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Dealing with Tragedy in Sports Talk Radio

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Sports radio serves as a distraction from everyday life for its audience. Whether you listen to it while in transit to or from work or while sitting in an office attempting to perform your responsibilities, the programming is in place to inform, entertain, and at times stir emotions. It’s a format that is listened to largely by males 25-54 and they seek it out because sports provides a genuine joy to their life that few other things can.

But what happens when a real life tragedy occurs in your neighborhood? The thought of listening to two sports radio hosts debate a batter’s ability to hit a baseball or provide context on why a basketball player is able to shoot a little orange ball into an eighteen inch hoop, while serious issues linger in a community seems off-color. The joy and distraction that sports radio is asked to provide suddenly is no longer acceptable. On-air talent who are built to have fun, inform, debate, and connect, are transformed from the cool guys you want to hang out and drink a beer with, into messengers who are there to update information and share the more serious side of themselves by letting you know how an incident makes them feel.

Although many on-air hosts in sports radio have interests beyond the sports world, and some have even dabbled in delivering news/talk shows themselves, the reality is that not many are trained or focused on providing this level of content. It’s easy to tell a talent to adjust and talk about a serious story when it happens, but every good on-air host wants to be great when they turn on their microphone and speak to an audience. When the subject matter requires going outside their comfort zone, it can be very stressful.

Most sports radio people choose to work in the sports format because it’s supposed to be fun, light, and a break from the seriousness of life that adults deal with on a daily basis. We all have bills to pay, families to support, personal battles to wage, and sports allows us for a few hours to put those things on hold. It may not solve our problems but without it we’d be less happy.

Unfortunately, in the past decade alone, there have been far too many instances where sports talk radio hosts have been pressed into action to have to change their programming plans. Major tragedies and serious events have rocked our country numerous times, and although it may not be comfortable, when it happens, the way your radio station and talk show responds can have a lasting impact on the way your audience looks to you in the future.

Whether you like it or not, you’re a servant to the community. When people in your city are grieving and seeking answers to their questions, they turn to you, hoping you’ll provide some measure of clarity for them to make better sense of what has happened. They count on you to help ease their anger, keep them informed and when the mood is right, offer a comment or two that may allow them to laugh.

Listeners cherish their relationship with the on-air talent. They see them as a friend who keeps them company on a daily basis. While the bond may be built from a shared joy and passion for sports, they also expect a local personality to use good judgment and understand that there are times when the script must get tossed.

If you went into work in Baton Rouge, Louisiana today, chances are you’re trying to make sense of why a number of police officers were targeted and killed, just one week after the same horror took place in Dallas, Texas. If you were operating a sports talk show in Nice, France on Saturday, there’s no way you’d be discussing anything other than the awful attack by a madman who chose to run down hundreds of innocent people.

I’ve gone through this situation myself while working in upstate NY on the day that September 11th occurred. It’s a day that no sports host can ever be prepared for. The thought of having a conversation about the Yankees, Mets, Knicks, Rangers, Giants or Jets felt unjustified, and luckily the radio station I worked for embraced ditching the sports programming and turning its attention to the serious tragedy that impacted our community, and the entire country.

In those moments you may not be as informed as FOX News, MSNBC, CNN or any other news outlet, but you possess something they don’t, a connection to your local audience. Your listeners understand that you’re out of your element and that you may not have the same level of insight on the story that some of the other news outlets do, but they also recognize that you’re their friend, their companion, the one who shares their life on the air with them each day. You offer the necessary distraction to keep them laughing and looking forward to the games they’ll watch later that evening. They don’t need you to be the most skilled news reporter during those horrific times, just a broadcaster who’s smart enough to read the room and understand that there’s a time in place for fun, and a time where certain things get placed on hold because other things are simply more important.

But not every uprising or tragedy warrants ditching your sports radio programming. Knowing where that line sits is impossible because each station, talent, programmer, and city responds differently. Innocent people have died at the hands of the police, cops have been murdered unjustly, and protests happen in many large cities on a regular basis. Each time they occur, is a sports talker supposed to break its format?

It’s a really tough call because each station has to decide “has this event rocked the community to the point where everyone is feeling it”? “Is our audience going to turn to our brand and people for further opinion and information on the story”? “Is it a development where most local stations feel compelled to break format or is it better suited for the local News/Talk station to provide further context on”?

For example, when the Ferguson, Missouri riots broke out, some programmers would have chosen to drop sports to cover the story locally. Others wouldn’t have. It wasn’t a matter of one way being right, and the other being wrong. I asked 101 ESPN’s Program Director Chris “Hoss” Neupert how he handled the situation and here’s what he shared.

