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Sitcoms Not Movies

Jason Barrett

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Anyone who has worked with me over the past 10 years has either heard me utter the term “Sitcoms Not Movies” or they’ve seen something like this displayed inside the air studio. There’s a big reason for that, it’s an approach I believe in. Simply put, it means your audience spends thirty to sixty minutes with you on their commute and it’s your job to provide the content that has the largest local appeal and present it in an entertain way during the two to four segments when they’re with you.trafficjam

If you’re really good as an air talent or you’re fortunate due to a traffic jam, maybe the listener sticks around for an extra 15-30 minutes. If everything though goes the way it normally does, you’ve got two to four segments to connect and entertain them and then they’re gone.

Sometimes broadcasters have an internal feeling that they’ve done something earlier in the show and don’t want to repeat it or they worry that someone listening is going to say “you already discussed that topic earlier” and what needs to be remembered here is that this is the ultimate compliment. If they’re listening that long, that’s not the norm. Those are the types of listeners who we label as P1’s and we want to hug them and take them out for a beer because they are loyal and invested in us.

The majority though aren’t doing that and they instead use your radio station in smaller doses. I can’t stress enough how important it is to resist the “we already covered that” mentality because the reality is that the majority of your audience doesn’t know you did it.man late looking to his watch

As years have passed by and we’ve seen the ratings system shift from a diary world to the game of PPM, we’ve learned that people listen more frequently to radio but they spend less time per occasion. We broadcast in a “what have you done for me lately” world and if your content isn’t crisp and on the right subject matter when the listener puts the dial on, good luck getting them to come back.

When I hear a producer or a host tell me “we’ll bury this smaller story in the back part of the hour, it’s only 5 minutes” it makes me crazy. First of all, is it really that important for the audience? Secondly, if it’s worth 5 minutes of talk time, then shouldn’t it be good enough to be placed anywhere in the show? Third, what are you telling the listener who’s only opportunity to listen is now and you’re displaying your C-D list material?

bullriderI once had a situation in St. Louis when a producer booked a bull rider for a show. I was driving and knew it had little value to the audience so I called up and asked “why did we book this?“. The producer said “bull riding is coming this weekend to the Scott Trade Center and they’re going to have twenty thousand people at the show so I figured it would be good to get in on it now while it’s hot“.

It would have been one thing if our personality was involved in the event riding the bull and we were going to include the audience in the bit, but that unfortunately wasn’t the way we approached it.

As a result my response was less than calm and went something like this “If we’re going to do this type of radio and base our content on what sells tickets at the Scott Trade Center, then I want the director for The Wiggles on Ice on Monday’s show since they’re coming to town and the tickets are selling out fast…..then on Tuesday I want the director for the Sponge Bob Square Pants show since that’s selling fast too, and then on Wednesday, we should find out if we can get a clown from the circus on the air because they’re in town for 3 days and all 3 shows are expected to be sold out”.

The point of that tirade wasn’t to show who was boss or to beat someone down for a mistake, instead it was to remind my host and producer that we can’t give away quarter hours of air time. Listeners don’t have to listen to us, they choose to listen to us. That stops though if we give them less than stellar content.carradio

This example is 7-8 years old and the competition for people’s time has only increased since then. Today we’re fighting tooth and nail as an industry to keep audience’s listening to what we do while every other outlet pops up with a new offering and less clutter so the response to competition can’t be to provide a less than outstanding listening experience on material that has little to no value.

While the content selection is subjective to PD, Host and Producer, we’ve seen enough data come in to get a better understanding of what works in our markets. The PPM system is far from perfect (I’ll save that for a future column) but it does allow PD’s to see what content is consumed best. All one has to do is track a show and look at the quarter hour performances for that material and you can see if it moves the needle or not. That’s one thing I like a lot about this system.encoclock

That said, the one thing that blows me away is how so many people in our industry still don’t understand the ratings system and what they have to do to receive ratings credit. This system has been in place for roughly eight years and if we’re in the business of generating ratings and revenue then I don’t understand how someone who’s livelihood is attached to the results of the game doesn’t know how it works.

