In ten days, sports radio stations across the nation will invade Houston, Texas to broadcast live from radio row, during the NFL’s annual week long celebration of their biggest game, the Super Bowl. But while the sheer mass of stations may enhance the NFL’s image, and the on-air personalities may gain personal satisfaction from making a road trip to host their programs on location, the question of whether or not it’s a necessary expense creates division among many broadcast executives.
From the programmers point of view, there are a myriad of reasons to be there. It is the biggest event in sports, and the Super Bowl has mass appeal in every local market. Some people subscribe to the theory that a sports station should only make the trip if its local team is playing in the game, but I don’t agree with that point of view.
In most cities, the NFL is king. Ratings for national games are among the most watched programs on television, and they often outperform the performance of a local market’s baseball, basketball, hockey and college teams. Audiences keep tabs on all teams and players, and when you include gambling, fantasy football, and transplants living in each community into the mix, it’s easy to see why interest is high. If a local team is in the big game, it becomes a bigger deal, but it’s a must-watch event regardless of who participates.
While this may be the biggest event of the sports calendar, every station in America is going to talk about it whether they’re live inside of a convention center in the host city, or sitting in the air conditioned studio from which they operate on a daily basis.
So why go?
Many programmers argue that it’s vital to strengthening the brand’s image in the eyes and ears of the audience. Being there reinforces your position of being a major league brand, and if that’s the way your station has been built and sustained, then there shouldn’t be internal debate about whether it’s important or not to make this trip. It’s the same reason why a news/talk station broadcasts live on location from the cities where presidential debates take place.
But if perception isn’t enough of a reason to justify sending your station on the road for Super Bowl week, then what about the ratings? In years past, the brands I managed often saw a minimal bump during the week of radio row broadcasts. The difficult question though was whether or not a minimal ratings increase was worth spending thousands of dollars. It could be argued that the station could generate the same ratings staying in the building and covering the event rather than sending five to ten people on the road for one week.
From a talent’s perspective, they share less concern about the brand’s financial challenges. Their primary interest is to put on the best show possible, and gaining access to high profile athletes and celebrities, and the sites and sounds leading up to the Super Bowl helps them do that. Many on-air people look forward to the week long festivities created by the NFL and its partners, and they value increasing their stature and relationships with others in the media space. Although those relationships may benefit their show in the future, you could once again argue whether or not this is enough of a reason to justify sending a show on location.
What many personalities don’t realize is how costly this week is to the brand they work for. Some talent do appreciate it and recognize the commitment their employer is making, but others just assume it’s part of doing business.
Except it isn’t.
For a Program Director, General Manager, President, and CEO, to sign off on spending ten to twenty thousand dollars to send their people on the road to broadcast for three to five days from a remote location, which won’t provide a huge return on investment from advertisers or the ratings, is a tall order. I’ve heard hosts over the years say, “it’s the Super Bowl, if our sales team can’t sell this then we’re screwed”. That may sound right, but what many talent lack an understanding of is how much value advertisers place on this one to two week promotion.
If you’re a client, the debate becomes whether or not it’s beneficial to spend thousands of dollars on this promotion instead of on a sustained campaign on the same radio station. Many hosts think that by reading the sponsor’s name and five second tag prior to each interview that they’ve fulfilled their obligation, but what they haven’t taken into consideration is whether or not those name mentions and tags help the client grow their business. Giving a client a web banner on your Super Bowl page, a name mention on your social media posts, and on-air plugs prior to interviews may fulfill what was presented, but if the client loses money, they won’t support future promotions.
Ask yourself this question, would you spend thousands of dollars to promote your business during a week of shows from the Super Bowl? If the answer is yes, would you select this opportunity over others available on the same radio station? If your decision had a lasting impact on your company’s bottom line, would you make the call to sponsor this week?
One way hosts and programmers can help themselves is to work with the sales team to gain a better understanding of how a success or failure will be measured by the client who sponsors this week. Have you met with the client to personally thank them for supporting this promotion? Have you brainstormed with them prior to the promotion to gain a sense of what their hot buttons are? Are there other things you’re willing to do beyond the traditional buy to help make the client feel special?
For example, are you sending out a daily tweet and Facebook post to thank the sponsor and encouraging your fans to support them? Have you created an on-site banner with the client’s logo and had every guest who visits the table sign it so you can bring it back to them to display inside their place of business? If the client is also making the trip, have you helped them gain access to a credential to visit your setup or include them on a guest list to attend some of the parties taking place in the host city? Maybe it means making future appearances at the client’s location, speaking on one of their spots, taking the client out to dinner, getting them tickets to a future game or event in your city, or supporting one of their charities to show that you’re equally invested in them.
Certain things can be measured in this business, and some can’t. The value of an on-air mention and web/social sponsorship during this week might not be enough to justify the costs, but when you tug on a client’s heartstrings and give them things that money can’t buy, that has personal value. Don’t discount how important that is.
