn’t mean you deserve a raise or that you should start bombarding other Program Director’s for bigger jobs because you’ve clearly established yourself.

I had one talent reach out to me two years ago and explain why I needed to hire them. They told me that based on their ranking on the Talkers Top 100, it was clear that the entire industry knew they were a difference maker. This individual didn’t finish in the Top 30 so when I responded by asking them “why should I hire you over all of the other shows that finished ahead of you” they didn’t take too kindly to my sarcasm. Now knowing that the survey is done independently by Talkers and without the involvement of the top radio minds in America, that same person may want to craft their wording a little differently.

I’m glad Talkers does this piece each year to give our format and our people some exposure. I know it’s a very hard list to assemble and everyone involved at the publication has to view this project as a love/hate assignment. No matter what they put out, there’s going to be some disagreement with it. By not providing transparency though with their process it leaves them open to additional criticisms.

wfanFrom where I sit, I don’t think you can find much room to argue with the Top 15-20. Personalities like Mike Francesa, Boomer & Carton, Jim Rome, Colin Cowherd and Dan Patrick deserve to be high on the list. In many ways this list reminds me of the NFL Draft. You can identify who the top prospects are but after Round 1 it’s a crapshoot and the great organizations do their homework and strike gold, while others miss the mark and ultimately pay the price for it.

To those that made the list, congratulations. Whether you take it seriously or with a grain of salt, it’s a nice honor. The last thing I wanted to do was rain on Talkers parade but the process and research that goes into this should matter and industry people deserve to know who determines the results and what criteria matters most. Many assumed that top executives and programmers were involved in this process. But they’re not. They’ve also not been spoken to. If some additional conversation takes place, this list could become excellent and one that all groups look forward to being a part of.

For now though, the Talkers Heavy Hundred has become our Santa Claus. It started as a good idea that made us feel good inside, but the more we choose to believe in it, the more disappointed we become.

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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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