Fair or unfair, this is our report card, and not delivering results can lead to unemployment. If my future was at risk or heck, if I was having great success, I’d certainly want to know what was going on. Since the details are fuzzy to many, let me lay out for you what the rules are:

  • #1 – Ratings measurement is captured each hour in 4 quarter-hours – :00-:15, :15-:30, :30-:45, :45-60
  • #2 – You must receive 5 minutes of listening inside one of those quarter hours in order to obtain ratings credit
  • #3 – The 5 minutes of listening does not have to be consecutive (EX: they can listen to you for 3 minutes, leave for 10 minutes and then come back for 2 and you still get credit)
  • #4 – If the listener listens for 4 minutes during the quarter hour, you receive zero credit – if they listen for 5 or more minutes, you get credit for the full quarter hour
  • #5 – If a listener listens to you from :12-:15 and :15-:17 which is a total of 5 minutes, you get ZERO credit for both quarter hours – remember you must get 5 minutes in the quarter hours listed above

If you work in the industry and you look at the way your station’s clocks lay out, you should see segments that play inside these windows and give you the most amount of talk time possible to allow you to gain credit. Keep in mind, some quarter hours in your market may have less audience or less listening time than others and we do still have to air commercials and take care of the bottom line so there’s always a strategic game being played in the background. Regardless, you always need to deliver 5 minutes of listening inside of those quarter hour windows.

stopSo if people listen for short periods of time and we know that the challenge to obtain credit comes down to capturing 5 minutes of listening in a quarter hour, then you should think about how that approach is implemented in your show.

Most hosts and producers go into a planning session feeling like they have to create 10-12 topics and have something brand new all the time to keep themselves and the audience entertained and that’s not true. The only people in the market who know the show plan each day are the producer and host and sometimes the PD and Board Operator.

Your audience comes to you looking to hear your opinion on the content items that appeal most in your market. They want to be updated on what took place today and they want to know what you think of the information. They don’t care about history lessons, they don’t care about what you did during the first hour of the show and they don’t care about what you’re going to do next hour – they care about what you’re doing right now and whether or not it’s important to them!

lbj623Let’s take a look for example at one of the most popular stories in our format over the past 2 weeks – LeBron James’ decision to leave the Miami Heat and return home to Cleveland. If I stopped by your radio station on Monday after the news came out, I’d expect to know what you thought about the story. If you weren’t serving me your opinion on this story, good luck getting me to stick around for 5 minutes.

You can tell me you’re in a non-NBA market, you can tell me you talked about it earlier and you can tell me the story doesn’t interest you and I’d tell you the majority of your audience cares about larger than life personalities, greatness, drama, conflict, egos and compelling stories and if you can’t make something work with those opportunities in front of you than maybe you should take the day off.

In order to play the “Sitcoms Not Movies” game and keep yourself and an audience engaged on a day like this, let’s look at some creative ways to make the angles work for 4 straight hours.

  • LeBron’s letter in SI – how do you feel about the way he broke the news? How does it compare to the approach of “The Decision”? What does it say about everyone reporting on the NBA that they got beat out by SI? What in the letter did you like most and least? How would you feel if you were in Dan Gilbert or Pat Riley’s shoes reading this? How much did Nike know since they had billboards ready right after the news came out?
  • LeBron’s departure – What does it mean for Miami’s future? Has Pat Riley lost his magic touch? If you’re Dwayne Wade do you feel betrayed? How does this impact Chris Bosh’s future? How does this impact Miami’s standing in the Eastern Conference?
  • LeBron’s return home to Cleveland – what does it mean for the Cavs future? If you’re a Cavs fan do you now feel bad for how you responded to him leaving? With LeBron not mentioning Andrew Wiggins in the letter does this mean he’s on his way out? Did Kyrie Irving know this was coming? What other pieces do the Cavs need in order to win a title? How does this impact Cleveland’s position in the East?
  • LeBron’s Legacy – does the Miami stint help or hurt his overall legacy? What if he never wins in Cleveland? How is the Miami 4-year run viewed historically (2 titles/4 NBA Finals visits or didn’t deliver what they said they would)

patrileyIf you had been on the air on this Monday, I’ve just laid out an angle for each hour that you should have no problem spending 10-15 minutes speaking passionately about. This isn’t taking into account the addition of audience participation, guests who can add additional insight, opinion and new information to the story and using audio to further enhance the presentation. Case in point, that Pat Riley soundbyte where he challenged LeBron to stay should absolutely be on your cut sheet.

