Knowing what your audience wants is so important for a radio station. But not every brand puts the time or resources into doing research. It’s common in radio to assume we know what listeners want, but people’s tastes change, their work schedules switch, and their entertainment options increase. One day radio’s vital, the next it’s less necessary.
One of my biggest pet peeves with our ratings system, is that it influences how many of us think about what does and doesn’t work. I’ve seen bad shows earn numbers, and good ones come up short, but because this is the way we decide whether or not something is good, we ignore a lot of other evidence that tells us if something truly is good or not.
Just the other day I heard a 3 person show execute a 26-minute interview in the 2nd segment of their show. The guest’s call dropped, they killed time to get him back on, and the result was a less than stellar listening experience. This was done by a good show too, one with strong ratings. Good numbers or not, turning the show over to a guest for 2 segments who isn’t breaking news and isn’t a major name isn’t wise, especially when 3 hosts haven’t had a chance yet to offer their opinions and establish the content. But hey the ratings are good right?
Unless you know every single person carrying a meter in your market, and you study their daily habits, you really don’t know why they put your radio station on or turn it off. You ‘assume’ you know what works based on the trends you see in your reports from Nielsen, but the way 4-5 people with a meter use a station isn’t always a true reflection of what an entire market wants. Often times your digital story is much more interesting.
If you haven’t noticed by now, I’m active on Twitter. I like the platform a lot. It’s a great place to learn about sports news, engage in conversation during games, or just flat out laugh at silly things people post. Like many things in this world, it isn’t perfect. You have to put up with out of bounds comments from faceless profiles and people using names like StretchNuts09, but otherwise it has a lot of positives.
Given the nature of the content we produce at BSM and who our most avid readers are, Twitter has been a great resource for connecting with people who share similar interests. Many turn to my profile for information and opinions on the sports media business, and it’s helped some improve at their craft, others land jobs, and forced a few who disagree to consider a different point of view.
But aside from that, Twitter can also come in handy for researching the audience. In years past some would discredit the results from social media because there was this perception that people on social media were from another universe, and drastically different than the everyday listener. As the years have gone by though, that viewpoint has started to change.
Every research project, whether thru phone calls, emails, online surveys, in person focus groups, or social media platforms, isn’t 100% accurate. If you want proof, go look at the data prior to the last election. So much depends on who’s involved in the study, how the questions are written, and when the project takes place. For example, if you asked baseball fans about their excitement for the sport in November, you’d get a much different reaction than if you asked them in April.
If you follow me on Twitter (@SportsRadioPD) you’ve likely noticed we’ve been running more poll questions over the past month. My social media director Clarissa Magliochetti has been leading the charge, and we’ve made it a daily focus to engage with people because A) it’s called ‘social’ media and B) knowing what people like and dislike and the reasons behind their feelings is helpful to making brands better.
Yesterday, we ran a poll that I thought might generate a few more responses than usual, but I had no idea it would snowball the way that it did. We asked ‘What do you value least when listening to a sports radio morning show?’ The four choices were Callers, Guests, Sports Updates, and News-Traffic-Weather. Nearly 22,000 voted on the question, and the biggest tune out according to the results was Callers.
First, I want to thank everyone in the format who took a second to hit the RT button to help us. I chose these 4 selections because they’re additions to a show based on the preferences of a host or program director. They’re not a mandatory part of delivering a sports radio show. Some folks listed commercials and hosts as their main reasons for tuning out, and I expected to hear those opinions, but the difference with those choices is that they’re non-negotiable. Without commercials, the station doesn’t exist. Without a host, you have no show.
Some also said they didn’t like non-sports conversations without a purpose, especially ones that enter the political arena. There were also remarks about being turned off by arguing and yelling, fake hot takes, gambling talk and a few others. I understand that some will exit a show when those things come up, but much of it depends on the host and their interests. Someone with a passion for betting is going to bring it up on their show, and portions of the audience will like it, others won’t. Same goes for non-sports stuff, hot takes, parody songs, and political commentaries.
There are a number of different things to takeaway from these results, but to be clear, just because the feedback says one issue is a bigger tune out than others, doesn’t mean it works this way in every market. What resonates in the Northeast is different than what works in the Midwest, and what works there isn’t the same as it is in the North, South or West Coast.
