Jason Barrett welcomes the attendees to the 2022 BSM Summit. Planning the Summit was difficult with COVID creating difficulties, but it’s good to be among people again. That leads into the first panel discussion on dealing with the pandemic featuring Spike Eskin, Kevin Graham, Mitch Rosen, and Dave Tepper.
9:10-9:50 – Programming Through a Pandemic presented by
- Spike Eskin – WFAN
- Kevin Graham – KNBR
- Mitch Rosen – 670 The Score
- Dave Tepper – Altitude Sports Radio 92.5
Dave Tepper – Altitude Sports Radio 92.5
We worked with the Nuggets and the Avalanche for inventory, documentary programming, archived games to fill air time. The teams were cooperative in getting us content and it was successful.
The pandemic also presented an opportunity to get creative and see what else we could talk about, let the listeners determine what the discussion was. The hosts who weren’t all in, it didn’t quite work. But we eventually found a way through it, how to talk about sports in a different way.
Digitally, we have been growing. Clients have been responding. Ratings may not say we’re a top 10 station, but we’re top 10 in revenue because of the digital audience and being able to monetize that.
Mitch Rosen – 670 The Score
We played games from the Chicago Cubs’ 2016 playoff run and people enjoyed that. The NBA was cooperative in letting us air Chicago Bulls games, which was perfect because The Last Dance was playing on ESPN, everyone wanted to talk about those games.
We’ve learned to continue pushing the stream. People have responded. They’ve gotten used to it. Get talent to promote it, just like anything that’s over the air. The audience is there.
Spike Eskin – WFAN
Games didn’t work for us. WIP is based on arguing and debate. But the team came together and I used some tricks from my music days. We got everybody at the station to talk about the same topic. Leaning into debate and the central community hub really worked out.
Kevin Graham – KNBR
We’re personality driven, our listeners are used to that, so they responded. Building a staff, learning a market was difficult while relocating. On-air talent was all remote. Communication was crucial, reaching out to staff, talking to people. That’s all you could do.
Talent talking about their lives, what was happening in the world, risked dividing the audience. But giving strong opinions made good content that listeners could relate to and responded.
Digital ratings went through the roof and we had the data to prove it. But Nielsen was telling us no one was listening. They weren’t in their cars, they weren’t going to the office. But we knew people were listening.
9:50-10:25 – Understanding Gen-Z Sports Radio Users presented by
- Leigh Jacobs – NuVoodoo
- Carolyn Gilbert – NuVoodoo
Ratings Prospects Study broke down the audience across Generation X, Millennials, and Generation Z.
Current car audio systems make it more difficult to find AM radio. For Gen Z, easier to connect to a device and get to the content they want. To reach that audience, programmers have to be device-agnostic. Listeners are not devoted to traditional radio, legacy media.
Participation in sports is important for Gen Z listeners. Playing basketball or video gaming is reflected in the content they listen to and seek out. NBA, in particular, is big among this age group. In local markets, talking about your team and its players, gets strong support.
For connected cars increasingly popular with younger listeners, stations should get car dealer clients to pre-install apps so consumers don’t have to worry about finding content, navigating the dial or menu.
Social media has shown that younger listeners, Gen Z, are willing to find content anywhere they can find it. They’re the first to know what you’re doing.
Gen Z is spending much more time with podcasts, and the No. 1 place to find a podcast is in their car, using Bluetooth and the aux port. They haven’t interacted with a radio in their lifetime. Gen Z does not see a difference between podcasts and radio.
The biggest problem for Gen Z: Content they don’t connect to. They’ll tune out or quickly move on to something else they like. Casual fans connect to the NBA, NFL, and college football. Women’s sports are growing in popularity, though audience is still male-dominated.
Talk to the audience to find out what topics are important to them. Bad topics are worse than playing commercials to Gen Z listeners. Show up at events for live broadcasts, something podcasts can’t do. Be among the people, be a presence on social media.
10:25-11:00 – The State of Media Advertising presented by
- Gordon Borrell – Borrell Associates
- Steven Goldstein – Amplifi Media
Steven Goldstein – Amplifi Media
Sports radio listeners are 37 percent more likely to be podcast consumers compared to the average American. 91 percent of sports listeners are likely to listen to sports podcasts. Those in the sports content business have an advantage over other formats.