If I am driving into work in my car on this day and I put on my favorite station, I expect the morning show will tell me what they think about this story. Remember that my drive is going to be somewhere between 30-60 minutes and during the next hour you’re going to have an entirely different audience and they are going to seek out your thoughts on the day’s biggest stories with the same enthusiasm that I just did.

Your job as a personality is to keep the A+ topic fresh, relevant and entertaining because the audience is going to seek it out each hour and if you don’t have it, the audience will go elsewhere to get it.

starbucks_coffee_Look at what a company like Starbucks does. They make sure the inside of their location is always clean. The people who work there are usually very friendly, courteous and focused on taking care of your needs despite having to endure long lines. And while they have plenty of pastries and breakfast options you can choose from, they nearly start every conversation by asking you “what kind of coffee can we get for you this morning“. They know what they do best and why you came to them and they make sure every day to be great at it.  The same thing applies to sports talk radio and quarter hour presentations and connecting with listeners.

Whether you like it or not, your audience has two powerful weapons to work with – time and choice. They don’t have to use us, they choose to use us. If we fail to appreciate that commitment by providing them with content that matters to ourselves and no one else, they’ll spend their time with another media source.

In every market there is a team and player that has mass appeal to the audience plus sports news happens every day and we can see which items register better than others so it’s our job to feature those hot button subjects and deliver them with regularity. It may be tiresome to those of us on the inside of the building but to those on the outside, every segment is new, fresh and full of promise.

rhcpIf you want to put yourself in position to win, remember that we’re in the business of selling out arenas and stadiums. The people in attendance expect to see a headline act deliver the material they’re familiar with. If we give the audience the hit songs they seek, they’ll be fans of ours for life. If we fail to do so, eventually we could be sitting with them!

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Jimmy Powers to Receive The Mark Chernoff Award at the 2023 BSM Summit

“Jimmy received the most votes from our industry panel to become our third recipient of the Mark Chernoff Award.”

Jason Barrett

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As a former programmer turned consultant, I pay more attention than most to those who lead brands, manage talent, and create consistent success. When you look across the country at the hundreds of stations delivering sports radio content, and analyze who operates at a high level, there’s maybe ten to twenty who are changing the game, and others who are rising and hoping to become a bigger part of the conversation.

What makes this annual award special in addition to having Mark Chernoff’s name on it, is that it’s voted on by eighteen industry heavyweights. These are folks tasked with overseeing radio companies, major networks, and having exceptional track records of broadcasting success. So when they vote and an individual earns an honor, it means a little more.

If you’re in the business and follow sports radio, then you’re aware of Mark Chernoff’s accomplishments as a program director. He was one of the true architects and consistent winners, and his ability to excel as a sports radio manager has influenced and shaped many careers. Mark graciously agreed to be part of our awards ceremony a few years ago when I approached him with the idea in New York City. I’m thrilled to share that although he doesn’t attend many industry conferences on the west coast, he will be with us at the 2023 BSM Summit in Los Angeles for the ceremony.

Which brings me to this year’s winner.

It is my honor to congratulate the leader of 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit, Jimmy Powers. Jimmy received the most votes from our industry panel to become our third recipient of the Mark Chernoff Award. He follows Rick Radzik of 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston, and Mitch Rosen of 670 The Score in Chicago. Jimmy will be in attendance at the Summit to pick up the award, and will take part in a program director panel at the show. Further details on that to be shared next week.

“It’s such a great honor not only to be mentioned in the same breath with Mark Chernoff, but to receive the ‘Mark Chernoff Award’ is really, really cool” shared 97.1 The Ticket Program Director Jimmy Powers. “With so many great program directors across the country who are deserving of this award, I truly appreciate the recognition.”