What this poll should make obvious is that people aren’t in love as much these days with shows being driven by the audience. The sports format’s first 20 years were built on turning the airwaves over to listeners to voice their thoughts, but often shows lacked direction and focus. With social media, texting, and podcasting a bigger part of our lives now, interaction is still important, but it’s done differently.
Another key factor is that younger people have less desire to talk on the phone. The majority of voices you hear call into sports talk shows tend to be older, and often times they call back a few times per week. Each time that same individual hits the air, it creates the impression that there isn’t a lot of interest in calling the show because the same person can get thru multiple times. Listeners under 35 are less tolerant and loyal than those of us who are older and have grown up with the format, and younger hosts tend to be less adamant about needing calls than older hosts who’ve made it part of their routine for years.
In defense of caller participation, I do believe there is more entertainment value in hearing someone express a passionate opinion or outlandish thought than listening to a host read it thru a text or tweet. It can also lead to a great reaction from a personality which can make the show more entertaining. But if the audience has to sit thru 3-4 meaningless calls that bring the show to a screeching halt just to potentially get that one great payoff, they’ll lose interest and tune out.
That said, this format is called Sports TALK right? We should want our fans to feel part of the content experience. The good news is that there are many ways to do this besides slowing down the pace of your shows, and making your hosts sound like telephone operators inside a call center. For starters, you can set up a Google Voice number and use social media and the airwaves to encourage leaving messages. You can turn to your social platforms to encourage people to leave video or audio responses via YouTube. There are also cool ways to utilize your app such as what 101 ESPN in St. Louis does with their Mic Drop feature.
The advantage to doing it this way is it gives you a chance to edit out the bad stuff and direct your show. Maybe you use the audience reactions in a produced return or station promo. Perhaps you strategically incorporate them into an open segment as a counter or supporting piece to the points being made by the host. Making people feel part of the show is wise, but there’s a difference between ‘interaction’ and ‘calls’.
We live now in a world where people communicate differently. As a host, you may get an adrenaline rush when you see six lines blinking, but that doesn’t mean as much as it used to. Depending on the market, most will tell you 1-5% of your audience call, the rest just listen. You may be excited to hear from someone because you feel it validates your content choice, and gives you a sense that people are listening, but if adding them to the discussion tunes out the other 95% is that a smart choice?
I remember a host coming into my office a while ago and being fired up after receiving 60 calls during his show. It made him feel like the audience was into his content. I then reminded him that the market had 7 million people in it and based on my math that meant that we didn’t get a call from 6,999,940 people. My comments were no doubt a buzzkill for someone who was excited about what they had just experienced, but I wanted them to understand that a show’s success wasn’t based on how many times we made the phone ring.
When it comes to guests, I think they add value BUT what should be taken into consideration is how long they’re on. Who says you have to do a 10-minute interview? Why not 3-minutes, 4-minutes or 5-minutes? Before you tell me ‘JB you can’t do an interview in that length of time‘, save it. That’s BS. Put your TV on and you’ll see hosts do it every day. It comes down to having a game plan and asking the 2-3 questions that matter right now. Nobody needs a history lesson with a guest every time someone of significance appears on your show.
Booking a guest also doesn’t mean they have to be on 10 seconds after the music hits and stay until the end of the segment. You can start with talking about the topic before bringing them on, and leave a minute or two to share what stood out to you from the conversation. If you’re up against a break at the end of the segment, you can also hold over your reaction to it, and spend 2-3 minutes on what stood out before moving into your next topic.
Often I’ll hear a show start a segment with a guest, keep them 10-12 minutes, say goodbye and then tease the next segment which has no connection to the one they just did. It leaves the audience with no insight on what the host thinks of the subject or any of the responses given by the guest. Isn’t the goal to gain insight and then explain what we think about it?
Another issue that more hosts should think about, is when the interview takes place. In mornings, people are less ready for a lengthy discussion than they are later in the day. We also should be able to separate what we want from what the audience wants. I’ll hear hosts mention how much they hate interviews yet when they promote their next day’s show on social media, they use the guest as the hook. Why? Because it’ll produce interest. They just don’t have confidence that they’ll be able to consistently deliver big names or timely people. The issue there isn’t whether a guest adds value, it’s needing to do a better job of adding people of substance.
