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The 10 Commandments of Sports Talk Radio

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Each day hosts across the country take to the airwaves spewing passionate opinions to engage audiences. Most will select stories that are being talked about in local papers and on local television and they’ll offer their own perspective on the subject and then seek out the audience’s feedback.

If you’re in a big market, phone activity will be high. Smaller markets will see less response. But whether you have 1 or 10 lines lit, that doesn’t mean the topic is hot or that the show is good.

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Any good talent who is familiar to an audience, can sell a subject with passion, and elicit a response. You don’t get a passing grade in this business based on your ability to make a phone ring. That’s one part of the job. But there’s much more involved than delivering a ‘hot take’ and fielding a phone call.

I started thinking about the numerous things that go on during a radio show, and how the best performers in the industry bring them all to life on a daily basis. The great ones don’t even realize how much they do it. Those who do, stay in their positions for a long period of time because it usually means they’ve generated ratings.

To host a talk show for 3-4 hours per day, 5 days per week, and do it in expert fashion requires great skill. It’s one of the most difficult jobs in the entertainment business. Penetrating the mind of a listener requires many different approaches during a show but before you can have success executing your strategy, you need to understand what is involved and why it matters.

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Standup comedians have a lot of success gaining entry into our minds. A comedian like Chris Rock, Jeff Ross, or Jerry Seinfeld can dominate a stage for 60-90 minutes and we’ll talk about their jokes and stories for the next week. But that’s only half of the time of what a sports talk show host does on a daily basis.

Could they deliver the same memorable lines, stories and laugh out loud moments if they had to double their workload each night? What if they had to provide it 5 days per week? Maybe they’d pull it off, but even the greatest in the world have weaknesses. The reason many of your favorite television programs are scripted, recorded, and edited is because creating meaningful LIVE content is extremely challenging.

That brings me back to the daily functions of a sports talk show. You can’t see when your listeners tune in or out, or how each person responds to the different subjects you discuss. Therefore, you’ve got to concentrate on the issues that most people care about because by positioning yourself that way, you set yourself up for the best chance to have success.

To get a better sense of what goes into a successful talk show, I came up with something that I believe highlights every important component of the job each day. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you “The 10 commandments of Sports Talk Radio“.

Identify The Hit Story – A host walks into their building each day wanting to discuss a number of things. The great ones understand that they benefit most by focusing their energies on the subjects that have the greatest appeal to the audience.

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Many have heard the popular format term “play the hits” and that’s exactly what this is. Think of it like going to a concert to see your favorite band. You go because you want to see the artist play the songs that you know and enjoy most. If they play the songs they’ve never released, you’d be less likely to attend another show.

When you look at your show, you have to find the balance of what matters most to you, and what is most important to your listeners. The top story should be a subject with multiple angles that can be kept fresh over the span of a couple of hours. If it doesn’t have that potential, keep digging, because that means you’ve found a secondary topic.

A true hit story is one which will bring out your best 10-15 minute monologue, generate reaction over multiple hours of the show, capture the interest of guests who have been called to share their perspective on the angle, and open up other opportunities to be creative inside the program.

To use an example, if you were in Cincinnati today, you’d build your program around the Bengals collapse during Saturday night’s game. The rest of the NFL Playoffs may be compelling, and the same may be true for the College Football National Championship game, but the Bengals playoff disaster is going to move the audience most. Those other stories are your secondary hits.

However, if you were in Alabama, you’d easily flip the script and build your show around the College Football National Championship game. Everything else would be a secondary topic.

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Present and Sell Your Topics – Once you’ve identified the hit story, the next step is understanding the multiple questions that can be asked and answered when discussing it. Every good subject has different sides to it. It’s your job to highlight those angles, explain your position on them, and let the audience determine how they feel about it. Don’t worry about whether or not you’re in the majority or minority with your stance, just focus on whether or not the audience will be invested in what you’re selling.

For example, if you were in Cincinnati and led off with your top story being “Marvin Lewis deserves to be fired“, you’d cite his poor playoff record, his lengthy stay which has shown that he can’t do better, and you’d question if he can control his players.

The other side to that argument would be that he was in position to win the game with a backup QB, he led the club to a 12-4 record including an 8-0 start, he’s developed NFL Head Coaches, and although he hasn’t won in the post-season, he still gets them there and has been among the best 10 in the league more often than not.