Since late 2009, Powers has led the Detroit sports radio station to unmatched local success. Brought in to build upon what was created by the late great Tom Bigby, he’s helped The Ticket become one of the format’s best examples of success. The station has consistently dominated the Male 25-54 demo, while also becoming a ratings force with Persons 12+ and Adults 25-54.

“Jimmy has done an amazing job over the years running 97.1 the Ticket,” said legendary sports radio programmer Mark Chernoff. “He knows how to work with talent, and maintain balance while managing relationships with the Lions, Tigers, Red Wings and Pistons, which is not an easy job. The ratings remain high, and the Ticket continues to be one of America’s top sports stations, which reflects the great work Jimmy has done as the station’s program director.”

In addition to delivering double digit shares, quarterly ratings wins, and presenting a star studded lineup and Michigan’s top sports franchises, The Ticket has taken home plenty of hardware too. The station has won the Marconi award for best sports station in 2016 and 2022. And now, they can add the 2023 Mark Chernoff Award to their trophy case.

“2022 was another big year for The Ticket, and many in Detroit deserve credit for the brand’s consistent success, but none more so than their exceptional brand leader, Jimmy Powers,” added BSM President Jason Barrett. “Jimmy has been a staple of consistency, guiding one of the crown jewels of sports radio, managing top personalities, important play by play partnerships, and helping the brand generate large revenues. I’m thrilled that our industry voters took notice of the fantastic work Jimmy has done and look forward to celebrating his career and accomplishments in Los Angeles this March.”

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California College Students Earn Chance to Win 10 Free Tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit Thanks to Steve Kamer Voiceovers

“In order to win tickets to attend the Summit, students must submit a 2-minute video by email explaining why they’d like to be in attendance and what they hope to learn at the event.”

Jason Barrett

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With a new year comes renewed energy and optimism for the sports media business. Yours truly is looking forward to showcasing the best our business has to offer when we gather the industry in Los Angeles, CA at the 2023 BSM Summit at the Founders Club at the University of Southern California on March 21-22, 2023. Our conference is returning to the west coast for the first time since 2019. We’ve announced some super talented speakers. We’ve got additional things in the works and I plan to make additional announcements in the next few weeks.

People often ask me what the biggest challenge is putting this event together. My answer is always the same, it’s getting people to leave the comfort of their office and spend two days in a room together learning and discussing ways to grow the business. We have great sponsorship support and exceptional people on stage and are fortunate to have a lot of folks already set to attend. Our venue this year has extra space though, so I’m hoping a few more of you make time to join us. If you haven’t bought a ticket or reserved your hotel room, visit BSMSummit.com to make sure you’re all set.

If there’s one thing our industry could get better at it’s opening our minds to new ideas and information. There’s more than one path to success. Just because you’re in good shape today doesn’t mean you will be tomorrow. Building brands, growing audiences, increasing revenue, and examining new opportunities is an ongoing process. There are many shifts along the way. We may not solve every business challenge during our two-days together but you’ll leave the room more connected and informed than when you entered it.

Each year I’ll get two or three emails from folks sharing that they learned more about the industry in two-days at the Summit than they have in ___ years inside of their building. That’s truly gratifying and what I strive to achieve when I put this event together. I remember when conferences like this didn’t exist for format folks and I take the risk and invest the time and resources to create it because I love the sports media industry and believe I can help it thrive. I see great value in gathering professionals to share ideas, information, and meet others who can help them grow their business, and if we do our part, I’m confident some will want to work with us too. That’s how we benefit over the long haul.

But as much as I focus on serving the professional crowd, I also think we have a responsibility to educate young people who are interested, passionate, and taking steps to be a part of our business in the future. The BSM website is visited by hundreds of thousands of people each month and it’s become a valuable resource for folks who enjoy sports radio and television. I think it’s vital to use our platform, influence and two-day event to connect generations and I’m happy to announce that we will once again welcome college students at this year’s Summit.

Most of us who’ve been in this line of work for two or three decades learned the business without podcasts, YouTube, social media, the web or conferences delivering two full days of sessions that taught you more about the business than what’s available inside of a class room. We learned by doing, and hoping we were right. Then we copied others who had success. Some of that still exists, and that’s not a bad thing. But where our business goes in the future is going to be drastically different.

