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When Teams Gain Influence Over Content

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One word that few people respond favorably to is censorship. By definition, the word implies a practice in limiting or removing key information and opinion from an important conversation or story.

If you’ve paid attention to the news cycle since Donald Trump entered the White House, the topic has been a heavy focus for the American people. Many feel the media have positioned Trump unfairly and support his desire to derail the nation’s news outlets. Others believe he’s entered dangerous territory by attempting to block free speech and silence honest reporters who have brought to light questionable actions and decisions that have occurred under his administration.

One of the very freedoms of our country that makes it great is having the ability to speak our minds even if others disagree. The talk radio business itself would be pretty bland if not for the thousands of men and women who grace the airwaves each day expressing their points of view, stirring up conversations, and engaging our minds and giving us different things to consider and take exception with.

But while it may be exciting to be granted access to a microphone and deliver your opinion to thousands of local listeners, there are responsibilities that come with the talk show host position.

My first rule of thumb for any personality who’s performed on one of my previous brands is to never get personal. Once you do, it’s an impossible conversation to recover from. You can criticize on the field performance, off the field behavior, and anything that comes up and is relevant to a franchise’s failures or which paints an individual or organization negatively in the public eye. But there is a fine line between attacking one’s actions and their personal character.

If you work in the sports media or enjoy reading about it, you’ve likely seen the story this week that took place in Sacramento. Sports Radio 1140 KHTK host Damien Barling, who’s part of the station’s midday program “The Lo-Down”, was off the air on Wednesday following a critical commentary against the Sacramento Kings organization after the team traded away its franchise player DeMarcus Cousins. The station opened up Wednesday’s program with a brief response from Barling’s partners Jason Ross and Ken Rudolph before turning the airwaves over to a nationally syndicated show.

The incident occurred on Tuesday during the final hour of Barling’s show and has caused a firestorm in sports media circles. Here were his remarks, which included midday host Jason Ross in the conversation. You can hear them by clicking here.

Barling: That was embarrassing. That was absolutely embarrassing.

Ross: In what way?

Barling: In every single way imaginable. That dude is not fit to be the general manager of a basketball team. This is real life. You just heard a general manager say publicly at a press conference ‘We had a better deal two days ago’. You moron! You can’t say that! ‘Oh why didn’t you wait till Thursday?’ ‘Oh cause we had a better deal two days ago?’

Ross: It was getting worse.

Barling: Are you serious? Bro… I don’t even know what to say. If you’re a Kings fan, you should absolutely be embarrassed by that. That was awful. That was absolutely awful. You cannot do that. You can’t do that. Awful. That’s awful dude. Absolutely incredible.

Barling was upset with the way the Kings front office handled the Cousins trade. The majority of media outlets across the nation have painted the Kings organization as being in over their collective heads, and the KHTK host was echoing what many others thought and felt of the franchise’s top executives.

Except there was one small problem – KHTK is the radio home and play by play partner of the Sacramento Kings.

The Sacramento Bee reached out to KHTK for a comment on the situation and were told “We respect the right of all of our on-air hosts and employees to voice their professional opinions on a range of topics. However, we do not condone malicious personal attacks on or from anyone. Comments of that nature do not reflect the views or sportsmanlike conduct of this station”.

Truth be told, I know program director Kevin Sherrets who the quote was attributed to (even though it was an official statement from the station, not one from Sherrets), and like him a lot. He’s a good guy with good intentions, who wants to help his brand make an impact in the community, and I have no doubt he’s trying to do the best he can to manage a difficult situation. Only he and his market manager Steve Cottingim know how the Kings front office feel about the situation and whether there was or wasn’t a request for more action to be taken against Barling.

But what’s troubling in this situation is the prior track record of KHTK when it’s involved members of its on-air staff speaking out negatively against the Kings. It should be noted that these past issues have taken place under the watch of multiple program directors, so this isn’t a reflection on Sherrets.

Former reporter John Dickinson, who now works for 95.7 The Game in San Francisco said he was pulled off the air multiple times by management after being critical of the team under previous owners the Maloof family.

Former KHTK program director and morning personality Don Geronimo said on Twitter that management operate this way consistently when it involves criticism of the Kings.

KNBR 1050 morning host Drew Hoffar, who previously held numerous stints on the Sacramento sports station said you pay the price if you’re not on board with the way the Kings do business.