Radio has to carve out space in digital advertising because TV, newspapers, local publications are producing podcasts too and going after those clients.
Gordon Borrell – Borrell Associates
The overall message from data is that the advertising world is changing. Businesses are hiring people to handle their media because advertising is on Google and Facebook. Only the big brands are currently breaking through as exceptions.
Messaging needs to be broader because there are so many more opportunities available now. But 95 percent of those opportunities are in the digital space, not in traditional media like radio, newspapers, and television.
Radio interprets the digital opportunity as podcasting. Stations need to realize they’re in the information business in what they provide for listeners, for advertising to reach them, not just talk sports or report news. The Gen Z audience is too media-savvy for traditional forms of advertising and can be reached through podcasting, video, social media, even audio streams. So radio sellers must focus on digital — video, targeted banners — with current and new customers.
After a quick break, the 2022 BSM Summit returns for its next session.
11:15-11:50 – Kings of Content presented by
- Fred Toucher – 98.5 The Sports Hub
- Mike Felger – 98.5 The Sports Hub
Jason Barrett congratulates Mike Felger on Felger & Mazz winning the inaugural Mike and the Mad Dog Award that recognizes sports radio’s best local show.
Mike Felger – 98.5 The Sports Hub
When The Sports Hub first came on, having non-Boston fans allowed talent to take different angles on local stories, rather than just cheer on the city’s teams and athletes. We reset the topics — Patriots, Bruins, Celtics, Red Sox — constantly for a fervent audience that’s constantly tuning in, many in their car. Whatever of those four teams or topics is most important, we’re talking about that.
We take a lot of calls, but I like to do it quick, keep it fresh so it doesn’t linger. We come at sports with a more tabloid approach, having both worked at the Boston Herald. We’re not radio guys, we’re not broadcasters. But we can drive a sports segment. I don’t do second and third sports topics. I try to stick to the top two stories of the day. We don’t worry about keeping it fresh. It’s fresh for the guy getting in his car at five o’ clock.
I hate guests. Guests slow us down. We used to have Cam Neely, he got so sick of our shit that he quit. We don’t bring on beat guys. I hate doing phone interviews because the phone usually cuts out. If we do talk to people, we like to bring them in the studio.
Embrace debate? – We don’t talk beforehand. We have an email chain, but are always saying “Don’t talk, don’t talk.” Because, as you know, it’s so hard to go through it the second time. Tony and I don’t argue much. We tend to agree. I think the debate stuff can be overrated. But taking on fans, like the Baby Patriot fans, the Celtics fans we call “the Green Teamers,” that’s where the arguing comes in.
Fred Toucher – 98.5 The Sports Hub
We don’t reset as much on our show. Coming from rock radio probably influences that. But we don’t do take-driven radio, we don’t take phone calls. Mike’s show works much better in the afternoon as people are into the day. We have a much more passive audience in the morning.
We do a lot of stupid shit. Drunk fans. People in their driveway staring at a squirrel. I can’t do four hours of serious sports content like Mike. If we were on in the afternoon, we wouldn’t do nearly as well.
The six o’ clock hour is just nonsense, whatever is on our minds. Then we’ll get into the news of the day. We’ll have guests, but they have to be good on the air. The way our show works, Rich will bring something up and I will react to it.
The importance of sharing your life – I had to explain that I was going away. I was going to rehab. But I try to censor a lot of that now. My kids are older. But I was going through a bad time. We were at the height of COVID. Things weren’t going well at home. You have a relationship with the listeners and I found that extremely helpful when I came back. My suggestion is to not overshare on the air. That’s a mistake. I’ve put the brakes on that.
11:50-12:15 – BSM Summit Awards Ceremony presented by
The Champion’s Award – Adam Schefter, ESPN
Adam Schefter’s efforts in raising money for Jeff Dickerson’s son, Parker after he passed away, reaching out to the media community, to generate a tremendous amount of support is recognized.
Schefter was unable to attend the BSM Summit because he’s covering the NFL Draft Combine, but thanked those who donated on Parker’s behalf via video. The breathtaking number of donations was an example of the good social media can do, he said. Schefter dedicates the award to them.