When you look at that angle, it’s easy to see how an audience could be divided on it. That’s why it becomes compelling. Presenting each side, stating where you sit, attacking the story with passion, and being honest and unapologetic with your point of view will help you keep the audience engaged.

Utilize Audio To Advance The Story – Some hosts lose sight of how important sound can be to their show’s presentation. I’ve heard people say “I hate using audio because it takes time away from my commentary“. That in my opinion is one of the silliest things you can think or say.

A great host recognizes that it’s not about the amount of words they deliver or the length of time that they speak. It’s how they maximize the minutes available inside their show. When you have audio that adds to your segment, it can be pure gold.

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Think for a second about the fallout from the Cincinnati-Pittsburgh game on Saturday night. I don’t care which of those cities you’re in, if you were on the air after that game and didn’t use Pac Man Jones’ expletive filled rant (bleeping it out of course) to further the story, you missed a golden opportunity.

The story may be the game itself, but listeners are drawn to the reactions of others. When you utilize audio to further an angle, it mentally engages your audience and makes it harder for them to tune out. Nothing is better than using audio of someone noteworthy to support or argue against your opinion. It makes the angle seem bigger than it is, and it gives you a piece of content to react off of.

Remember this and never forget it, people are fascinated by other people.

You could sit in the studio after that playoff game and say “I believe the Bengals got screwed, and Pac Man Jones agrees with my point of view“. After you air his comments and express your thoughts, you’d follow up with “Unfortunately, Mike Tomlin doesn’t share the same opinion“. After playing a cut of Tomlin, you’d have the audience eating out of your hand because they’ve been asked to pick a side, and when conflict, debate, and arguments take place, human beings can’t turn away from them.

Invite Audience Participation & React To It – When you establish a good opinion built around the right top story, and use audio to create a heavier emotional investment in the content, people will want to get involved in the discussion. It’s your job to let them know how to do it.

If you say you’re going to take calls but then spend the next 2 segments talking about the story and not incorporating people into the show, why bother asking for participation? Don’t waste their time or promise something you’re not ready to deliver on.

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Once you make the commitment to involve the audience, give them the floor, listen intently, and be ready to respond. The goal isn’t to blow through the 6 lines that are lit and fill the segment with their reactions. Only you know there are 6 lines lit up. Local listeners are hanging on your words and waiting to hear what others think so they can decide if they want to interact themselves.

The key is to welcome the caller on, make sure they’re adding to the subject you’re discussing (the call screener shouldn’t be putting on a caller to talk about the National Title game when you’re emotionally fired up and talking about why Marvin Lewis has to go) and after listening to their comments, share your own reaction.

Whether your response is 10 seconds long, or 2 minutes in length, it shows you’re paying attention and listeners appreciate that. It sounds bad when a host takes three calls in a row and never gives their own opinion to anything the callers said. They dialed you up to engage in conversation with them. The least you can do is make them feel that it was worth their time.

That said, participation can also come in the form of Texts, Tweets, Facebook or Instagram comments. You don’t have an obligation to take calls. The main focus is to allow people to be part of the content experience, regardless of which platform they contribute on.

Book Guests Who Fit The Day’s Stories – If your show includes guests, make sure they fit the stories you’re discussing each day. Every now and then an exception can be made for an A-list guest, but as a rule of thumb, guests who are booked should fit what the show is talking about, not the other way around.

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Sticking with the Cincinnati example, if you’re on the air and Marvin Lewis’ future and the Bengals collapse is your focus, do you really want to stop your momentum to have a chat with Jay Bruce of the Reds? If he was coming on, the first question I’d ask him is “What’s your reaction to what took place during the Bengals game“?

The audience has an expectation that you’re going to discuss the material they care most about. While they may love Jay Bruce in April, he doesn’t fit Monday’s funeral for the Bengals season.

If there’s one other thing to add to the guest situation, it’s to understand that they don’t need to occupy your entire segment. The conversation may be worth 3 minutes or it could be worth 15. You’ve got to ask the things that resonate most, listen carefully to the responses, and then recognize when something is done and when there’s more meat on the bone.

I listen often to shows and hear many hosts sleepwalk through conversations. There’s this feeling that because the individual has taken their time to come on, they need to be hit with a number of softballs and given the full 10-15 minutes. That’s not accurate.

When a guest agrees to come on, they do so without a time commitment. By agreeing to the interview, they’ve also opened themselves up to any line of questioning. It’s their job to decide how they want to answer your questions but it’s your job to ask the right ones.