Now maybe it’s entirely possible that all three former station employees have bitter feelings towards their former employer, but given the events of the past week, it’s hard to ignore that there might be some truth behind their words.

In analyzing Barling’s commentary, I felt 95% of what he said was fair game. He felt passionately about the subject, there were mixed reviews on the trade, and he had a right to communicate to the audience that he thought the organization failed and embarrassed themselves by acknowledging they had a better offer on the table two days earlier for Cousins.

Where Barling screwed up was when he proceeded to call Vlade Divac a moron. To those on the outside looking in, that may seem small, but when you’re in business with someone, especially in a one-team town, you have to be careful with the way you criticize a key figure of an organization on your airwaves. You can attack Divac’s performance and job qualifications but there’s no need to get personal.

Had Barling said something like “Vlade Divac proved he is not equipped to be the Kings General Manager. You can not publicly admit that you had a better trade offer two days ago. You just can’t. It tells the entire league and your fan base that you didn’t execute your best and right now I have no confidence and am utterly disgusted with the way he handled this situation. This is an embarrassment of epic proportions and makes me question whether or not this team will win in the future with him making important decisions on behalf of this organization“, it’d be very difficult to remove him from the air. The commentary remains strong, but avoids any personal references.

That said, there is another part to this story to take into consideration.

People are human. They make mistakes. They mean well, but sometimes say things the wrong way. I’m a big believer in personal track records and accountability. If an employee is under fire for saying something that ruffled a few feathers, and has been consistently dependable, respectful and responsible, then you often give them the benefit of the doubt.

In this case, Barling had not been removed from the airwaves at any point since joining KHTK last April. He also worked for CBS Sacramento from 2001-2008 which tells me he wouldn’t have been employed for 7 years the first time, and re-hired in a bigger position in 2016 if he didn’t have a decent reputation inside the company.

Ironically, the word Barling used on the air (moron) to describe Divac, is a word that afternoon host Grant Napear has used many times in a colorful way to describe callers who make points he doesn’t agree with. It seems bizarre that the word would be allowed to describe a member of the audience during the course of an entertaining afternoon show, yet be considered inflammatory and worthy of suspension when utilized against the Kings GM after a controversial trade which has the majority of the market confused or angry.

If the only thing in question from this incident was one specific sentence during a passionate commentary, that could have been easily fixed by having a face to face conversation or by demanding an immediate on-air apology to Divac. The station could have even written up Barling rather than having the story call into question their integrity when it pertains to Kings coverage. Most people I’ve heard from feel the station overreacted, and it’s hard to argue with that given the facts we’ve been aware of, but remember that when situations like this take place, there are often other factors we’re not privy to that could have also played a role in the final outcome. Only the people inside of KHTK’s offices know the true story.

As uncomfortable as these incidents are, they’re not foreign to sports radio executives. As a matter of fact, I addressed a similar situation last year when the Detroit Lions foolishly looked to use the power of their play by play rights to force 97.1 The Ticket to drop Mike Valenti. CBS Detroit wisely retained Valenti and let the Lions walk.

Teams are always seeking more control over the way their franchise is discussed and presented to sports radio audiences. It’s up to the programmer and radio station’s market manager to run interference to allow their people to do what they do best. A host’s job is to deliver honest hard hitting opinions in a responsible way, and without influence from any outside forces. If they’re worried about their job security every time they express a strong critical point of view, you’ll never get the full maximum value out of them, and you’ll compromise your brand’s integrity in the eyes of the audience.

It’s fair to question why upper management even allows it to become a conversation in the first place. Sometimes it’s because the revenue and ratings are so large and the brand association is so valuable that a station executive can’t afford a damaged relationship with one of the station’s most important clients. Other times it’s because they fear confrontation and buckle under pressure.

One thing we lose sight of when doing business with teams is that the only thing we truly own and control is the brand itself. A station can still exist and thrive without a play by play partner, even if the brand’s financial ceiling isn’t as high. Once permission is granted to a team to influence a part of your business, they will look to take advantage of it again. Teams don’t ask a programmer or market manager for their input on free agent decisions, the upcoming draft or the starting lineup, and station executives should be willing to protect their product and people, even if it requires a little bit of friction along the way.

