Last week in Detroit, CBS Detroit and the Detroit Lions announced an end to their broadcast partnership after eighteen seasons together. The Lions will be moving to WJR next season.
When the decision was announced, the team stated they made the move for business reasons. 97.1 The Ticket afternoon host Mike Valenti said the decision was personal and had more to do with the Lions disdain for him and their desire to control the media’s message.
CBS Detroit Market Manager Debbie Kenyon released a statement which was in line with Valenti’s assessments. She said “In the end it came down to the integrity of CBS — the refusal to be censored in talking about the team and making honest assessments on the air about this team.”
Valenti and Kenyon’s strong assertions forced the Lions into damage control mode. Elizabeth Parkinson, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Corporate Sponsorships for the Lions offered her position. “I know there’s a bit of narrative out there regarding the notion that, somehow the Lions are practicing some sort of censorship. If we were trying to practice any sort of censorship, we certainly would’ve done it (the switch) much sooner. Anytime our media is either not factual or misrepresenting the content that they’re sharing, those calls are made. Our media team works with all media outlets to correct inaccuracies, and they were working with The Ticket to correct inaccuracies.”
But was the team using its position as a partner to reach out and correct mistakes? Or were they using the association to limit negativity and increase positive conversation?
Gregg Henson, who now programs in Pittsburgh, and spent 15 years in Detroit as a Programmer and On-Air host, said the Lions issues with the media are very real. In a blog post on his website, Henson added: “It’s been going on for 20 years. When I programmed WDFN in the 90’s, the Lions on many occasions complained to our bosses about the on-air content and we weren’t even the rights holder for the team. At one point, they informed WDFN upper management that if Art Regner and I were terminated they would “consider” granting WDFN the team’s broadcast rights.”
Henson continued ” The main culprit was Lion’s PR Director Bill Keenist. He attempted to turn hosts against one another and complain that Art (Regner) and I didn’t go to practice. He implored our bosses to “mandate” that we come to practice. Why? So he could bully us into his way of thinking. He even threatened to pull our credentials if we didn’t fall in line.”
When organizations attempt to control the way personalities think and operate, it often ends badly. You don’t develop great relationships that way. I used to tell one individual “if you’re not going to consult me when you’re changing your roster and potentially impacting my station’s ability to generate ratings and revenue, then don’t expect me to afford you the same courtesy”.
Some teams that I’ve worked with have been more than fair in the way they handle business. Much of that starts with the individuals who are in charge. In the Bay Area, I had a great rapport with both football teams because Marc Badain and Will Kiss with the Raiders and Bob Sargent and Bob Lange at the 49ers, are not only first class people, but they respect the media and understand the business. Rarely did my phone ring for something minor.
I’ve also dealt with a few teams who were very sensitive to criticism and wanted on-air talent fired, suspended, or required to attend games and practices. Those teams not only lose the respect of the hosts but they also create a situation where they become the enemy of the Program Director. That’s not positive for anyone involved.
One word that far too often comes into play is ‘partnership’ and it’s a word that means something entirely different to each side. Many teams believe it means the radio station will be positive, avoid difficult subjects, and offer the franchise the benefit of the doubt when bad things happen. Radio stations believe it means the station has the exclusive right to air the team’s games, sell ads during the broadcast, use the franchise’s logos in all marketing materials, and have access to special guests and broadcast opportunities without their weekday content being compromised.
From where I sit, both sides need to understand what they’re signing up for in advance. Rights fees don’t increase when teams create headaches and roadblocks, and stations don’t continue to enjoy the benefit of the association when they’re close minded and using the airwaves to deliver verbal haymakers.
One rule I’ve stressed to my staffs over the years was to be critical of performance, but avoid personal attacks and cheap shots. The result of a game, the performance by an athlete, the poor execution by an organization to provide a positive game experience, those are all fair. Teams may not like hearing it but the facts are the facts. We owe the audience an honest analysis and if the criticisms are directed in that way, I’ll battle for any individual’s ability to speak their mind.
On the other hand, it’s tougher to defend a talent when they step outside the lines and get personal. Whether the team gave you good seats to a game, the best setup at training camp, the interview you wanted, or the best spot in the media press box shouldn’t influence how you speak about their performance. You’re privileged to have access to many of these things and if you don’t get your way, that shouldn’t restrict your ability to be fair. If you want to call the owner a drunk, or suggest that a front office executive has photos of the owner to remain employed, be prepared to lose that fight, and in some cases your job.
Where this becomes interesting is when you’re forced to choose between play by play and your weekday programming. While I’m sure money was a big factor in the conversation in Detroit, I do believe that the integrity of the radio station came into play. I respect Debbie Kenyon and CBS for standing by Mike Valenti. I’m not sure how many others would’ve done the same.
Play by Play rights fees are high and often cause stations to lose money. But they also deliver audience, attract good sales people, and usually help a station enjoy great ratings success. When a team leaves a radio station, good people usually follow, and ratings aren’t far behind. Whether that will or won’t happen in Detroit remains to be seen.