Here’s another way to think about it. Let’s say you were in NY this week and you had Phil Simms on to discuss the Daniel Jones-Eli Manning saga. Let’s say Phil’s energy wasn’t great, 7 of the minutes he was on he didn’t say anything significant, but during 3 of those minutes he delivered a strong opinion on the issue. Most shows would go to break bitching that Phil had low energy, didn’t say a lot, and reinforce why they don’t do interviews, but what they don’t ask themselves is ‘how can we use that good portion of the discussion to advance this story throughout this show and the others?’
If I told you that the interview segment you did would produce a zero but it’d lead to 8-9 higher rated segments on your station the rest of the day, a surge in podcast downloads, promos and social graphics built to highlight the content you created, and local/national media outlets using portions of the discussion to make their own content more interesting, would you still say Phil had no value?
I’m not saying you should or shouldn’t put guests on. That depends on the host, station, market, and importance of the guest. My point is, if you’re going to book a guest on your show, you should be thinking about whether or not they’re important enough to be discussed multiple times throughout the day on your station. If you’re booking someone who the majority of your audience don’t know, and they can’t add anything new to the day’s top stories, then you’re filling air time instead of maximizing it.
Next is the subject of Sports Updates, and I’ve said before on this site that I don’t think they provide a ton of value to a sports station. The content is very repetitive, and if you took away the :10 second sponsor tag or Update Desk title sponsorship, nobody in sales would be bitching about not having them on the radio station. It’s strictly a marketing tool to push your content and sponsor mentions.
I do love that you get the benefit of additional voices in the room as a result of having an anchor on a show, and there are some who do the job well. A great example is Jerry Recco at WFAN who executes them in a more conversational and entertaining fashion with Boomer and Gio’s morning show. However, many don’t provide more than the obvious stuff. Anyone with a cell phone can find out what time MNF starts, who’s pitching for the Red Sox, and whether or not Jalen Ramsey has been traded. Anything significant is likely going to be mentioned by the host too during the show.
The final one we need to discuss is what many refer to as ‘service elements’. From where I sit, I don’t believe in running News, Traffic or Weather reports on a sports station. In fact, I used to run liners on 101 ESPN in St. Louis and 95.7 The Game in San Francisco that said ‘No Traffic and Weather Together, We Do Sports.’
The exception is if you’re a brand such as WFAN, KNBR, WEEI and they’ve been part of your identity for decades. Unless you’ve created an expectation with the audience that they’re going to hear those things on your air, I don’t see any reason why they’re necessary for a sports station. The News/Talk brands are going to own this position more than a sports station will, and when you put on sports television shows, they do just fine without a bunch of filler content that denies the audience what they want. Radio should be able to do the same, and I know it works because I’ve done it.
The reason these service elements are on is for sales purposes. If we can’t make money though with 12-20 minutes per hour of spots, studio and hotline naming rights, time checks, text lines, play by play assets, podcasts, merchandise, and big name weekly guests who drive appointments, then we have much bigger issues. Sellers won’t like the idea of not having something to sell that’s always been in their toolkit, but if you value the audience’s time, and take into consideration why they use your brand, you’ll find more people happy to have the roadblocks removed than those who are frustrated because something on the station changed.
What we’ve learned from this exercise is that there are a lot of mixed opinions, and pleasing each person is impossible. The results shouldn’t influence you to go the rest of your career never taking a call, but you also shouldn’t dismiss the feedback. When more than 10,000 people tell you in overwhelming fashion that they don’t value something, a smart host and PD pays attention. If your morning show is relying on the audience to call in and do the heavy lifting, you may want to reconsider your approach.
When you look at why people are gravitating more to podcasts, it’s because there’s a premium placed on people’s time. Podcasts don’t overload the audience with less important bullshit. If they can hear 20 great minutes without obstacles or 20-minutes on the radio with constant disruptions, why would they choose your radio station? Nobody is rushing to add updates, calls, and service elements to podcasts. That should tell you something.
People have tremendous passion for sports talk but their expectations are different than they once were. It’s our job to learn what they value, and eliminate the things that stand in the way of a good listening experience. Given the instability of ratings measurement, there are no guarantees that changes will lead to immediate results, but I’d rather listen to my customers and give them what they asked for than ignore it and wish I had listened sooner.
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.