Even more bizarre is why these organizations are so sensitive when it comes to the media sharing a negative opinion about them. Do they think the audience isn’t aware when they’re playing poorly or making bad decisions? If they want it to go away there’s a simple solution, win and make smart business decisions. The majority of media members and fans are hoping for the team to do well, but when they don’t, it’d be irresponsible to not be objective and honest about what’s taking place.

It makes me wonder if the next area to be targeted by teams is the social media space. How long until owners and front office executives are pressuring their new partners, Facebook and Twitter, to prevent negative posts about their teams appearing on other people’s timelines? Don’t think for a second that it can’t or won’t be requested.

I’ve flooded your brain by now with enough of my own points of view on the situation, but I wanted to include a few programmers from different parts of the country who also understand the complexities of this situation. Each of these guys work with stations which have strong play by play partnerships, and I hope you find some of their feedback to be helpful. Who knows, you may be using it to guide you through a future challenge inside your place of employment in the future.

  • Joe Zarbano – WEEI
  • John Mamola – WDAE
  • John Hanson – 610 Sports
  • Ryan Hatch – Arizona Sports 98.7FM

If an employee has no prior history of being in trouble with your radio station and they make an error in their on-air commentary, what is the best way to handle it? (Fire them, suspend them, written warning, on-air apology, ignore it, etc.)

Hatch: We’re in a unique position in Phoenix where we are the flagship home of the Arizona Cardinals, Phoenix Suns, Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Coyotes and Arizona State University football and men’s basketball, so these types of situations really hit home as we work closely with more teams than any other station in the country.

How you handle each situation will be unique and dynamic with so many factors. There’s no rule book, except for one thing – never, ever ignore it. That’s the absolute worst thing you can do.

The biggest thing you must have is clear rules of engagement for the hosts and the teams, communicate them effectively to all parties, and demonstrate it regularly. Every one of our personalities wants our team partners to have great success on the field or court. When teams or players are underperforming and deserve criticism, our motto is “be tough but fair, and never personal”.

Our industry is driven by hosts with strong opinions and it’s imperative that we continue to support them, but I believe there is a right way and a wrong way to deliver those opinions. Name calling, cheap shots and personal attacks just won’t fly. Our hosts know it and our team partners know it. And if we cross that line, which does happen, we own it and correct it. But that approach doesn’t just apply to our team partners, it’s in play in everything we do – listeners, advertisers, etc.

Zarbano: I would say it’s very situational. It depends what was said or done. There are circumstances where a host can have no prior record of misconduct but go on the air one day and say something that is unquestionably worthy of suspension or termination. I think logic serves best and PD’s have to consider all the factors.

Mamola: It depends on the severity of the error. Taking the example in Sacramento, assuming the host had no prior history of being in trouble, an on-air apology for calling the GM a “moron” would have been the first thing on my list, in the very next segment. Having an opinion about what goes on the court is 100% legit, but name calling is weak and uncalled for. However, having the host follow up his apology by explaining the passion he has for the team to do well and be a shining beacon for the city of Sacramento, that rings home with the audience and can be a rallying cry for the listeners as well.

Hanson: Every play by play partner is different. Some comments cut deeper than others, and some may have no issue with unfiltered commentaries. If the intention is to smooth things over with your partner, or an individual within that partnership, then you need to apply what will appease them and be reasonable for you. If the comment is strong enough, and the partner is upset enough, suspension wouldn’t be off the table. But I think most reasonable people in a partnership should be able to move on with a personal apology and an adherence to a higher standard in the going forward.

How much influence does a play by play partner deserve when it applies to the radio station’s on-air commentary and presentation?

Hatch: Obviously we’re business partners and we share in each other’s successes – with audience, fans/listeners and revenue. They deserve to be treated professionally and with respect, just like our listeners and advertising partners. Our content management team has regular conversations with our team partners, so we clearly know where they stand on key issues. It’s about access to their perspective more than any formal influence.

Zarbano: In an ideal world, the play-by-play partner deserves no influence when it applies to the station’s on air commentary. It’s hard to put on entertaining and opinionated radio shows when the hosts are being censored. Your station’s credibility is immediately in jeopardy if an on-air host’s creativity, talent and candor are being restrained. In our new digital world, we know how easy it is for listeners to change the station and consume something else.