Don’t make the mistake of giving ten minutes of your show to someone who doesn’t want to help you advance a topic. Make sure they fit your top stories and are addressing the key questions. The thought going in should be that they’ll add something interesting that you’ll be able to use snippets of it throughout the remainder of the show. If they don’t check that box, then why are they on?

Tease One Item of Interest – When a host heads to break, they see it as the end of a segment and a chance to catch a breather. But not many take advantage of what they say last.

Telling your listeners “We’ve got a lot more to do including your calls, back after this” or “We’ll talk more about this Bengals loss, the National Title game, the rest of the NFL Playoffs, and anything else on your mind when we return” isn’t going to give them any incentive to hang around or come back.

Many broadcasters don’t treat this part of the craft with the importance it deserves and that needs to change. Much of it is due to laziness and lack of preparation. From where I sit, if you know your audience is going to be hit with 4-5 minutes of commercials and potentially leave your show, why wouldn’t you do everything possible to make them want to come back?

I’ve heard guys say “they’re going to leave when the spots run, so what can I do about it“? Actually a ton. If you’re interesting with the last words you offer, they will do one of two things:

A) Think about your question and forget that they’re listening to commercials because they’re trying to come up with the answer in their own mind.

B) Leave the station when the commercials hit but think about what you last said and keep checking back to see if you’ve returned so they can receive the answer to the question.

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One piece of advice, tease one simple question or item of interest when heading to break.

When you toss out multiple subjects, you’re asking the audience to do a lot of work. You’re also showing that you’re disorganized and not sure yourself where the show is going next. Those who tease one thing, and do it by making the audience think, benefit most.

For example, “Everyone is crushing the Bengals for what transpired in that 4th quarter but one top analyst thinks they got the short end of the stick. Is he nuts? You’ll hear his response next“.

At that point you’d come back from your break with sound of Deion Sanders on the NFL Network explaining why he felt the hit on Antonio Brown shouldn’t have been penalized, and you’d react off of it. Most listeners would be asking themselves during the commercial break “Who the heck is defending that hit?” By keeping them curious, they listen longer and that helps you grow your ratings.

One final suggestion, take 15-20 minutes before your show writing out some strong teases. If you need help, involve your producer. If you put the effort in and do it consistently, you will sound better and it will help you improve your show’s performance.

Create Multiple Angles Off of The Lead Topic – This is one of the most important parts to any talk show because usually a producer and host focus on their first top story but put all of the focus into that subject and don’t look at dividing it up throughout the remainder of the show.

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If you want to keep a subject fresh for 4 hours, you can’t keep repeating the same points. Remember, the audience constantly changes so each hour the top story remains important. If you unload everything all at once, you will be mentally exhausted. That then leads to less interest in coming back to discuss the top story or relying on phone calls because you’ve tapped out on the topic.

It takes patience and a keen understanding of why it’s necessary to not provide your thoughts on every angle from a game during one subject. When you develop the skill to do it, you’ll find it can be extremely helpful to spread out your key takeaways over the span of 3-4 hours.

Let’s use the Bengals game as the example. We’ll build hour #1 around the chaos of the final two minutes. You’d spend 10-15 minutes kicking off the show discussing what took place, how you felt about the poor decisions of Pac Man Jones and Vontaze Burfict, asking what the punishment should be for their actions, focusing on Joey Porter’s role in the controversy and offering your position on how you thought the referees handled things and what you think the NFL should do about it.

The rest of the hour would include audio cuts which are related to the story, phone calls, possibly a guest, and more of your opinions and reaction on the topic. Nowhere in this hour are you diving head first into topics built around the other angles from the game.

When you get to hour 2, do you really want to spend another sixty minutes saying the same thing? Probably not. But the Bengals game is still the top story. So how do you keep it fresh? By introducing a new angle.

During this hour you’ll turn the focus towards Marvin Lewis’ future as Head Coach of the Bengals and why he does or doesn’t deserve to be back. You’d look at how long he’s led the team, his regular season and playoff records, the way he has or hasn’t held players accountable, who else would be an option if he was to be fired, and where you believe the team will go in the future if he is or isn’t there.

Once again, you’d add audio, guests, calls and additional angles built off of the conversation about Marvin Lewis. The chaos of the 4th quarter is not your focus during these sixty minutes.