I’d like to see the difference makers in our format remembered for years to come, and practices that have stood the test of time remain valued down the line. Change is inevitable in every business and I’m excited about the road that lies ahead especially some of the technological advancements that are now available or will soon become a bigger part of our industry. I think we can embrace the future while enjoying the present and celebrating the past. The best way to do that is by bringing together everyone who is and is hoping to be a part of the sports media universe.

So here’s two things we’re doing to make sure future broadcasters have an opportunity to learn with us.

First, I want to send a HUGE thank you to Steve Kamer Voiceovers. Thanks to Steve’s generosity, TEN (10) college students will be given FREE tickets to attend the 2023 BSM Summit in March. Steve is a USC graduate (Class of 1985) and he bought the ten tickets to help young people learn about the industry, save money and make valuable connections. When I first received his order, I thought he hit the wrong button. I reached out to tell him a mistake was made and I needed to refund him. That’s when he told me what he wanted to do for students who were pursuing their broadcasting dreams just as we both did years ago. A very classy gesture on his part.

As it pertains to the contest, here’s how it’s going to work.

To win tickets to attend the Summit, students must submit a 2-minute video by email to JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com explaining why they’d like to be in attendance and what they hope to learn at the event. Included in your email should be a list of steps that you’ve taken or are pursuing to explore opportunities in the media industry. If you want to pass along a resume and audio or video clips too to showcase your work and experience, that’s fine as well. BSM will accept submissions until February 17th. The winners will be announced on Friday February 24th.

Helping me select the winners will be an exceptional panel of media executives. Each of these folks below will choose one person to attend our L.A. event. The final two will be picked by Steve Kamer and myself.

  • Scott Shapiro – Senior Vice President, FOX Sports Radio
  • Justin Craig – Senior Program Director, ESPN Radio
  • Jeff Sottolano – Executive Vice President, Programming, Audacy
  • Bruce Gilbert – Senior Vice President of Sports, Cumulus Media & Westwood One
  • Amanda Gifford – Vice President, Content Strategy & Audio, ESPN
  • Jacob Ullman – Senior Vice President, Production and Talent Development, FOX Sports
  • Greg Strassell – Senior Vice President, Programming, Hubbard Radio
  • Scott Sutherland – Executive Vice President, Bonneville International

To qualify for the BSM Summit College Contest, students must be enrolled in college in the state of California, pursuing a degree that involves course work either in radio, television, print or the digital business. Those attending local trade schools with a focus on broadcasting are also welcome to participate. You must be able to take care of your own transportation and/or lodging.

This is a contest I enjoy running. We’ve had great participation during our prior two shows in New York City but haven’t done it before on the west coast. I’m hoping it’s helpful to California students and look forward to hearing from many of them during the next month.

For students who live out of state and wish to attend or those enrolled at local universities who enter the contest but aren’t lucky enough to win one of the ten free tickets from Steve Kamer Voiceovers, we are introducing a special two-day college ticket for just $124.99. You must provide proof that you’re currently in school to take advantage of the offer. This ticket gives you access to all of our sessions inside the Founders Club. College tickets will be limited to forty (40) seats so take advantage of the opportunity before it expires.

The 2023 BSM Summit will feature award ceremonies with Emmis Communication CEO Jeff Smulyan and legendary WFAN program director Mark Chernoff, sessions with influential on-air talent such as Colin Cowherd, Jim Rome, Joy Taylor, and Mina Kimes, big picture business conversations with executives from groups such as Audacy, iHeart, Bonneville, Good Karma Brands, Barstool, The Volume, Omaha Productions and more. For details on tickets and hotel rooms visit BSMsummit.com.

I look forward to seeing you in March in Los Angeles!

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Barrett News Media To Gather The Industry in Nashville in September 2023

“I’ve been lucky enough to play a key role in bringing the sports media industry together on an annual basis, and in 2023 we’re going to attempt to do the same for news/talk media professionals.”

Jason Barrett

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One of the best parts about working in the media business is that you’re afforded an opportunity to use your creativity, take risks, and learn if an audience or advertisers will support your ideas. Sometimes you hit a homerun, other times you strike out, but regardless of the outcome, you keep on swinging.