It’s also a bad look for the team to require or ask their play-by-play partner to limit the on-air host’s criticism, especially when it’s warranted. All franchises make mistakes (even the Patriots at times) and the best way to handle it in the minds of the fans is to own it and move on. Sensitivity and being defensive is a killer.

Mamola: The program director must establish the playing field with the partners as to the boundaries of what the philosophy behind the commentary is at the beginning. If it’s all about what goes on with the team on the field, fair game. If there is anything outside the actual playing field, that’s where the station (in some cases) should reach out to the partner first to see if they have a comment first before taking things to the air. The more work done in the background when it comes to off the field issues, the stronger the partnership and more comfort you’ll have when you hit the air. You just can’t make it personal.

Hanson: They get no influence. You have the power to decide how important your relationship with the play by play partner is to your brand. Is it worth it to risk the relationship over a two second comment? Or for the need to be completely unfiltered for your audience? Maybe an unfiltered approach is what you think gives you the best chance to win. Or maybe your station has such a strong position in the market that you can afford to do that, knowing the team needs you. But I also understand those that find a healthy relationship with their partner to be vital to the overall long term success of the station, and the need to make sure that relationship stays healthy.

What do you do if the team (one of your most important assets) wants things handled differently than the way you think they should be done? 

Hatch: Discuss it openly and honestly. It’s absolutely critical to have strong relationships with high level executives with your team partners. There are going to be times when things are said on the air that ruffle feathers, and when the interests of the station and the team don’t align. If you’re out in front of it and have good relationships, it makes it a lot easier to navigate the rough waters.

Zarbano: You have a conversation and reason with them so they can also see your side of things. Hopefully at the end of the day, the two parties can come to some sort of understanding. There’s always a deal to be made.

Mamola: You allow the partner the forum for a discussion so their voice be heard. That allows you to hear their feedback, explain your position, and have a productive conversation. However, the PD is the one who directs the programming of the radio station, and more often than not, the PD or the market manager may have to remind the partner of that. The more leg work you do in the beginning with the partner, the easier the relationship is to manage. Always invite the partner to converse with you, and only you, when it comes to programming issues they’d like to discuss.

Hanson: Those issues can be resolved before problems pop up. Have a discussion with your partner to establish where you each see what constitutes “out of bounds”, and come to a consensus. In many cases the differences will be clear between when things are said that are personal and when they’re not. And again, scratch all of that if you choose the unfiltered route. Then I’d just explain to my partner, that unfiltered opinion is what you need to do to win. They can then decide if they want to keep you as a partner at renewal time, and how they’ll treat you in the interim.

What advice can you pass along to other programmers and/or market managers who find themselves in this situation in the future?

Hatch: My advice for all content managers would be to spend time nurturing team relationships and when your hosts do cross whatever boundaries you set, be quick to engage in direct conversation to quickly resolve. And don’t pay more attention and love them up only when they are winning, but be just as present and engaged when the team is struggling.

Zarbano: Any type of censorship of hosts when it comes to professional sports franchises is a killer for the sports talk format. Your hosts can’t effectively do what they do best when they are being restricted because an organization can’t take the heat after making a bad trade. Do whatever you can to avoid this. Your audience is smart and will see right through it.

Mamola: Don’t be afraid to walk in during the break and address any comments immediately. That way you can question/converse about what was said in the moment and get a better more productive outcome following the break for the rest of the show. That also sets the tone for where the program can/cannot go for the remainder of the broadcast. Then whatever follows can be handled with the notion that the comments were addressed immediately.

Hanson: Establish a clear expectation for fair game with all staff before each season. It may change from year to year or it may stay the same. You may have no expectations other than to be completely unfiltered. It takes the guessing out of questioning whether a comment violated the understanding or not.

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Would Local Radio Benefit From Hosting An Annual Upfront?

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How many times have you heard this sentence uttered at conferences or in one of the trades; radio has to do a better job of telling its story. Sounds reasonable enough right? After all, your brands and companies stand a better chance of being more consumed and invested in the more that others know about them.

But what specifically about your brand’s story matters to those listening or spending money on it? Which outlets are you supposed to share that news with to grow your listenership and advertising? And who is telling the story? Is it someone who works for your company and has a motive to advance a professional agenda, or someone who’s independent and may point out a few holes in your strategy, execution, and results?