John Goforth, who previously served as sales manger of 670 The Score in Chicago, and as an account executive for ESPN 1000, 101 ESPN and 590 The Fan, explained how the perception of Super Bowl week was received in multiple sales departments he worked in.
“We always sold it, but it felt like something we were doing to help cover programming costs”, said Goforth.
“In years past we included live video streaming of the shows from radio row, which was cool because it provided other opportunities. For example, if you sold a sponsorship to Dunkin Donuts, and gave the guests who stopped by a coupon for a year’s supply of coffee, it helped extend the brand presence. You could show the client how you were helping put their band in front of notable people. But the extra nonsense added via billboards and bumpers was always overpriced.”
Noel Wax, former VP of sports sales and director of sales for CBS’ Radio brands in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, said much of the value depends on the involvement of a local team and unique assets.
“If we were lucky enough to have one of the teams in our markets represent us in the Superbowl, then it was a big deal for revenue” said Wax.
“What it really came down to was how creative the station was in generating great ideas to sell around its coverage. Just selling audio billboards of the station’s coverage was not exciting or lucrative. If the sales team had access to trips or tickets, that made it more attractive. I found that the best successes came from approaching marketers who were also fans.”
Those assets certainly help drive larger revenues for the station, but the programming department can’t be placed on standby waiting for the company to acquire them. Instead they have to make a simple decision, are we invested in being live on location for this event or not?
One side of the argument that warrants further examination is the role that corporate executives and market managers play in it. If a sports station being live from the Super Bowl is going to be contested, then how else are you providing reinforcements to help your brand cement its position in the local listener’s mind? Is the station reinvesting its funding in marketing to help the brand gain more fans? Are you moving the money from the Super Bowl trip to create a bigger impact at spring training? Is the station holding back the funding because it plans to make a bigger play to snag a local team’s radio rights?
In each of those scenarios, most programmers will be flexible. Their end goal is to grow the brand. Whether it’s done through the Super Bowl or spring training, additional radio rights or a heavy marketing campaign, the bottom line is growing the audience and brand perception. It’s when executives frown upon making necessary sacrifices to help the station, and offer no alternatives, that programmers become frustrated and question the company’s commitment.
When I ran stations, I felt there was value in broadcasting live from big events. It may not have always been favorable on the spreadsheet, but it absolutely made an impression. And sometimes you have to make financial sacrifices to grow your company.
Case in point, during my first year in San Francisco, we sent our entire staff at 95.7 The Game to Indianapolis to broadcast from radio row. The crew had only been working together for a few months, and this trip allowed them to form deeper bonds outside of the building. That’s something that you can’t measure. It was expensive, but we knew that our competitor would have a minimal presence at the event, and that would serve us well in strengthened our identity in the market.
We also felt that it would send a message to the local teams that we meant business. We knew it may not provide an immediate financial return, but the long-term goal was to entice those teams to work with us. By utilizing that approach, we became serious contenders for the radio rights to the Oakland Raiders and Golden State Warriors, with the Silver and Black signing on two years later to become the station’s flagship NFL partner. The Warriors didn’t immediately switch over, but a few years later they too followed suit.
The San Francisco Giants and 49ers, and a few notable sports agents also took notice. Over the next year, players who had previously been unavailable or not interested in pursuing weekly call-in deals with the station, started to adjust their line of thinking. When we signed Buster Posey and Matt Cain the following season to an exclusive agreement, it put everyone in the market on notice.
The final piece of this puzzle that I want to shed light on is the value it presents to the NFL, and their role in making it a better experience for radio operators.
In recent years, radio row has become a bigger hassle. The process to being approved for credentials takes a long time, and that impacts stations who are trying to determine what they can or can’t spend to cover the event. If you’re applying in November, you shouldn’t have to wait until the second or third week of January to find out if all of your people and the hotel rooms you’ve requested have been approved. That puts stations in a tough financial position because booking last minute rooms, cars and flights requires additional expense, inconvenience and in some instances, less manpower.
The next issue that creates a problem are the increasing technical costs. Some stations have to absorb two thousand dollars in fees for ISDN lines and internet, and then either send an engineer on the road or hire a local engineer as an independent contractor. That’s a lot of money to spend just to get on the air. The alternative is accepting lower broadcast quality which would defeat the purpose of broadcasting there.
Then there’s the lack of information of who’s going to be available on radio row. Most hosts and producers have no idea who’s available to be booked for their shows until the day of, and then it becomes a mad scramble to chase down PR people, and team officials. This makes it chaotic for hosts, producers, guests, and handlers, who are trying to foster relationships with one another yet have a limited time to do so.