“With such a sensitive issue (the Ferguson riots) we chose to let people who were better informed than us tackle those issues. Our job was to do what we do best which was to be a positive distraction for local people from the real world issues. Our team was compassionate about the situation and wanted to do their part to give people an escape by giving them something that sports does so well which is present a mixture of stats, wins, losses, storylines, and competition, not color or race.”

The Ferguson story was one which the entire community was aware of but it didn’t unify people the same way that the shootings in Dallas, Orlando, Charleston, and Sandy Hook did. Asking a sports station and its talent to tackle racial divides, Mike Brown’s track record, the issues with the Ferguson police department, and the Black Lives Matter movement is asking them to step way beyond their comfort zone. For each listener who may have appreciated 101 ESPN diving into that conversation, many others would’ve rejected the brand for not staying in its lane. Regardless of their choice, they were in a no-win situation.

Given what our friends in Dallas experienced last week, and what others have experienced in other cities, I thought it’d be interesting to get a few perspectives on how to handle these situations. They are impossible to be fully prepared for, and although they may leave you wondering if the work you do really matters, you do the best you can, and understand that just by talking about it you’re able to provide a small measure of comfort for your audience.

No sports radio programmer or host wants to go to work and have to address these types of situations but there are times when they are unavoidable. As much as we love sports, nothing matters more than life itself and our friends, families, and neighbors. When they’re in harm’s way or have been emotionally wounded, we have to adjust and look out for them. The hard part is determining which tragedies require breaking format, and which ones don’t. Those decisions are extremely difficult and they can haunt you forever if you choose incorrectly.

jeffcatlinJeff Catlin – Program Director of The Ticket and ESPN 103.3 – Dallas, TX

The Ticket and ESPN 103.3 are both in the business of LOCAL radio, and this DPD shooting was in our town. That right there made it rise to a different level for us at Cumulus Dallas, regardless of station and format. We have to serve our local audience.

ESPN is slightly different in that there are ESPN Network commitments, but still when we can and could, we had to address what our community at large cares about on a given day.

To ignore this story on Ticket or ESPN or somehow say “people want a distraction from this” would in my opinion just be completely out of step and focus. At a time like this, certainly within the first 24 hours of a major breaking news story literally one mile from our studios, EVERYONE in Dallas Ft. Worth is talking, sharing, feeling emotional about this tragedy and we first and foremost have to reflect that. We also have to be a voice and gathering place for the community.

In the case of the Ticket where our lineup of talent has been in place and together for 20 years, we have a special bond and relationship with our audience. Not only do they expect us to talk about something such as this, but in a complimentary way towards our shows, they welcome hearing what their friends on the Ticket are thinking and feeling. It provides some sort of comfort to them. And if that’s the case, great, because it means that we have served our audience in a time of need.

In terms of our decision making, at Cumulus Dallas, after the San Bernardino shooting, all department heads across the cluster discussed this and came up with a plan of action in case something like this happened in DFW. So when news broke and this actually DID happen, we already knew how we would react. With a heritage News Talk station staffed 24/7 with reporters in the building, they took the lead. The other stations, including the Ticket, are able to take their on-air audio. Which the Ticket did. On Thursday night, the Ticket took the initial police briefing live on-air, and then we simulcast our sister station WBAP all night from approximately midnight to 5am.

I spoke Thursday night with our morning team about ways to handle the story on the show the next day. We were active on social media all Thursday night into Friday with updates.

On Friday on both the Ticket and ESPN I had individual meetings with all the shows to just discuss our plan, how we would handle the story, how much time would be devoted to it, etc. On both stations (On ESPN during our local shows) I estimate that 90% of content on Friday was devoted to the shooting and updating the story.

I knew first thing on Friday that I needed to update the station imaging in a reflective and respectful way. We were able to get that done and on-air during morning drive. Then as a cluster, we focused efforts on providing uniformed information to all of our audiences on-air and on our websites that directed listeners to places where they could help, while letting them know which community activities were planned for the days ahead.

Finally, on Tuesday, making a decision to carry the Memorial Service live on-air on the Ticket and ESPN was a no brainer. The President of the United States, the Vice President, two Senators and former President and Dallas resident George W. Bush, plus the Mayor and Police Chief were all on hand, and their speaking was a statement of how big this was. We HAD to carry this live.

Again, our job is to serve our local audience. This was the only thing on the minds of DFW citizens on Tuesday, and after hearing how poignant every speaker was, individual politics aside, it proved that our decision was the correct one.

It’s part of the healing process, and closure for the community, and this is part of the role that local radio plays during a time like this.

gavinspittleGavin Spittle – Program Director of 105.3 The Fan – Dallas, TX

The decision to change formats when the tragic events of last week hit us was a given. Serving our community is first and foremost. If that hurts me in the ratings, so be it.

