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Is Radio Still Willing To Pay For Premium Talent?

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If you haven’t heard Mike Francesa’s interview with Katie Nolan you need to stop what you’re doing and listen to it. It is fascinating and one of the most refreshing one-hour conversations I’ve listened to in a long time.

Why might you ask?

Because it not only covers every single subject that would be of interest to Mike’s audience, but his unfiltered responses remind us of why he’s been one of the most dominant forces of all-time in this industry. I give a ton of credit to Katie for being well prepared and doing a great job of listening and guiding the discussion into the right locations.

When it comes to Mike, he has a large amount of fans and critics. That’s to be expected when you perform up to thirty hours per week on the air for nearly three decades in the nation’s number one media market.

mikef2Some take jabs at him for being wrong with some of his predictions. Others point out how he once fell asleep on the air for nearly fifteen seconds while interviewing Sweeny Murti. Countless others criticize the fact that he’s not active in the social media space, relies heavily on phone calls, and is a beneficiary of getting into the format early.

Say what you will about “The Pope of New York Sports” but his resume of success is unmatched. When you build the type of brand that Mike has, it’s common to have others poking holes in your performance.

The reality in life is that most people like to see David upset Goliath. It’s why teams like the New York Yankees, Dallas Cowboys, and the Los Angeles Lakers draw the amount of attention that they do. Legions of fans recognize and appreciate their greatness but many love to see them crash and burn.

I grew up listening to “Mike and the Mad Dog” and the show inspired me to pursue working in this industry. I was fortunate to live in New York and watch as the format took off and morphed into the juggernaut that it has become today. WFAN played a strong role in sports radio’s growth because they did a masterful job of making New York listeners feel like they were a big part of the experience.

WFANWhen you listened to WFAN, it felt big and important. The personalities seemed larger than life and when you called in and became a part of the show by sharing your opinion with the hosts, there was a sense that your voice mattered and the local teams took notice. It felt as if the radio station’s airwaves were the place you’d turn to for holding hold players, coaches, teams and executives accountable for their actions and/or performance.

Truth be told, before I ever considered working in in this business I preferred to listen, but after sitting on the sidelines observing for eight years, I finally took the bait and called in one day after the Knicks defeated the Bulls and Phil Jackson was whining about the referees. I thought I had a good angle and when I presented it to Francesa he absolutely crushed me. Just thinking about it still makes me smile.

As the year’s have passed, the radio station has remained one of the best in the business. They’ve dealt with additional competition, changes in ratings methodology, and a loss of some of the industry’s most iconic broadcasters and play-by-play partnerships, but through it all they’ve remained highly successful.

Whether you care for Francesa’s style and show though isn’t what we’re here to discuss today. Instead I want to focus on some of the key points he made during his conversation with Nolan because they touch on a scary reality that is facing our business.

mikechrisWhen asked about the possibility of a “Mike and the Mad Dog” permanent reunion, Mike said “I don’t think we would be the obstacle. I think the business is the obstacle. They don’t want guys like me in this business anymore. They don’t want stars. They don’t want guys who are making a lot of money. They want a bunch of cookie cutter people who they can control that aren’t any trouble. They want a bunch of nameless faceless guys. They want the events and rights fees to carry the day and make the sportscasters interchangeable. That makes it a tough business.”

Let that sink in for a second.

The top performer in the #1 media market in the country who has delivered big ratings for nearly thirty years believes operators are less interested in paying for major brands and top talent.

Is he right? To a certain degree I think he is.

We’ve all heard the phrase “you get what you pay for” and in radio’s case, the future is going to be very unforgiving if the best performers aren’t available to be heard. There are many content options out there now, and new media companies will pay high profile talent and offer them a stage to perform on if they can help them grow their business.

sternDon’t believe me? Just take a look at the way Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, Pandora, Spotify, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter have blossomed. Just last month before Howard Stern signed a new deal with SiriusXM, there was talk that Apple/iTunes was considering making a run at him.

When Bill Simmons and ESPN split up in 2015, many thought he’d have lesser options but then HBO entered the picture. When Colin Cowherd’s run with ESPN was coming to a close, he had conversations with MSNBC before agreeing to a deal with Fox Sports 1.

Years ago Blockbuster and Hollywood Video, record companies, and the entire newspaper industry thought they were untouchable but once the internet took off and new media outlets started to emerge and invest in content, talent, and a better experience, things changed quickly.

I could be wrong but when Mike says he doesn’t think a reunion with Chris would be possible based on economics, he’s right as it applies to radio. But if digital media or television enter the picture that could be a different story.