The Jeff Smulyan Award – Traug Keller, former SVP of ESPN Radio
A video tribute to Jeff Smulyan includes many personalities from the radio world who credit him for creating the sports talk format at WFAN. The award in his honor goes to someone who has led, taken risks, and produced results in the industry. Smulyan then takes the stage to introduce Traug Keller, joking that he objected to Keller being chosen because he doesn’t work in radio.
“There is no one who is more deserving of this award than Traug Keller,” Smulyan said. Leading ESPN Audio, Keller expanded the brand beyond radio to television (via simulcast) and podcasting, creating a product that has made a major impact on the sports audio industry.
Accepting the Smulyan Award, Keller notes the “great seats” he’s had during his career at ESPN and praises the many people he’s worked with who have helped him in his success. Keller makes a comparison to this season’s Providence College basketball team and how he’s noticed that they’ve won because they enjoy working with each other. It’s something that applies to his career and something we all can learn from in our respective endeavors.
The 2022 BSM Summit takes a one-hour lunch, and then returns for the second half, led off by a conversation with ESPN’s top boss, Jimmy Pitaro.
1:30-2:15 – The Day 1 Keynote Conversation presented by
- Jimmy Pitaro – ESPN Chairman
Jason Barrett begins by asking Pitaro by asking when the Derek Jeter Cast starts and if Tom Brady will join ESPN’s NFL talent crew. Pitaro won’t comment on exact moves, but points out that the network’s inventory of NFL telecasts is increasing with its new rights deal, including more regular-season and playoff games, in addition to two upcoming Super Bowls.
The state of ESPN+ – Pitaro says the ESPN app is crucial to the network, the jewel of its content. It provides access to ESPN+ and ESPN Audio. ESPN+ is driven by live events, including exclusive UFC and La Liga events. The network will continue pursuing more rights for ESPN+, in addition to its studio shows.
In his view, ESPN needs to boost its marketing strategy for the 30 for 30 catalog, which he feels not enough people know is available on ESPN+. Pitaro believes 30 for 30 needs to be promoted by Disney along with Marvel and Star Wars content.
The future of alternate broadcasts – The “ManningCast” is a rising tide. ESPN’s internal data shows viewers switch back and forth between the regular Monday Night Football broadcast and the “ManningCast.” Golf, college football, and UFC are among the other sports that will get alternate broadcasts as part of ESPN’s deal with Omaha Productions.
“Serve the sports fan any time, anywhere.” Alternate broadcasts are a big part of ESPN’s future.
ESPN’s relationship with the NFL – Pitaro is proud of the new rights deal with the league that’s increased the inventory available to viewers and also provided the opportunity for flex scheduling that didn’t exist with previous deals. But relationships can always be improved, and ESPN will continue trying to do that. (He believes the narrative that ESPN needed to “fix” things with the NFL when he took over as the network’s president was overblown.)
Pitaro isn’t worried about over-saturation of the NFL product. If Amazon does well with Thursday Night Football, in Pitaro’s view, that helps ESPN and Monday Night Football. There was concern years ago that there was too much NFL product being offered and maybe there was some fan fatigue. But that no longer appears to be a question and ESPN is in a good position to benefit — and continue to benefit from its relationship to the NFL.
ESPN Radio’s constantly changing lineup – Stability is important. Listeners and programmers want to know that a show, a lineup of talent, will be consistent for a long term. The network feels good about its current lineup, that it’s close to stability. The deal with Good Karma Brands will help with local programming, which is still a priority for the network in addition to national content.
ESPN should be present on all platforms, traditional radio and podcasts. Terrestrial radio is as important now as it was 30 years ago, when ESPN Radio launched. It’s no different than ESPN is doing with linear television and streaming with ESPN+. Parallel paths is the philosophy.
The state of television measurement – ESPN will not shift away from Nielsen to measure ratings. The network signed up for the NielsenOne product. But there needs to be cross-platform data. The audience has to be tracked and data provided to advertisers through a number of services, not just one. ESPN will benefit from multiple partners.