As professionals working in the media business, we’re supposed to be experts in the field of communications. But are we? We’re good at relaying news when it makes us look good or highlights a competitor coming up short. How do we respond though when the story isn’t told the we want it to? Better yet, how many times do sports/news talk brands relay information that isn’t tied to quarterly ratings, revenue or a new contract being signed? We like to celebrate the numbers that matter to us and our teams, but we don’t spend much time thinking about if those numbers matter to the right groups – the audience and the advertisers.

Having covered the sports and news media business for the past seven years, and published nearly eighteen thousand pieces of content, you’d be stunned if you saw how many nuggets of information get sent to us from industry folks looking for publicity vs. having to chase people down for details or read things on social media or listen to or watch shows to promote relevant material. Spoiler alert, most of what we produce comes from digging. There are a handful of outlets and PR folks who are great, and five or six PD’s who do an excellent job consistently promoting news or cool things associated with their brands and people. Some talent are good too at sharing content or tips that our website may have an interest in.

Whether I give the green light to publish the material or not, I appreciate that folks look for ways to keep their brands and shows on everyone’s radar. Brand leaders and marketing directors should be battling daily in my opinion for recognition anywhere and everywhere it’s available. If nobody is talking about your brand then you have to give them a reason to.

I’m writing this column today because I just spent a day in New York City at the Disney Upfront, which was attended by a few thousand advertising professionals. Though I’d have preferred a greater focus on ESPN than what was offered, I understand that a company the size of Disney with so many rich content offerings is going to have to condense things or they’d literally need a full week of Upfronts to cover it all. They’re also trying to reach buyers and advertising professionals who have interests in more than just sports.

What stood out to me while I was in attendance was how much detail went into putting on a show to inform, entertain, and engage advertising professionals. Disney understands the value of telling its story to the right crowd, and they rolled out the heavy hitters for it. There was a strong mix of stars, executives, promotion of upcoming shows, breaking news about network deals, access to the people responsible for bringing advertising to life, and of course, free drinks. It was easy for everyone in the room to gain an understanding of the company’s culture, vision, success, and plans to capture more market share.

As I sat in my seat, I wondered ‘why doesn’t radio do this on a local level‘? I’m not talking about entertaining clients in a suite, having a business dinner for a small group of clients or inviting business owners and agency reps to the office for a rollout of forthcoming plans. I’m talking about creating an annual event that showcases the power of a cluster, the stars who are connected to the company’s various brands, unveiling new shows, promotions and deals, and using the event as a driver to attract more business.

Too often I see our industry rely on things that have worked in the past. We assume that if it worked before there’s no need to reinvent the wheel for the client. Sometimes that’s even true. Maybe the advertiser likes to keep things simple and communicate by phone, email or in-person lunch meetings. Maybe a creative powerpoint presentation is all you need to get them to say yes. If it’s working and you feel that’s the best way forward to close business, continue with that approach. There’s more than one way to reach the finish line.

But I believe that most people like being exposed to fresh ideas, and given a peak behind the curtain. The word ‘new’ excites people. Why do you think Apple introduces a new iPhone each year or two. We lose sight sometimes of how important our brands and people are to those not inside the walls of our offices. We forget that whether a client spends ten thousand or ten million dollars per year with our company, they still like to be entertained. When you allow business people to feel the excitement associated with your brand’s upcoming events, see the presentations on a screen, and hear from and interact with the stars involved in it, you make them feel more special. I think you stand a better chance of closing deals and building stronger relationships that way.

Given that many local clusters have relationships with hotels, theaters, teams, restaurants, etc. there’s no reason you can’t find a central location, and put together an advertiser appreciation day that makes partners feel valued. You don’t have to rent out Pier 36 like Disney or secure the field at a baseball stadium to make a strong impression. We show listeners they’re valued regularly by giving away tickets, cash, fan appreciation parties, etc. and guess what, it works! Yes there are expenses involved putting on events, and no manager wants to hear about spending money without feeling confident they’ll generate a return on investment. That said, taking calculated risks is essential to growing a business. Every day that goes by where you operate with a ‘relying on the past’ mindset, and refuse to invest in growth opportunities, is one that leaves open the door for others to make sure your future is less promising.