I’ve tried to do that since launching a digital publishing and radio consulting company in 2015. Fortunately, we’ve delivered more hits than misses.

When I added news media industry coverage to our brand in September 2020, I knew it’d be a huge undertaking. The news/talk format is two and a half times larger than sports, many of its brands are powered by national shows, and the content itself is more personal and divisive. I wanted our focus and attention on news media stories, not politics and news, and though there have been times when the lines got blurred, we’ve tried to be consistent in serving industry professionals relevant content .

What made the move into news media more challenging was that I’d spent less time in it. That meant it’d take longer to find the right writers, and it required putting more time into building relationships, trust, respect, and support. Though we still have more ground to cover, we’ve made nice strides. That was reflected by the participation we received when we rolled out the BNM Top 20 of 2022 the past two weeks. Hopefully you checked out the lists. Demetri Ravanos and I will be hosting a video chat today at 1pm ET on BNM’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, and through Barrett Media’s YouTube page discussing the series, as well as this article.

It’s because of that growing support, trust, and confidence in what we’re doing that I’m taking a risk yet again. I’ve been lucky enough to play a key role in bringing the sports media industry together on an annual basis, and in 2023 we’re going to attempt to do the same for news/talk media professionals.

I am excited to share the news that Barrett News Media will host its first ever BNM Summit on Thursday September 14, 2023 in Nashville, TN. Our one-day conference will take place at Vanderbilt University’s Student Life Center Ballroom. The venue we’ve selected is tremendous and I’m eager to spend a day with news/talk professionals to examine ways to further grow the format and industry.

If you’re wondering why we chose Nashville, here’s why.

First, the city itself is awesome. The access to great restaurants, bars, entertainment, hotels, and famous landmarks is unlimited, and when you’re traveling to a city for a business conference, those things matter. Being in a city that’s easy for folks across the country to get to also doesn’t hurt.

Secondly, a conference is harder to pull off if you can’t involve successful on-air people in it. If you look at Nashville’s growth in the talk media space over the past decade, it’s remarkable. Many notable talents now live and broadcast locally, major brands have created a local footprint in the area, and that opens the door to future possibilities. I have no idea who we’ll include in the show, and I haven’t sent out one request yet because I wanted to keep this quiet until we were sure it made sense. I’m sure we’ll have plenty of interest in participating and I can’t promise we’ll be able to accommodate all requests but if you have interest in being involved, send an email to Jason@BarrettNewsMedia.com.

Third, finding the right venue is always difficult. We looked at a bunch of great venues in Nashville during our vacation this past summer, and when we stepped on to the campus at Vanderbilt University and walked through the SLC Ballroom, we knew it was the right fit. It had the space we needed, the right tech support, access to private parking, a green room for guests, and it was within walking distance of a few hotels, restaurants, and the Parthenon.

As I went through the process of deciding if this event was right for BNM, a few folks I trust mentioned that by creating a Summit for news/media folks, it could create a competitive situation. I don’t see it that way. I view it as a responsibility. I think we need more people coming together to grow the industry rather than trying to tear each other down. I hear this far too often in radio. We worry about what one station is doing rather than strengthening our own brand and preparing to compete with all audio options.

For years I’ve attended conferences hosted by Radio Ink, NAB, Talkers, and Conclave. I’ve even spoken at a few and welcomed folks who operate in the consulting space to speak at my shows. I’ll continue to support those events, read various trade sites, and invite speakers who work in a similar field because they’re good people who care about helping the industry. I believe BNM and BSM add value to the media business through its websites and conferences, and though there may be a detractor or two, I’ll focus on why we’re doing this and who it’s for, and let the chips fall where they may.

I know juggling two conferences in one year is likely going to make me crazy at times, but I welcome the challenge. In the months ahead I’ll start lining up speakers, sponsors, building the conference website, and analyzing every detail to make sure we hold up our end of the bargain and deliver an informative and professionally beneficial event. The news/talk media industry is massive and making sure it stays healthy is critically important. I think we can play a small role in helping the business grow, and I look forward to finding out on September 14th in Nashville at Vanderbilt University.

Hope to see you there!

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