2:15-2:50 – Inside The Corner Office presented by
- Chris Oliviero – Audacy New York
- Mike Thomas – Audacy Boston
- Joe Bell – Beasley Media Group Philadelphia
- Scott Sutherland – Bonneville International
Chris Oliviero – Audacy New York
Lessons from the pandemic – Losing revenue, losing listeners during the pandemic was humbling. I hope we take that humility into what we’re doing now and into the future. Not panicking may have been the most important lesson learned.
The importance of play-by-play for a station – Play-by-play deals can’t be made emotionally. Think of it logically. Radio play-by-play is much different from television play-by-play. Hardly any play-by-play airs during radio’s most important times, so the majority of content budget can’t be spent on something that doesn’t broadcast during non-prime hours.
Retaining and hiring talent – Don’t wait until the last minute to renew a contract. If you know the talent is special, why play that game of chicken? Don’t run the risk of someone coming along and snatching that talent away. And don’t risk hurting relationships.
Mike Thomas – Audacy Boston
Lessons from the pandemic – The pandemic helped digital growth tremendously. Our listeners are not in their cars anymore, which was their No. 1 place for hearing us. With smart phones and smart speakers, there’s been a major change in the audience.
Retaining and hiring talent – As there are more options for listeners, there are many more options for talent too. Some of the most talented guys are doing podcasts now. If you like the talent, growing that relationship over a number of years is vital.
Joe Bell – Beasley Media Group Philadelphia
Lessons from the pandemic – Reaching out to clients during the pandemic, asking them how we could help, strengthened our relationships with advertisers.
The importance of play-by-play for a station – Play-by-play begins by having a true relationshp with the team whose broadcasts we’re pursuing. Play-by-play is important to the success of a sports station, as we’re seeing with James Harden joining the Philadelphia 76ers. It’s really driving sports talk in our market.
2:50-3:25 – The BIG 12 presented by
- Raj Sharan – 104.3 The Fan
- Sandy Cohen – Union Broadcasting
- Ryan Hurley – 98.7 ESPN NY
- Rod Lakin – Sports Radio WIP
How did programmers extend their brand, generate engagement to take advantage of interest or provide a boost during slow times, and create stronger relationships with advertisers?
Raj Sharan – 104.3 The Fan
We launched campaigns with the Avalanche and Nuggets, both of whom were great with cooperation and showed interest in reaching fans online. Video became vital to creating these campaigns. We could create video around our regular radio shows, but also produce original programming for the website, but also Facebook and Twitter. But on-air talent is important. You really need the right host and we had that with Rachel Vigil.
Sandy Cohen – Union Broadcasting
Campaigns are built around events, such as the Kansas City Chiefs season. That included video studio programming. Listeners and viewers responded, and so did advertisers when they toured the studio and saw the online product. We can create a space for a client to be an anchor sponsor. But finding the right sponsor who sees a potential audience is key.
Ryan Hurley – 98.7 ESPN NY
Our jobs are to entertain and to create revenue. Events have helped attract listeners and clients. Some events were exclusives for listeners who won spots on the air. Spaces are created for clients in the campaigns.
Weekly paid guests also have live appearances in their deals. For instance, Sam Darnold (when he played for the Jets) did a private Zoom during COVID. Technology created opportunities to get creative with promotions, even when people couldn’t meet in public. Such events became in-person once it was safe, as we did with Michael Kay.
Rod Lakin – Sports Radio WIP
A virtual tailgate experience was successful for us when I was at Arizona Sports. Exclusive Zoom calls with on-air hosts and special NFL guests. Analysts could come by and join the tailgate. Listeners could win prize packs. Sponsors responded as listeners showed interest and support.
The end of the Philadelphia Eagles’ season created an opportunity after the Super Bowl. Fans were upset and wanted to talk about who the new quarterback could be. “94 WIP Picks the QB” involved listeners and staff making their pitches for the Eagles’ next quarterback. Fans could vote in a poll online. A particular show could be centered on a particular candidate, like Aaron Rodgers. And it built toward Angelo Cataldi making his pick at the end of the campaign. It worked well in generating interest during a typically slow time.
A brief timeout for attendees to recharge, and then we’re back to close up Day 1 of the Summit with two more excellent sessions.