For hour #3, you’d turn your attention to how to revamp the roster and explain what you took away from AJ McCarron’s play and looking at where he fits next year with Andy Dalton coming back. You’d examine the way to make up for losing Hue Jackson, who the team’s free agents are and which ones should be back and allowed to leave, and the topic would be built around “how do we get this team over the hump“.

In each of those hours, the Bengals are the lead story. By changing the focus of your topics from the 4th quarter chaos to Marvin Lewis to getting the Bengals over the hump, you’ve offered topics that have audience appeal and are fresh enough to keep you mentally engaged.

Reset Your Subject and Position – The audience changes every hour. For the guy who works M-F 8a-5p, he’s in his car from 5p-6p and during that hour your show is brand new to him. What you did in the 3pm and 4pm hour has no relevance. He judges you and decides whether to continue listening based on what you present when he’s available.

On the other hand, if someone worked 7a-3p or 8a-4p, they have the same expectations. Given that most people spend less than an hour commuting home from their jobs each day, and they listen to multiple stations, and don’t often listen to a station everyday, the goal is to maximize the opportunities we get and make sure they know who we are and where we broadcast.

One way you do that is by resetting your name, station, topic and position. There’s no set time during the show when a reset should be introduced but I find that hosts have no problem doing it during interviews but struggle with it in open segments.

If a segment is 15 minutes long, there’s no reason why midway through the segment you can’t incorporate a reset. With callers it’s easy too and can be done every 2-3 calls depending on how long they go.

It may seem robotic to the host but that’s because you do it repeatedly. The audience though doesn’t listen to every second of the show. If they get into their car at 5:05pm and pick up the middle of your conversation, they have to try to figure out what it is you’re discussing. By resetting the show, station, topic and position midway through a segment, it makes it easier for the listener to play along.

Even if someone listens for an entire segment, they’re not going to vacate the show or station because you reminded them. This is how branding works. You’d be amazed at what people will recall about a host, show or station due to frequent messaging.

An example of a reset is “You’re listening to Mike and Mike on ESPN Radio, we’re talking about the Bengals loss from Saturday night and I (Greeny) think Marvin Lewis has to go as a result of this loss, but Golic thinks that’s a ridiculous overreaction. Let us know your thoughts by calling/tweeting ____“.

Sell, Sell, Sell – We want ratings so we can make money. We create features, updates, guest segments and other programming opportunities because they can be sponsored and help us make money. We may love the topics we’re discussing and the medium we’re performing in, but this is still very much a business and one critical part of our jobs is to sell the messages provided by our advertisers.

This includes promotional messages, sponsored segments, LIVE commercial endorsements, appearances, remotes, etc. Hosts are frequently in programming mode, and thinking about the things they’re most passionate about. If the audience though doesn’t buy your advertisers products, and those clients remove their dollars from your show, you won’t be sharing your passions for long.

We sell topics, teases, resets, guests, callers, and soundbytes. Sponsor messages are no different. We may lack the same level of interest in promoting an appearance or product as the weekend’s best games, but when you crack that microphone and read a sponsor’s name and tag, you owe them the same enthusiasm.

They buy you and your show because they’re aware of the influence you have on the audience. But if they can’t benefit from that association, they’ll take their business elsewhere. And that makes it harder for you to ask you employer for bigger paydays in the future. If you can be an asset to your company on the business end, it’ll help you through those times when you’re a liability on the programming end.

Promote Your Digital and Social Platforms – It’s more important than ever to have strong digital and social media platforms. Audiences are listening less to LIVE programming and accessing content on-demand when it best suits their schedule. Although we may prefer that they experience the content LIVE, as long as they consume it, we still gain from it.

It’s your task on the air and on social media to remind the audience of the various ways they can enjoy your content. Promoting the website, podcast links and the station’s social media pages so listeners can be informed of things they may have missed is vital. Maybe it won’t help you earn ratings credit, but that download of your audio or station app counts towards your digital performance and those numbers matter too because they’re being sold to advertisers.

You should be cognizant of promoting your own social media identity and being present in the space. If a listener is a fan of yours, they’re going to want to engage with you beyond the show. When they follow you on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, they learn more about you, and that gives them further incentive to support you and the multiple things you’re passionate about.

Everything you do in life becomes content to them. The more they seek it out and form a stronger loyalty to you, the more it helps your own standing. And the more of an audience you have, the more power you possess come contract time.

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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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Barrett Blogs

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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