After six days, List-A-Mania has officially stopped running wild. It was fun putting together Barrett Sports Media’s “Best in Sports Radio of 2015” but now that all of the categories and winners have been announced, I thought I’d take some time to share some of the things I learned from overseeing this project.
I couldn’t have put this together properly without the full support of the industry. For those of you who read the columns, shared them on Facebook and Twitter, discussed them on-air, and personally sought me out to share your input, I simply say thank you! These things only work if the individuals and groups involved get behind them, and I was pleased to see many professionals take pride in the way the format and its top performers were presented.
As I stated from the start, these results are very subjective. Unfortunately in our line of work there is no head to head competition to determine which show, host and station is the best in the format, and there are so many factors to consider that it’s not possible to put together a perfect criteria. But by involving 35 executives from 23 U.S cities and 15 broadcast companies, I think we did as thorough of a job as we could.
That said, there are always lessons to be learned, and areas to be improved upon. The past few weeks taught me a lot about research, talent, perceptions, misinformation, competition, pride, and why projects like this are important for people in the sports radio industry.
When I decided to take the plunge and start working on this project, I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea. I knew there’d be tons of feedback, some of it very negative, and with an imperfect criteria and the identity of the executives being kept private, I felt it would leave open too many holes and put me in the line of fire.
I was also concerned about company bias and geographical influence playing a big role in the final decisions. Luckily, I was able to assemble a strong group spread out across the nation, and the members of the executive committee did a nice job of trying to be fair and balanced with their votes.
Was it perfect? No. But a number of shows/hosts who have been overlooked or discredited in the past, received their due, and I was personally comfortable with the finished product.
So what could we have done better, that we may want to adjust if we decide to do this again?
Well, I came up with a few things.
As I mentioned repeatedly, I did not vote on any category. I had to remind folks of that because there was this belief that I either recognized or excluded a show, station or programmer from the list but nothing could be further from the truth. I stayed out of the voting process on purpose because I was creating the content and I thought it was important to remain neutral and let the votes of industry executives determine the final selections.
Should I be involved? Should my ballot be available for everyone to see? That’s something to consider next time around.
East Coast Bias:
If you look at the results from the outside looking in, you’re likely to come away with the opinion that the voters favored the East Coast brands. Six categories were decided, and 5 included winners from New York, Boston, and Washington DC.
So that must mean that the East Coast voters helped shape the outcome right?
17 of the 35 voters were located in the Midwest, Southwest and West Coast, and twelve of those executives listed WFAN in the Top 5, including 7 who ranked the station #1 overall. The Sports Hub meanwhile was in the Top 5 on 10 of those ballots, and earned three 1st place votes. Only two of the 17 listed WFAN or The Sports Hub outside of the Top 10.
It’s easy to criticize the voters for giving a lot of respect to WFAN, The Sports Hub and other top East Coast brands, but the fact of the matter is that each of those radio stations registered high because they’ve earned that respect by being consistent performers.
The Sports Hub’s ratings have been among the industry’s best, WFAN delivers big numbers in the nation’s #1 media market, and the same holds true for brands like WIP, WEEI, 97.1 The Ticket and 97.5 The Fanatic. To suggest they’re not worthy of top billing is to carry bias towards those brands or markets, because there’s no doubt that they’re some of the best our format has to offer.
Small Market Rejections:
A number of folks reached out to voice their displeasure with the way the smaller markets were left out of the Top 20 in multiple categories. They have a valid point. If you’re a small market show or station, I understand how frustrating it must be to do good work and have it overlooked because a larger market station with a similar performance took your spot. There is no perfect solution when you include brands from all locations in the same categories.
Although it may not sit well with you, this exact situation happens in professional sports all the time. How many times do we hear people complain about seeing the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and Cubs on national television? Those same complaints are heard when big market teams spend big on free agents, making it harder for smaller market teams to compete.
Is it fair? Of course not. But it’s within the rules, and if you want to play in the big leagues, you have to do what the Kansas City Royals did last year, and overcome the odds and force the world to take notice.
I can make a strong case for 104.5 The Zone in Nashville, 101 ESPN in St. Louis, WJOX in Birmingham, and 97.1 The Fan in Columbus earning more respect. Each of those stations deliver big in their respective markets, and shows like “The Fast Lane” in St. Louis, and “3HL in Nashville” are top rated and very enjoyable to listen to. They are absolutely worthy of being in a conversation with the best 20 afternoon programs in the country.