There are likely a few examples of groups doing a smaller scaled version of what I’m suggesting. If you’re doing this already, I’d love to hear about it. Hit me up through email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com. By and large though, I don’t see a lot of must-see, must-discuss events like this created that lead to a surplus of press, increased relationships, and most importantly, increased sales. Yet it can be done. Judging from some of the feedback I received yesterday talking to people in the room, it makes an impression, and it matters.

I don’t claim to know how many ad agency executives and buyers returned to the office from the Disney Upfront and reached out to sign new advertising deals with the company. What I am confident in is that Disney wouldn’t invest resources in creating this event nor would other national groups like NBC, FOX, CBS, WarnerMedia, etc. if they didn’t feel it was beneficial to their business. Rather than relying on ratings and revenue stories that serve our own interests, maybe we’d help ourselves more by allowing our partners and potential clients to experience what makes our brands special. It works with our listeners, and can work with advertisers too.

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Takeaways From The NAB Show and Six Days in Las Vegas

“I’m certainly not afraid to be critical but my enthusiasm for the NAB Show was elevated this year.”

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Six days on the road can sometimes be exhausting. Six days in Las Vegas, and it’s guaranteed. That was my world last week, as I along with more than fifty thousand people headed to sin city to take in the 2022 NAB Show.

The event didn’t draw as many as it had in the past, but after two years of inactivity due to the pandemic, it was good to be back. Judging from some of the vendors I talked to, the sessions I attended, and the feedback I received from folks I met with, though far from perfect, it was a solid return for an important event. Seeing people interact, celebrate others, and talk about ways to improve the business was a positive reminder of the world being closer to the normal of 2019 than the normal of 2020-2021. The only negative from the week, the consistent failure of Uber to appear in the right place at the right time. But that had zero to do with the NAB.

It feels like whenever I attend industry conferences, there are two different type of reviews that follow. Some writers attend the show and see the glass half full. Others see the glass half empty. I’m certainly not afraid to be critical but my enthusiasm was elevated this year. Maybe it was because BSM was a media partner or maybe it was due to the show not happening for years and just being happy to be among friends, peers, and clients and operate like normal. Either way, my glass was definitely half full.

For those who see events this way, it’s likely they’ll remember the numerous opportunities they had to create and reestablish relationships. They’ll also recall the access to different speakers, sessions, products, and the excellent research shared with those in attendance. The great work done by the BFOA to recognize industry difference makers during their Wednesday breakfast was another positive experience, as was the Sunday night industry gathering at The Mayfair Supper Club.

Included in the conference were sessions with a number of industry leaders. Radio CEO’s took the stage to point out the industry’s wins and growth, credit their employees, and call out audio competitors, big tech, and advertisers for not spending more with the industry. When David Field, Bob Pittman, Ginny Morris and Caroline Beasley speak, people listen. Though their companies operate differently, hearing them share their views on the state of the business is important. I always learn something new when they address the room.

But though a lot of ground gets covered during these interviews, there are a few issues that don’t get talked about enough. For instance, ineffective measurement remains a big problem for the radio business. Things like this shouldn’t happen, but they do. NBC and WarnerMedia took bold steps to address problems with TV measurement. Does radio have the courage to take a similar risk? That’s an area I’d like to see addressed more by higher ups.

I can’t help but wonder how much money we lose from this issue. Companies spend millions for a ratings service that delivers subpar results, and the accountability that follows is often maddening. Given the data we have access to digitally, it’s stunning that radio’s report card for over the air listening is determined by outdated technology. And if we’re going to tell folks that wearables are the missing ingredient for addressing this problem, don’t be shocked if the press that follows is largely negative. The industry and its advertising partners deserve better. So too do the reps at Nielsen who have to absorb the hits, and make the most of a tough situation.

Speaking of advertising, this is another one of those critical areas that deserves another point of view. Case in point, I talked to a few ad agency professionals at the show. Similar to what I’ve heard before, they’re tired of hearing radio leaders blame them for the industry’s present position. This has been a hot button topic with executives for years. I often wonder, do we help or hurt ourselves by publicly calling out advertisers and ad agencies? How would you feel if you ran an agency which spent millions on the industry and were told ‘you don’t do enough’? I’m a champion of radio/audio, and am bullish on spoken word’s ability to deliver results for clients, but having attended these shows for nearly seven years, it might be time for a new approach and message. Or maybe it’s time to put one of our CEO’s with one of theirs and have a bigger discussion. Just a thought.