In looking across the country at the top 25 markets, the ratings leader in each city usually has a play by play partnership with a popular local team. Less than 5 of the top 25 cities had a station winning the local competition without an NFL, MLB, NBA or NHL franchise on their airwaves. Those who carry local NFL/MLB teams perform even higher than those with NBA/NHL rights.
As necessary as it may be for sports stations to offer dynamic air talent M-F 6a-7p, numerous radio operators believe that they stand a better chance to drive higher ratings and revenue with play by play on their airwaves.
But what happens when you’re forced to choose between the two? Can you win without a popular local team’s games on your radio station? Can you afford to lose a dominant personality and replace them with lesser talent simply to keep a team on your airwaves?
I was curious of how other programmers felt about the importance of play by play and what their preference would be if they had to choose. Given the sensitive nature of the discussion, I’ve elected to keep the identities of the 5 programmers I spoke with private. Although I’d love to believe that a candid conversation like this wouldn’t lead to additional headaches, I’m not certain it wouldn’t.
How important is play by play to your ratings success?
PD1: Play-by-play of a winning team is the greatest marketing a station can get. It brings people to your station that you’d never otherwise have sample your product. When you combine that with a brand which is better than the competition, but not the heritage station in the market, it can be very valuable to success.
PD2: Play by play is important because there is a big cume available for stations to use to send their messages to listeners. This is important for directing the audience back into your weekday programming.
PD3: Very! Though the caveat is what sport, what team(s), and most importantly – relevance. The NFL is king. I could run a Jacksonville-Buffalo game on a Sunday morning and get a ton more meters than other sports’ play-by-play. With everything else, it depends on the specific significance of the event. As our local teams progress thru their respective seasons, we see either ascending or descending interest based on how they perform.
PD4: It’s very important but it’s not the play by play as much as it is using the game broadcast to get folks to come back the day(s) after to help with cume for the M-F shows.
PD5: Ratings success depends largely on the success of the team. I have been PD of a station with Play By Play of a team that does not attract a large audience and therefore the pxp is a detriment to the success of the station. It’s 3 hours where the station could be talking about other teams in the market or content that has greater local appeal. If the team is in second or third place or even worse in terms of standings or importance, it hurts.
How important is play by play to your station’s revenue success?
PD1: It helps. As much as anything, it opens doors with advertisers who may not be familiar with us. When you’re the flagship of a major professional team, very rarely do you have sales calls go unanswered. We’re not allowed to sell spots in our “direct play-by-play,” the game, coach’s show, etc., but what the play-by-play allows us to do is build shoulder programming around it and position ourselves as the flagship.
PD2: Enormous. It’s not just the on-air commercials that spike rates and revenue. It’s the relationship and tickets that come with the partnership. My sales manager once said, “having that relationship allows you to say “please” to potential new clients and “thank you” to loyal clients.”
PD3: Revenue is a big part of play by play deals. Making a buck is tough these days especially with expensive rights deals. For many clients, the emotional attachment to a certain team is the deciding factor in spending money on the station. Having it available helps bring clients in the door, with the goal being to make them a larger part of the station down the road, whether that’s through buying features associated to the team, sportscasts or anything else programming related.
PD4: It is very important to our revenue. We put a lot of effort into selling our local play by play and when we have success selling it, it lifts all aspects of revenue for the station. We tie together our play by play sales and station sales so when play by play is hot, it carries over to the spot sales and NTR (non-traditional revenue) for the sports talk programming.
PD5: It depends on the specific play-by-play partner and relationship. Most teams/franchises are taking their broadcasts in-house and controlling all or most of the inventory, so the value in these affiliations might be in ancillary programming – coach’s shows, pre/post game, sponsored features/segments suited towards team coverage. The ratings help you might get from play by play cume increases, can boost your weekday numbers which helps your sales department when it comes to selling spots and other station items.
Considering the financial commitment that is required to secure a local team’s broadcast rights, are they worth it?
PD1: If it’s an “A” property – MLB, NBA, NFL, major college, I think it is worth it. It can be a tremendous hassle (I’ve seen it in every market I’ve worked) but from a branding and credibility standpoint, whether you’re an established station or a startup – it has undeniable benefits that couldn’t be attained any other way.
PD2: Having worked in several markets where team broadcast rights fees are a big part of the stations expense line, it really comes down to the bottom line and how much the station/company is willing to partner with the team. That “partnership” and the willingness to work together in the “radio marriage” is essential. Does the team have a list of restricted categories for selling? Are they willing to work and push dollars from their major sponsors to you? Is the station willing to introduce their clients to the sports property? It is one of the biggest commitments and all of these items must be presented before the marriage is set – no surprises. Surprises are what lead to a bitter relationship.
PD3: This depends on the sport, franchise and city. For example, if you went to Minneapolis, I’m sure it’d be worth it to be the flagship for the Minnesota Vikings, but probably not as much to carry the Minnesota Timberwolves. Each market has a team or two that exceeds the others in value and interest.
PD4: In today’s radio business climate, I think it’s important to enter into these agreements with the idea of making money or at least breaking even. The problem with losing money on radio rights deals is that it ends up impacting your sports talk lineup. Usually when a station loses money on the rights, they’re forced to trim staff.