But what I discovered is that if those brands/shows and other smaller markets with strong sports stations/shows don’t promote their performance and make sure the industry is aware of what they’re doing, then it’s going to be extremely difficult to overcome a top tier station from a Top 10 market.
We’d all like to believe that everything is created equal and it’s an apples to apples comparison, but the reality is that an 8 share in Missouri or Alabama isn’t going to lure as many votes as an 8 share in Boston, Philadelphia, or New York. Not because the talent and performance isn’t special or equal, but because those larger markets reach more people, and they perform under higher company expectations.
The reason broadcasters in this business chase bigger market opportunities is because they want to be seen as the best in the industry, make more money, and perform under the brightest lights. When you succeed in these locations, you earn more respect. That certainly was a factor in the voting process.
You can knock the larger market stations/shows for being ranked above some others that are equally as deserving in smaller regions, but if you expect to change perceptions in the future, you’re going to have to perform higher than those brands, and make sure that everyone is aware of your story.
Perception Trumps Performance:
If there was an area that I felt was inconsistent it was this one. To be fair, it’s difficult to expect every voter to have intimate knowledge of every single brand, when they themselves are running companies and/or radio stations. Even those who aren’t running operations don’t have the hours available to listen to every single station and show on a daily basis.
This is why gaining information about the performance of brands is important. Call me old-school but I do believe that delivering ratings should matter in a process like this.
For example, I am a big Tony Kornheiser fan. Many who voted on this panel are as well, which is why he earned the honor of being named “Midday Show of the Year“. However, while I’m well aware of his track record in the format and the digital impact he’s made for ESPN 980, I also know that his ratings are 3-4 points lower than his competitor. I’m not sure if every member of the executive committee was aware of that fact or considered it when deciding where Tony deserved to be placed.
This doesn’t mean that Tony doesn’t deliver the better show in the market or that he’s not worthy of being rated at the top, because if you’ve listened to him you know he’s unique, interesting and very entertaining. The reason I point it out is to show how perception and a lack of awareness of some facts can play into the process.
I saw this same situation pop up in Seattle, where KJR’s afternoon show made the cut but their competitor 710 ESPN did not, even though they won the Men 25-54 ratings battle for the majority of 2015. I also felt KFAN in Minneapolis and SiriusXM deserved higher placement in a few areas but I’m not sure if everyone involved was as familiar with their content offerings or what they had accomplished during the past year. In KFAN’s case, their ratings story is one of the best in the country.
One other surprise was Jim Rome’s showing in the national voting. He didn’t receive one 1st place vote from the executive committee, and despite ranking 5th, was separated from 4th by over 100 points. Rome gained support thanks to his reputation and previous track record but not many were subscribing to him as a difference maker on the national scene.
Now before you blame the executive committee for these things, I want to ask one question of those brands and personalities who finished ranked lower than their competitor or not on the list at all — “What did you do during the past year to promote your success and make sure the industry knew you were ahead of your competition?”
I’ve touched on this issue before and I won’t let up until it sinks in – if you want people to take notice of the great work you do, you’ve got to let them know! It really is that simple.
One of radio’s biggest issues is its inability to promote its own success. If brands chose to operate behind a wall of secrecy rather than inform the public of the way they’re performing, then they’ve got nobody to blame when they fail to receive the credit they deserve. The reason why New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Dallas and Chicago stations appear on the radar is because their ratings performances are reported frequently. Why other markets don’t follow suit I’m not sure, but they’re missing out on an opportunity.
If there’s one last thing to remember about perception, it’s that regardless of the way we see things, it doesn’t make us right. I heard from multiple people in the format who were critical of Mike Francesa being ranked #1 as the top afternoon show. They’re entitled to their opinion and I understand where they’re coming from, but that doesn’t make them right.
You can argue whether or not his content is as stellar as the other shows he’s measured against, but you can’t dispute his ratings success in the nation’s top market. Judging by the way the voters voted, being a top dog in New York seems to be important. That doesn’t make it right, but it also doesn’t make it wrong.
Where Is The Diversity?
As I browsed through the shows that made our Top 20 lists, I couldn’t help but be reminded and disappointed by the format’s lack of women and minorities. The morning show category featured only one female, and one minority talent. Three of the twenty midday programs contained a minority host and no women, and four afternoon shows included a minority host and no women. There were also zero minorities or females on the program director list.