3:40-4:15 – Planting Your Flag In a Digital World presented by
- Kevin Jones – Blue Wire
- Logan Swaim – The Volume
- Carl Scott – Meadowlark Media
- Phil Mackey – Hubbard Radio
Carl Scott – Meadowlark Media
Key to making brand stand out – Authenticity is key in breaking through the noise. Be media-agnostic. The best screen wins. Be efficient with your talent. Not every host or show is suited for every platform. But some, like Dan Le Batard, works across platforms.
Value of live content in an on-demand space – Live events make a precious thing for us. It’s an opportunity for fans to get together, create excitement for the two times a week that Dan does a live show on YouTube. We can also create content around live events, like leading up to the Super Bowl or the national championship game.
When you know something isn’t working – I like to look at weekly downloads, where you should see some increase if something is doing well. Is it moving upward, especially if there are more shows available and people can binge? If people decide they don’t want to listen to more, that’s usually a sign.
Logan Swaim – The Volume
Biggest opportunity to connect with the audience – Barriers to entry have disappeared. In the past, to find talent, you’d have to be an exec who gets tapes. There were steps to follow to discover talent or have talent reach you. Now, with social media, we can find talent much more easily, sometimes almost unintentionally.
Value of live content in an on-demand space – With YouTube and live content, you’re creating appointment television. There’s an immediacy, an excitement behind that. Live also creates a community of online fans who like to talk shit to each other, consume something in real time.
Kevin Jones – Blue Wire
The role of video – We’re finding our most success, discovering talent on Tik Tok. On YouTube, we’re looking more for existing creators, someone who covers Syracuse basketball, as an example, not trying to figure out a fit.
Predictions for sports media content – Amazon, Apple, and Hulu are getting more into national video content because they don’t have a local component. You’re going to see those companies get into live sports in a big way, which they’ve already started. As those large companies snatch up big broadcast rights, that creates spaces to work in for new content.
When you know something isn’t working – We’ve had some projects that we had to take out behind the barn and say goodbye to. Downloads probably tell you, especially early on, if there’s an audience. But we’ve shut some things down when they didn’t do what we hoped.
4:15-4:50 – Finding Diverse Leaders and Influencers presented by
- Pablo Torre – ESPN
- David Roberts – ESPN
- Debbie Brown – Good Karma Brands
As the population becomes less white, local radio stations, on-air talent, and program directors need to reflect that change. More new blood needs to be discovered and hired. Right now, on-air hosts aren’t adjusting with the times. If the audience is changing, programming needs to adapt to the market.
Pablo Torre – ESPN
This is not a profession I ever thought I would be in. People would hear I worked at ESPN and assumed I worked in tech support, not writing or on the air. But don’t make diverse hires just because you feel guilty. There are plenty of candidates out there who don’t need that.
I’m earnestly grateful to hear from people who tell me that I’ve shown them that this is a possible career for them, which is something they didn’t think before. Every time I get that kind of message from a young person, it means the world to me.
David Roberts – ESPN
Diversity in radio – There’s room for improvement. The numbers underscore the opportunity available. Diversity is not just something done to check a box. It’s something that can help your business. Commitment to diversity requires that the net for applicants be broad.
Using Get Up as an example, it drew an audience of 15 percent African American at first. But the numbers told us the audience was 45 percent. So we had to change and as more faces of color got on those shows — the Stephen A. Smiths, the Marcus Spears — the audience grew. People want to see people like them on the screen.
Looking for talent in local markets – Instead of just going to minority conferences or sending minority talent there to recruit, attend those conferences. You need to go and recruit, meet the people who could make a future impact. Maybe that talent won’t resonate, but the playing field has been leveled and then you can make decisions the way you did before.
Debbie Brown – Good Karma Brands
On prioritizing representation – In the past, hiring might be based on who you’d like to have a beer with. That doesn’t apply anymore. We’re doing well, but we can do better. Representation has to be at the top. The table has to be bigger.
We’re in the process of updating our internship program. Previously, it was an unpaid internship program but that really limits the number of candidates who can apply. So we’re changing to a paid program to attract a greater number of applicants. And we’re expanding the pool to community colleges, areas where we may not have heard from before, not just the largest universities.
When we identify a candidate, we have them talk to a number of other people in that organization, usually four other people, and look at them for a variety of roles to see if they could be good for other jobs they may not have considered. It’s also important that the people they talk to are diverse, to open everyone up to a variety of experience.
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.