And that’s a shame because few have possessed the ability in radio to draw in listeners the way Mike and Chris did. When you add up their talent, chemistry and ability to inform and entertain, it makes for an incredible program which can make a brand a LOT of money.

rushWould a company prefer to spend less? Of course. I’m sure SiriusXM wishes they didn’t have to pay Stern a king’s ransom. The same holds true for Premiere Radio Networks with Rush Limbaugh, and any great television network which spends big money for top flight personalities who attract a large number of eyeballs.

But if you add up the expenses for any of those shows and compare them to what they generate for ratings and revenue, I guarantee you they’re making money off of their investments. Media companies don’t stay in the business of spending millions of dollars on talent unless they’re making millions more themselves.

The other part of the conversation that I want to examine is the part where Mike discussed how important the ratings are to him. It’s a lesson for every single talent to pay attention to.

rickyWhen asked about the ratings game and how it affects his show’s content, he said that he doesn’t let it change his overall approach but that he does make tweaks and is always aware of how the show is being consumed. His mindset going into his program each month is that they have one job to do – finish first! Not second, third, fourth or fifth which most others would consider a big success, first! When I heard him say that I couldn’t help but think about that classic Talladega Night’s line “If you ain’t first, you’re last“.

But I digress!

That’s a lot of pressure to put on one’s shoulders especially in a market like New York City. Mike mentioned to Katie that he once received a phone call from an executive who told him “I pay you to finish first” after he came in second. It didn’t make him happy but he understood the point.

winningFrom where I sit, I love hearing that. It’s exhilarating to know that regardless of the challenges with PPM and the countless distractions and media options that are available to listeners to pull them away from the show, that Mike makes no excuses and approaches his craft with the expectation of being the best. We need more of that in our industry. Even if you don’t hit #1, that should be the goal every time you grab a microphone and broadcast.

As a matter of fact, you can apply this to every single aspect of your life. If you’re playing sports in school or on a professional level, you should be driven to win the game and be the best player on the field. If you’re in sales, you should want to generate the most amount of money and be seen as the company’s best salesperson.

I can identify with him on this subject because I’m wired the same way. Those who know me well will attest to that.

When I played little league baseball, I won two MVP awards and went to five consecutive All-Star games because all I did was practice and play. Nothing mattered besides being the best baseball player on the field.

lars2As I aged and became more interested in music, I wanted to be the best drummer on the planet and gain a record deal. I’d listen to Lars Ulrich of Metallica, John Bonham of Led Zeppelin, and Neil Peart of Rush and picture myself surpassing them on the list of the best of all-time. I’d practice for hours each day and if I was off on a beat or drum fill, I’d do it again and again until I had it right.

I learned later that you can be the best drummer in the world but you’re not going to land a record deal unless you and the other 3-4 members of your band share the same goal, so when I gave up the chase of becoming a professional musician to work in radio, I once again pushed myself to be the very best I could be.

Throughout the years I’ve been fortunate to have that approach pay off for me. I grew from an intern to News Anchor to Sports Talk Show Host to Producer to Program Director and during that time landed five different programming jobs and produced one of the best national radio programs in the country.

Although I’d like to believe that my talent came into play at some point during each of those processes, I know that my drive and passion to win stood out.

When I was being considered for an opportunity at ESPN Radio, one manager mentioned that I hadn’t had enough major market experience and they weren’t sure if I could handle making the transition from a small market to the big stage. Their point was valid. I couldn’t do anything to change the fact that I lived and performed where I was raised so I decided to put my passion into my pitch and explain why I deserved a look.

parcellsI still have the email I sent and in it I said “Many people were critical when the NY Giants selected a Head Coach named Bill Parcells because he didn’t have any experience and was an unknown commodity. A few years later when he was winning Super Bowl’s they looked like an organization of geniuses. Your next Bill Parcells is right here and waiting to make a difference for ESPN Radio”.

Was it ballsy? Definitely. But I believed in myself and knew I could win for them and I wasn’t going to let a situation beyond my control cost me an opportunity. If they didn’t think I was good enough I could’ve accepted that but I wasn’t accepting rejection over my location.

Luckily I landed the job and produced at ESPN Radio for 2 years. Week after week I pushed everyone involved to make “GameNight” as great as it possibly could be, and in doing so I earned the respect of my peers and my bosses. When a bigger opportunity came up to produce “The Dan Patrick Show” just 13 months later, I was given the promotion.

That same mindset helped me when I interviewed for programming opportunities in Philadelphia, San Francisco and St. Louis. In each situation, I entered the process determined to beat the competition and land the job. I had no idea who I was up against, and in many cases I had no local market connection, but what I did have was vision, passion, and an “I won’t lose” attitude. I focused on articulating my vision, asking questions, and selling my love and passion for coaching and creating great sports radio. By focusing on the things I could control, I was able to gain a few fans and win over a few rooms.