Lastly, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of TLC displayed by NFL officials towards radio stations and their employees. These brands offering up countless hours of their programming time to help the NFL sell its biggest game of the season, and spending thousands of dollars to do so. Many also invest additional millions of dollars on the radio rights of the NFL’s local teams. You’d think that would provide for better treatment, but I’ve run stations that did and didn’t have NFL play by play relationships, and neither was treated any differently.
Whether the league offered better placement inside the venue, access to guests who other brands couldn’t get, priority access inside the building, or something as simple as a few more hotel rooms and advanced approval, every little bit sends a message that the NFL values its radio partners.
Let me remind you, these stations broadcast from a place called RADIO Row. If the costs and challenges become more hassle than they’re worth, it could make brands reconsider attending. A lack of on-site support and reduced air time for the league’s biggest game could have an affect on viewing. Given the current climate of television, and the growing economic challenges for broadcast companies, it wouldn’t be wise for the league to continue making their loyal partners feel neglected during the week of their biggest annual event.
I was curious how a number of programmers across the country felt about the importance of broadcasting live on radio row. Each of these guys work for different companies, and are sending their stations to broadcast in Houston this year. Here are their perspective on the pros and cons of Super Bowl week.
- Mike Sheppard – Mighty 1090, San Diego, CA
- Rich Moore – Sports Radio 950 KJR, Seattle, WA
- Dan Zampillo – ESPN LA 710, Los Angeles, CA
- Chris Kinard – 106.7 The Fan, Washington D.C.
- Joe Zarbano – WEEI, Boston, MA
Why do you believe it’s necessary for your station to broadcast from radio row during the week of the Super Bowl?
Moore: It’s the payoff week to the biggest draw in our format on the biggest media stage. Super Bowl week is an overdose of sports talk content gold. When the format was growing and earning credibility, being at the biggest events was vital. The key now is not just being there, but maximizing the content.
Super Bowl week also used to be about getting big names on that you couldn’t usually get on any other time. That’s still there but now it’s also about the news and content, and being there gives you an advantage. It probably is more necessary nowadays to the stations in markets where the NFL is present and strong.
Zampillo: Two things come into play for us at ESPN LA 710. One, we just got the Rams this year, and given the attention around the NFL returning to LA, and now with the Chargers coming, I think it helps us cement ourselves as the football station in town. Plus, we launched a new morning show with Keyshawn Johnson involved, and given his status and ability to draw big guests, it makes sense to have our morning show there.
Sheppard: It’s a strategic brand decision. Part of our content and event filter is whether or not a listener would expect a particular element from “San Diego’s Sports Leader”. In our opinion, a Super Bowl week broadcast is in sync with the audience expectations of the Mighty 1090 brand. More importantly (and based on audience research we have done), NOT having a presence there would erode our leadership position in the mind of the audience.
Kinard: If done right, it can make your station sound big and create an impression that you own the most important sporting event of the year. But I think whether you make the decision to send a show depends on several factors, including your market’s competitive situation, budget, strengths and weaknesses of your hosts and producers, and what kind of market you are in. In our case, we have a midday show with 2 talented interviewers and some great connections, and I am confident they will produce content worthy of the expense we are incurring to send them.
Zarbano: It’s necessary because our audience is captivated by the Patriots and the NFL. This is the biggest event of the year, and our listeners want to feel like they’re there even if they can’t be. When the Patriots are in the Super Bowl, New Englanders are obsessed with Patriots related content. Broadcasting live from radio row affords us the opportunity to deliver the very best possible radio.
How much of an impact does it have on your station’s ratings?
Moore: It’s a pretty strong week for us. We gain strong AQH. With a natural bigger audience available that week, booking the week on radio row allows us to set good appointments and create great social media and digital content as well.
Zampillo: I think it will have a small impact on ratings if done right. If we get the right guests and handle the show in the spirit of the way it was meant to be executed it will give us a bump.
Sheppard: Minimal. That’s not why we do this. It’s a strategic brand decision rather than a topical or tactical ratings play.
Kinard: These shows can create some must-listen to moments, which has the potential to move the ratings needle. But I think it’s more of an overall branding benefit than anything.
Zarbano: We see quite a noticeable increase, particularly in cume, when the Patriots are in the Super Bowl and we’re broadcasting live from radio row. The interest level in our market is huge.
Why do you think this week of programming matters to the audience?
Moore: It’s the biggest topic, and the hype of the Super Bowl coverage attacks the majority of the cume. If your team is in it, it’s a can’t miss event. If not, it’s a newsy week that helps listeners at the water cooler.
Zampillo: The Super Bowl is the biggest event in sports. And even casual sports fans are interested in the game.
Sheppard: Based on our content and topic matrix, coverage of the NFL is far and away the # 1 audience need. Given that the Super Bowl is the NFL’s most important event each year, it would be foolish of us not to capitalize on the buzz and content of this week.