Of the sessions that I attended, I thought Erica Farber’s ‘What Business Are You In?’ was excellent. I especially liked Taja Graham’s presentation on ‘Sharing Your Truth’. I also appreciated Eric Bischoff’s tips on ways to monetize podcasts, and am curious to see how Amazon’s AMP develops moving forward. My favorite session at the show though was “A GPS Session For Your Station’s Car Radio Strategy” led by Fred Jacobs. The insight shared by Joe D’Angelo of Xperi and Steve Newberry & Suzy Schultz of Quu was outstanding. Keeping the car companies on our side is vital to our survival, and how we position ourselves on the dashboard can’t be ignored. Other tech companies and audio operators take it seriously. We must too.

Sessions aside, it was great to check out the VSiN and Blue Wire studios, connect with a bunch of CEO’s, GM’s and Market Manager’s, and visit with Kevin Jones, Joe Fortenbaugh, Jeremiah Crowe, Jon Goulet, Bill Adee, Q Myers, Mike Golic Jr. and Stormy Buonantony. The NFL’s setup for the Draft, and the light show presented at the Bellagio was without a doubt spectacular, plus Stephanie had a chance to say hello to Raiders owner Mark Davis who was inside the back room of a Westgate restaurant where we were having a business lunch meeting. The personal tour we received at the Wynn showed off some of the best suites I’ve seen in Las Vegas, and I was finally able to witness Circa’s Stadium Swim in person, and meet owner Derek Stevens (heck of a suit game). What an outstanding hotel and casino.

Altogether, it was a productive trip. As someone who knows all about building and executing a conference, I appreciate the work that goes into pulling it off. This event is massive, and I have no idea how the NAB makes it happen so flawlessly. This was the first time my head of sales, Stephanie Eads, got to attend the show. She loved it. Our only negative, going back and forth between convention halls can get exhausting. Wisely, Stephanie and Guaranty Media CEO Flynn Foster took advantage of the underground Tesla ride to move from the North hall to the West hall. I wasn’t as bright. If that’s the worst part of the experience though, that’s pretty solid. I look forward to returning in 2023, and attending the NAB’s NYC show this fall.

Additional:

You’ve likely seen posts from BSM/BNM on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn promoting a number of open positions. I’m adding crew to help us pump out more content, and that means we need more editors, news writers, features reporter’s and columnists. If you’re currently involved or previously worked in the industry and love to write about it, send a resume and few writing samples by email to JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.

With that said, I’m excited to announce the addition of Ryan Brown as a weekly columnist for BSM. Ryan is part of ‘The Next Round’ in Birmingham, Alabama, which previously broadcast on WJOX as JOX Roundtable. The show left the terrestrial world in June 2021 to operate as its own entity. Ryan’s knowledge and opinions should provide a boost to the site, and I’m looking forward to featuring his columns every Tuesday. Keep an eye out for it tomorrow, and if you want to check out the guest piece he previously wrote for us, click here.

Demetri Ravanos and I have talked to a lot of people over the past month. More additions will be revealed soon. As always, thanks for the continued support of BSM and BNM.

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Barrett Blogs

Six New Contributors Join Barrett Media

“These latest additions will make our product better. Now the challenge is finding others to help us continue growing.”

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Building a brand starts with a vision. Once that vision is defined, you identify the people who fit what you’re creating, lay out the game plan, and turn them loose to execute. If the product you’re creating is original, fills a gap in the marketplace, and the work turned in by your team is consistently excellent and promoted in the right locations, more times than not you’ll build an audience.

As you grow, the focus turns to studying what your audience wants, needs, and expects from your brand. Certain things you expect to be big turn out small, and the things you saw limited upside in create opportunities you never saw coming. It’s critical to be open minded and ready to pivot while also examining where and when people consume your product, which pieces of content do and don’t matter, and then use that information to direct your team to give folks more of what they value and less of what they don’t. Team members should want that feedback too. It tells them what is and isn’t worth spending their time on.

As I lay all of that out it may sound like I’m talking about a radio station or television operation. These are the things programmers do frequently to make sure the talent, shows, and brand is satisfying the expectations of an audience. But what I’m actually referring to is the brand you’ve made a choice to click on to read this column, Barrett Media.