The national picture was better, but only slightly. In that case, five of the twenty programs included minority talent, but once again no women! Two of those shows (Stephen A. Smith and Bomani Jones) were built around a minority personality, something none of the local programs offered.
I’ve written before about sports radio’s challenges with diversity and the need for more women in key roles and if these results didn’t open your eyes to the balance issues that exist in the format, I’m not sure what will.
How can we improve it? Should it even be changed?
Those are questions each station will need to answer on their own. I only hope that as we look at these lists in the future they include more people from different backgrounds because it’s an area that will help the format grow and enjoy larger success.
The Voting Totals:
I thought it’d be beneficial to share an example of what one of the scoring charts looked like. For this particular exercise I included the Program Directors chart and listed the candidates who were 1-25 in scoring. This allows you to see which 5 programmers were on the outside looking in, but not far away from reaching the Top 20. These types of grids were used for scoring each category.
I was also asked by a couple of people which shows were within striking distance of reaching the Top 20 and I’ve listed below the different categories and who was slotted between 20-25. You’ll see a number next to each show which is the amount of points they needed to reach 20th place.
20. Bob Fescoe – 610 Sports Kansas City = 136
21. In The Loop – KILT Houston = 135 (-1)
22. Norris & Davis – 105.7 The Fan Baltimore = 111 (-25)
23. Joy & Zaslow – 790 The Ticket Miami = 100 (-36)
24. The Wake Up Zone – 104.5 The Zone Nashville = 92 (-44)
25. The Morning Animals – WWLS Oklahoma City = 87 (-49)
20. Mad Radio – 610 KILT Houston = 118
21. Soren Petro – 810 WHB Kansas City = 115 (-3)
22. Bickley & Marotta – Arizona Sports 98.7FM Phoenix = 115 (-3)
23. Big O – WQAM Miami = 107 (-11)
24. Darren Smith = Mighty 1090 San Diego = 94 (-24)
25. Vinny & Rob – 105.7 The Fan Baltimore = 93 (-25)
20. DMac & Alfred – 104.3 The Fan Denver = 113
21. Burns & Gambo – Arizona Sports 98.7FM Phoenix = 110 (-3)
22. Chuck & Chernoff – 680 The Fan Atlanta = 110 (-3)
23. Starkey & Mueller – 93.7 The Fan Pittsburgh = 98 (-15)
24. Kevin Keitzman – 810 WHB Kansas City = 94 (-19)
25. The Fast Lane = 101 ESPN St. Louis = 74 (-39)
20. Damon Amendolara – CBS Sports Radio = 159
21. Jason Smith – Fox Sports Radio = 146 (-13)
22. Freddie Coleman – ESPN Radio = 97 (-62)
23. Gio & Jones – CBS Sports Radio = 92 (-67)
24. The Morning Men – Sirius XM Mad Dog Radio = 84 (-75)
25. Ferrall On The Bench – CBS Sports Radio = 79 (-80)
Although I felt the finished product was reflective of the industry’s viewpoints and showcased the shows and stations in a positive light, I’m always contemplating what I can do to make it better. The response was strong, and many personalities, programmers and radio station executives felt good about the way they were presented, so that gives me confidence to explore doing it again.
However, if we do so, I’ll have a number of things to consider. Are 35 executives too many or not enough? Should there be a major market and smaller market category? Do we create a category for the Top 20 sports anchors? Does podcasting enter the picture as a future category? What other suggestions will pop up between now and then?
There’s a lot to think about and fortunately I’ve got a lot of time to mull things over before diving back into it.
If I do this again in 2017, there’s one thing I know for certain, it will once again be presented during the week leading up to the Super Bowl. I have had my fair share of misses in this business but if there’s one thing I know made sense, it was the decision to present these awards during a time when 75-100 media brands were at radio row for a full week. What can I say, even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then.
To close this out, I want to congratulate everyone who received recognition from our executive committee and thank the members of the panel for taking part in it. If you have an opinion you’d like to share about this year’s awards, please email me at JBarrett@hvy.tcp.mybluehost.me. It’s been a fun process, one that drew a lot of attention to many great performers and brands in our industry, but for now it’s time to give the lists a rest! At least until next year’s Super Bowl!
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.