Kinard: The Super Bowl is not just the biggest sporting event of the year, it’s a spectacle. The game is huge, but the commercials and the halftime show are highly anticipated as well. The stars come out, and it’s a great opportunity to hear from the legends of sports, but it also provides your station with an opportunity to crossover into the worlds of entertainment and pop culture.
Zarbano: WEEI’s audience is very emotionally invested in the Patriots and football content. If the Pats are playing in the Super Bowl, the interest level rises. These rabid fans want to be at the game and taking in the week’s events, but since they can’t, they rely on our presence and ability to deliver to make them feel closer to the action.
If you weren’t there, what type of affect do you think it would have on your brand?
Moore: It’s not the end of the world anymore, but the KJR brand has been built with the expectation that we will be live from the big events and deliver those experiences to our audience. With our station located in a great football market like Seattle, and KJR a proud partner of Westwood One, we try to make sure we are there.
Zampillo: I don’t think it would hurt us. If we were not going and still hitting the hottest topics that matter to our audience, we would be in good shape.
Sheppard: It would negatively impact our leadership branding.
Kinard: I think you can certainly cover the game from afar just as you would any of the other major sporting events. As long as the shows continue to spend a majority of their time talking about the game and doing the blocking and tackling of PPM strategy, this should be a great week regardless.
Zarbano: It’s a perception battle. Many of our P1’s also listen to our competitor. If the competition broadcasts from radio row and your station is not there, it can make your brand look second rate. Our audience is going to be more interested in listening to the shows that are on the ground with the team in Houston (Super Bowl City) rather than the show which is sitting inside of a studio back in Boston during the week of the biggest game in sports.
Some industry folks feel that it’s not worth the expense to broadcast from there. How do you respond to that?
Moore: It’s certainly going that way. It is really hard to commit to it each year in advance, but if you work with your sales team, and can justify great value and frequency to see your coverage, it can be done. It’s RADIO row, and yet the NFL is pricing radio stations out of being there. $2000 for ISDN and internet is almost impossible to justify.
Zampillo: I understand that point of view. The problem is, Radio Row used to be special. Now, everyone has the same guests on, and most of those guests are low quality guests who are pushing products that do not connect with our audience. If you can do the best version of your show while working in important aspects of being on Radio Row like BIG name guests, it makes sense. If you can’t do that, then I understand staying home.
Sheppard: It’s not cheap, but we send all of our shows, and make it a priority to not only cover our expenses, but actually make money with our Super Bowl week sponsorships. Many of our hosts will ad-lib sponsors who are more than willing to support these broadcasts financially.
Kinard: For some stations, it may not be worth the cost. It depends on your competitive situation, and what else you would spend that money on.
Zarbano: We are blessed to have a great sales staff. The revenue they bring in always greatly outweighs our expenses.
Since the majority of the week consists of interviews with big named athletes and celebrities, what does your brand do differently to standout from the rest of the crowd?
Moore: We form relationships with NFL guests and contributors all season long, and use this week to extend them and have longer conversations in person that pay off our audience. We also have regular contributors who have established relationships with players, coaches, etc. and we send them too because it helps increase our access to other high profile guests, plus their continued presence assures that our programming will remain top notch.
Zampillo: We are only going to talk to guests who the audience is excited to hear from. We are not putting on a guest to just put on a guest. It has to be someone where the audience says Wow! This is cool or interesting!
Sheppard: First, we want our broadcasters to have good shows. Although I see stations still doing it, pimping non-relevant athletes, celebrities or products is not what we do. Content is the # 1 primary objective with an emphasis on Super Bowl content or guests that really deliver.
The second thing we reinforce is that we are a multi-platform media company, and as such, we are sending two content contributors and videographers to file photographic, video and written content from the festivities.
Kinard: We try be very selective about the guests we book, and make sure the show doesn’t sit around waiting for guests to arrive. The content should still be about the game, and we try to make sure our shows continue to break down the game, talk to listeners, etc.
Zarbano: We are very picky about who we put on the air and what we promote. We will only put on guests that we feel can move the needle.
What is one thing the NFL could do better during the week of radio row shows to keep stations wanting to return and support their biggest game of the year?
Moore: They could help radio stations by managing the inflating technical costs for sure.
Zampillo: It would be nice if it was better organized. Too often it feels like a free for all. I understand it is on each station to book guests, but it would be great if you had a better idea of who will be there and when.
Sheppard: The hotel process could be improved. The longer we have to wait for accommodations, the more expensive air travel becomes. For example, this year we requested seven rooms but were only granted two. That makes it more challenging.
Kinard: I think they generally do a great job with the event. More availability of guests from the league and the NFL Network would be beneficial.
Zarbano: The credential process can be confusing and time consuming. It’d be helpful if there was a clearer process when requesting conditional and regular Super Bowl credentials.
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.