I’ve mentioned many times on this website how I started this operation by myself, and didn’t expect to have a team of writers involved in it. I was focused on consulting sports stations, sharing my programming views on this website, and as I cranked out content consistently, I discovered others loved the business like I did and had a desire to share their insights too. Rather than sticking to my original plan, I pivoted and increased our content offerings. In return, the audience grew, clients grew, and it’s led this brand to grow beyond my expectations. Now we cover sports AND news media, we run an annual conference, feature a membership program, create podcasts, deliver a daily 8@8 and three times per week BNM Rundown newsletter, and work with various brands and companies across the broadcasting industry. I’m extremely fortunate to be in this position and don’t take it for granted.

But with growth comes change. We’ve been blessed to have a lot of talented people contribute to this site over the years, and as they produce quality work, and others across the industry recognize it, they earn interest for their services. That then leads to some having to sign off for bigger opportunities. I see that as a great positive for the brand. Would it be nice to have more consistency and keep a crew together for years? Of course. I know it’d make Demetri’s life a lot easier. If we’re losing people for the right reasons though, and they’re landing opportunities that help them advance their careers, I’m going to be happy for their success, and trust that we’ll find others to keep us moving forward. The success of our team helps make what we do more attractive to others because it shows that if you do good consistent work here, you can put yourself in a position to attract attention.

Over the past two months, I have challenged Demetri Ravanos to invest more time talking to people about writing for us. Expanding our Barrett News Media roster is a priority. So too is adding quality people to help us improve Barrett Sports Media. BSM has had just under seven years to earn trust with readers. BNM has had less than two. We’ve put out ads on our website and newsletters, social posts, an ad on Indeed, and we’ve reached out directly to people who we’ve felt may be able to add something interesting to our brand. Most of my time is spent listening to stations and talking with clients, but my eyes are always roaming looking for content, and my mind is always thinking about what we can create next to make an impact.

I don’t judge our brand’s success based on clicks, shares, breaking news before other outlets or showing up in the top three listings on Google. I care more effort accuracy, timeliness, passion, consistency, storytelling, insight, and being fair and non-agenda driven. We’ve found our niche being able to tell stories about broadcasting professionals, relaying news, and offering expert knowledge to serve those involved in the broadcasting industry. If we continue to excel doing those things consistently, I’m confident our audience will reward us by reading and sharing more of our content. It’s why we never stop recruiting to keep things fresh.

Having said that, I am excited today to reveal six new additions to the Barrett Media staff. Peter Schwartz is a name and voice many in New York sports radio circles are familiar with. Peter has spent three decades working with various outlets and I’m thrilled to have him writing weekly feature stories for us. Brady Farkas is a talented host and former programmer who now works for WDEV in Burlington, VT. Karl Schoening is a play by play broadcaster who has worked in San Antonio sports radio and has had the added benefit of learning the industry from his talented father Bill who calls Spurs games. Each of them will produce bi-weekly feature stories for the brand. Jason Ence is in Louisville and has written about sports betting for Twin Spires while also working for ESPN 680. He’ll be writing sports betting content for us on a weekly basis. Jasper Jones will help us by adding news stories on Friday’s. He’s presently in Philadelphia learning the business working for Audacy. Last but not least, veteran author, Brewers writer, and former radio professional Jim Cryns comes on board to help us with features on news media professionals.

These six additions make us stronger, and I’m excited to have them join the team to help us add more quality content to the website. That said, we’re not done yet. Demetri and I are still talking with others and I expect to make a few more additions in the weeks ahead. As I said earlier, we want to improve the news media side of our operation and continue adding people to help us make a bigger dent in the sports media space. Broadcast companies invest in us to help them, and I believe it’s important to invest back.

If you’ve programmed, hosted a top rated show, worked in measurement, led a cluster as a GM, sold advertising, represented talent or have worked in digital and feel you have knowledge to share, reach out. I can’t promise we’ll have room but we’re always willing to listen. I’m not worried about whether or not you’ve written for professional publications. Passion, experience and unique insights matter much more than a resume or journalism degree.

I appreciate everyone who takes time to read our content, like and share it on social, and all involved with this brand who help bring it to life each day. The latest additions of Schwartz, Farkas, Schoening, Ence, Jones and Cryns will make our product better. Now the challenge is finding others to help us continue growing.

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