I don’t bring up these examples to showcase my resume. I mention them because they help to reinforce Mike’s point. Winning starts with your mindset. You can’t perform as an elite talent or lead a brand to incredible heights if you don’t set your own bar extremely high.

valueWhen I see brands sitting in 20th to 30th place and just floundering in their markets it frustrates me. It tells me that there isn’t a big focus on the radio station. Why be in the format and spend any amount of money on a product if you’re not going to maximize its potential? I get that not every city has the budget to pay a Mike Francesa but there are tons of great broadcasters out there and if you want to build an audience, attract advertisers, and make money in this industry, you’ve got to invest in on-air people who are worth listening to.

To bring this back full circle to what we originally started with, once you have great talent, it’s your job to find a way to keep them. I had a former boss of mine in San Francisco once tell me “we will pay for performers but nobody is breaking the bank until they prove it”. That’s a fair statement but unfortunately not every broadcast group subscribes to this theory.

During the past few months I’ve talked to a lot of talent and in three different cases, hosts took over timeslots in different cities and led their stations to double digit ratings and/or double to triple the previous ratings performance, only to be told when contract time rolled around that they weren’t due a raise or were only worth a minimal 1-2% increase.

I’ve also watched as some talented people I know have had to take on responsibilities selling their own shows to make extra money, and a few groups in particular have chosen to only hire talent who sell or pay for their air time. Delivering ratings and a quality product matters little in comparison to inflating the bottom line.

imptIn some of these instances it might be necessary to operate that way. If a company isn’t making money you can’t blame them for not being able to do better. But if that’s the case, there are other ways to show your appreciation for someone who has performed and is helping do their part to grow the business. Whether it’s an extra week of vacation, sales trade, a bump in ratings bonuses, a higher endorsement rate, a guarantee number of appearances, or an extra weekend shift to make additional dollars, all of those things tell a talent “we want you to make more money and you’re important to us”.

When you don’t treat your best people with that respect, you end up losing the pieces that are most vital to your operation. Music formats can get away with it more because they can play songs and tell a DJ that the artists are the stars, but when a personality talks 45 minutes per hour, and is the main reason why people come to your radio station on a daily basis, losing them over a handful of dollars isn’t smart business.

That said, this also is an industry that has compensated a lot of talented people well throughout the course of their careers. The format’s top talent wouldn’t be sticking around for decades if the paychecks and additional revenue streams weren’t attractive.

mikefI’ve heard Francesa say that he’s done with WFAN at the end of 2017, and he says it’s not a negotiating ploy. I don’t know him personally to know if it is or it isn’t but it sounds as if he knows a pay cut awaits him in the future and given his performance and place in the industry, I can see why that doesn’t have a lot of appeal to him. That said, WFAN pays him extremely well so we’re not talking about a couple of nickels and dimes in this situation.

It’s a tough spot for both sides to be in because from the operator’s standpoint, you’re paying millions for a host during a time when salaries are declining and no matter how much you love the performer, there has to be a limit to what you’ll invest.

On the flip side, how do you tell your top talent that you’ll pay them one fee to finish 1st, and then when they do, offer half or even less on their next deal? Is the radio station going to sell ads for less and accept making less money during the duration of the talent’s agreement? Heck no! So why should they take less when they’ve performed and helped the company make a lot of money?

Everyone gets their feelings hurt once it’s time to talk business because the offer (or lack thereof) tells an employee what the company thinks they’re worth. Personalities expect to be paid for hitting their target and companies expect to grow their bottom line and reap the rewards of making significant investments.

When talent though start getting treated as if they’re expendable, and the product becomes less appealing to the audience, you’ve got to ask yourself “is saving the money truly worth it if it means losing your most valuable commodity and having your audience and advertiser numbers decline”?

The challenge of course is to keep your listeners tuned in, your advertisers spending the same or more, and hire new talent for less than the previous host made but at a number that they feel comfortable with. While that sounds great, it doesn’t always work out like that. It’s even more of a risk when it involves a top talent with a lengthy track record and loyal following.

espn2Mike made the point that SportsCenter isn’t what it used to be and most people couldn’t name the anchors on the show today like they once did. The show was once a must-watch and the hosts were household brand names. Today the stars have become the highlights, the games, and the packages, and the talent have become nameless and faceless.

In this case, he’s not wrong. I spent my 20’s and early 30’s fully invested in watching SportsCenter each night. Now, it’s become background noise and a show I can live without.

Which brings me back to the question I previously asked “is losing your best talent and damaging your brand in exchange for eliminating expenses really worth it”?

When you have a superstar talent on your airwaves, delivering an impact, and it’s helping you make money, you continue investing and riding that horse as far as they’ll take you. If you choose to get off the ride when you’re on top of the mountain, understand that the next one could leave you face down in the dirt.

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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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