PD5: It depends on the market and team. In my city, if you have football it’s worth it. If you were in St. Louis and you had baseball, it’s worth it. Football rules in most markets, but in some the others (baseball and basketball) do and don’t make business sense.
What chance does a station have of winning a ratings & revenue battle in a local market if it doesn’t have play by play and the competitor does?
PD1: Year round it’s all about your station’s personalities. Those who have polarizing talent with an ability to “say something” always keep a brand from being dependent on the performance of a local team. Owning NFL coverage in a city can make it seem to listeners that your station gives the “best” coverage without owning the rights.
PD2: It depends on the market and teams. I think if you do some research on top rated stations in NFL cities you will see the majority have the rights to the NFL team. Then the question is, what came first? Did the team go to the top station and the top station got better? Or did the team make that station the top station?
PD3: Creative programming wins. Having the ability to sell special features, shows, covering the team with reporters, segments and special guests can give the station the upper hand in being the station of record for the sports property. If the play by play for a popular franchise is not available in the market, get over it and start thinking of ways you can still cover the team and win.
PD4: It is hard to win the 12+ number in the ratings world if you don’t have play by play but you can win the 25-54 battle 6a-7pm if you have great personalities, and that demo is key for most sports stations. As for revenue, not having play by play might make winning the overall billing battle more difficult but you can still be profitable as a radio station without play by play.
PD5: It’s very possible to win the ratings without play-by-play. Some stations have the luxury of being the hotter brand than the team. In other cases, the team is a hotter brand than the station. A station needs to see where they stand in that assessment when analyzing their play-by-play options. Not every station needs play-by-play to drive their success. But even on stronger brands, it’s nice programming to have on nights and weekends, where it doesn’t interfere with what is really driving the station, for both ratings and revenue.
How do you handle situations that arise when teams wish to influence content on your airwaves?
PD1: I meet for lunch with front office personnel and attend games regularly. Relationships are key and I believe in making myself available as a sounding board, not my on-air talent. I have never had a problem with a team because I explain up front that we will criticize but be fair and I encourage my hosts to show up in the locker room and at practices and games. That helps build the relationship.
PD2: There is one guarantee when becoming a flagship, the team will have “concerns” with the on-air commentary and voice their opinions to management about them. This has taken place in every single team-station relationship I’ve been a part of. Being accessible to discuss issues is key, and each situation is dealt with on a case by case basis.
PD3: Hopefully at the point of agreeing to the contract, we’ve made it clear who we are and what we’re about. My direction to my talent is that they (a) go to the games…that’s why I get them credentialed (b) give your opinions based on what you saw and experienced, not always on what you read from someone else. That way if/when a team has an issue with something we’ve said, we can say we’ve done so from a standpoint of coverage and credibility, not just being salacious and/or outspoken. When you’re at the games and the PR staffs see you there covering the team on a night in/night out basis, they’re less likely to question your motives when you’re critical.
PD4: The number one rule is to not make it personal. When you do that, it is harder to defend. If you are critical of the team because they are playing bad, no problem, but taking low blows at people in the spirit of being mean and hurtful is just not smart. So, if there is a complaint, I usually just try to first get context by listening back to the content, and then try to make it clear that this is an opinion based business and the opinions being sharing are based on what’s happening on the field. If the product is better, the talk will be more positive. If the product is not good, that talk is not going to be positive. The key as a programmer is you have to serve as a buffer so that you protect your talent’s ability to speak their mind as much as possible. You have to be willing to take the calls, talk through the difficult conversations, hear the complaints and stay calm and focused. Many times the situation will dissipate.
PD5: Welcome to business. Generally, we give our partners the benefit of the doubt, and we try to keep critiques between the lines. Not all stations do or need to operate that way but that’s how we value our relationships with teams, weekly guests, networks, sponsors, etc.
If you had to choose between keeping your play by play rights and your #1 personality, what would you choose? Why?
PD1: Personality by far. That is what makes talk radio unique and it carries your programming year round. It’s hard to believe you would ever have to consider choosing between both.
PD2: It would depend on the talent. If my #1 personality was king of the city and entrenched in the market for 10+ years then you stick with the talent. If the #1 talent is doing well but not crushing/overshadowing every other show, then you have to look for somebody else while trying to work with the talent/team in order to keep the relationship with the team. Each circumstance is different.
PD3: I would always choose my #1 personality. That said, this is a business and it’s a much more complex question. Many programmers know that you can back your talent all you want but if you don’t have support of your management team than it won’t matter. I know Mike Valenti is an incredible talent who can be abrasive and come close to crossing the line, but the key in that situation turning out the way it did was a result of his GM having his back.
PD4: I’d rather keep my best show than the rights to a local team. But if a station doesn’t have a singular, dominant personality with major market appeal, then they’d probably lean towards sticking with their play by play rights.
PD5: You keep your #1 personality, hands down. Play-by-play is fleeting (one year they might be great, the next they might suck) and seasonal. My personalities are on year-round. Personalities can help make the radio station more money thru solid ratings, promotional opportunities, endorsements & appearances, plus they’re involved in our community outreach. No question in my mind about this one.
Would Local Radio Benefit From Hosting An Annual Upfront?
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.