Our two brands, NewsRadio 1080 KRLD and 105.3 The Fan, have a tight relationship. On Thursday night, we were still involved in delivering pertinent information because it was an “active” situation. The right thing to do was to simulcast with 1080 and I thought they did an amazing job delivering up to the minute information. The next day, we scrapped the entire sports format.

If one person felt a little bit of healing from listening to our open forum then we did our job. For the last 2 ½ years, a charity that we have heavily supported is the Guns and Hoses Foundation of North Texas. All of our shows have been involved with this charity including going to Swat Training, broadcasting from Fire and Police Departments so there certainly is a special bond. Part of that healing process was to immediately help the families of our heroes affected, and I’m proud to say that we’ve contributed to that cause.

The response from our listeners has been amazing but none of us want credit during this time. The credit goes to those who selflessly put themselves in harm’s way for our safety. The least we can do is to provide a platform through our radio stations.

jasonwolfeJason Wolfe – Former Program Director of WEEI – Boston, MA

Sports radio hosts are actually people too. That’s right, it’s not all fun and games to us. We care about life and about the world we live in, and frankly, we have very strong feelings about the issues that affect us all. Our sole concern isn’t simply whether the hometown team wins or loses on any given night. This is especially true when it comes to dealing with a tragedy.

When terrorism struck the Boston Marathon, my team at WEEI didn’t hesitate. We immediately dropped the sports format and went into crisis mode. All of our imaging changed, hosts were asked to come in early and to stay late, sales efforts and promotions were halted and we focused on being a resource to our audience so that they felt informed and comforted in their time of need. It’s so important not to panic when involved in such a story. Plans need to be well thought out and executed flawlessly if the station is to be effective in its coverage.

At WEEI, I used every resource I had at my disposal, from our partnerships with TV to our sister stations who had people on the ground at the finish line. That allowed us to cover every press conference live, to get first hand updates from the field, and to remain top of mind for our listeners who no doubt, were scouring every channel looking for the most up to date information.

As broadcasters, we have a responsibility to cover these terrible events and to provide the public with information, and an opportunity to react, be it emotionally, angrily or otherwise. Our guys understood that very clearly. Talk radio is talk radio. It doesn’t matter if your core format is sports, politics, music or business, when an event of this magnitude occurs in your city or town, as a staff, you have to act. And frankly, the reality is that there have been so many of these truly unfortunate stories to cover over the years, that smart programmers will have an action plan for events such as this, ready to go at a moment’s notice.

Our most important goal throughout our coverage, as it was with any breaking news story, was not to jump the gun and report false information. This was a major problem during the first two days after the bombing. Numerous reports cited imminent arrests, the death toll, as well as erroneous information about the why and how this happened. Frankly, it was completely irresponsible. We had always lived by the slogan by right, not first, so while we knew it was important to provide our audience with the latest, we had to be very careful not to create more problems. As such, we took a measured approach to the news so as not to over-react, specifically, to what was being posted on social media.

Our second goal was simple. Be ourselves. The station has long been known for its ability to report on, discuss and analyze non sports stories, and by giving the staff the resources they needed, and the freedom with which to use them, I thought we did an exceptional job of doing our part to bring the community together by engaging in passionate debate with journalistic integrity. At the end of the day, it comes down to being prepared, being organized, and being thoughtful. That’s what our audience, and I think any audience expects, and if you can achieve that, you’ve done well and your coverage will be held with high regard.

davezDave Zaslowsky – Former Program Director of 97.9 ESPN – Hartford, CT

December 14, 2012 was like any other Friday. We were prepping for the big matchup between the Patriots and 49ers that was scheduled that weekend. One of the other stations in our cluster had the TV on in their studio when the news broke of a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, which was about 45 min away from our studios.

Within minutes we were on the phone to our local NBC TV affiliate, whom we had a working partnership with to confirm what was happening. Once the reports were confirmed, which was very quick, our OM called the 3 PD’s of the cluster together to form a plan of action. Our 5 station cluster had 3 live music stations and our 2 sports stations (97-9 ESPN & Fox Sports Radio 1410) which I was the PD for were in network programming at the time.

So much information was out there that we felt the best thing to do for our listeners was to simulcast our local NBC TV affiliate. It was really the only way to cover it correctly, regardless of our format. My 2 stations stayed with the simulcast of NBC CT until 7pm and went back to network programming at that time. Our music stations went into talk mode taking calls and just letting people talk, which during a situation like Sandy Hook is what people want to do.

Our job is to serve the public and give them the information. At that point nobody cared about the Patriots-49ers, Giants-Falcons or Jets-Titans that weekend.  They wanted to know about those little children who were attacked. It was the right way to handle things for our listeners as they had come to depend on us during a crisis, be it a snow storm, a hurricane or awful day like December 12, 2012.

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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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