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Should I Make An Appointment?

Jason Barrett

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There are many different approaches in sports talk radio so keep that in mind as you sift through this column. For some Programmers and Shows, they want nothing to do with guests or features on their airwaves, For others, they believe they’re vital to the station’s success. If you’re on the side of not wanting guests or regularly positioned features to appear on your airwaves then this piece probably isn’t for you because from where I sit, I believe they have very strong value when it comes to growing your ratings.

First, the host in my opinion is the main attraction that the audience is coming to see. To truly showcase him or her in a big way though, listeners expect to hear multiple things occur inside of a show. This is why callers are introduced, Facebook, Twitter and Text messages are read, soundbytes are used to further add emotion to stories, features are executed to showcase the show’s creative side and of course, guests appear to provide new information, entertainment and opinion on the day’s top stories. When it involves guests, I want people on the dial who fit the day’s angles, are recognizable to the audience and can speak clearly and offer information and an interesting viewpoint. It’s then up to my host(s) to do their part and pull the good stuff out of them.

fueledbyfootball_longWhen you look across the sports radio landscape today, you’ll notice many stations beefing up their programming regulars for football season. As an example, check out what WEEI in Boston put together for the fall (click here). I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s very impressive. Why do station’s do this? Because football drives the largest numbers for the format and every station wants to close out the final four months of the year in strong fashion so advertisers have something to feel good and excited about as they make decisions for the upcoming calendar year.

While adding NFL guests of significance can help your station improve during the fall when football takes center stage, it has less impact if the guests are not heard in a regular position. In today’s PPM world, ratings are achieved much more by driving occasions than they are by recall and happenstance. When a station heavily promotes the appearance of a well known guest for a set day and time, they’re doing so because they believe the audience behavior will adapt and that particular quarter hour of the guest’s regular appearance will generate strong ratings measurement. I believe in this same approach and it’s worked for me.

If the goal is to give the audience a reason to tune in consistently, then I have a difficult time understanding why a station would take an opposite approach and make the audience work to find the guest or creative benchmark. I’ve heard hosts, producers and programmers talk about not wanting to be predictable and while I can respect that and understand it, you can’t show me a specific ratings spike for unpredictability. Radio stations are measured by data the last time I checked, not perception from those who work inside of it.

roofingCan you imagine if other businesses operated with that approach? Imagine if a roofing company told you they’d come by to fix your roof when they felt like doing it rather than providing a specific day and time. Try going to the dentist and see if you can get in when you feel like it. If it’s not scheduled, you’re not getting in unless it’s a major problem. Lastly, how about your local pizza company. Some places give you a window of time and promise to deliver your food by then or they’ll refund your money. What if they just told you “you’ll eat when we get it there”?

Is that really the best way for radio to treat its audience which has limited time already and doesn’t “need” to use us but instead “wants” to?

Remember, the radio station is taking on an expense by paying someone to appear each week. They believe the individual has a strong enough importance to the audience to be featured weekly and the content that they’ll be discussing has enough of an appeal to continue being highlighted for somewhere between 20-26 weeks. By positioning the guest on a set day and time, the station now gets the increased benefit of promoting it heavily via promos which makes it easier for the listener to find it plus the sales team now has a chance to sell a sponsorship with an adjacency commercial, which only helps increase the possibility of the client’s message being heard. That’s important because without satisfied clients, you don’t have the benefit of these types of opportunities.

kayeliIf you’re booking someone with minimal value regularly, I’d ask you why you’re wasting money on them and tying up a quarter hour on your show. You don’t need to “fill segments” with guests who provide average return on your investment. You need to secure strong guests who matter to and connect with the audience. If you do that, then it’s the host’s job to maximize the opportunity. The good ones not only deliver strong quarter-hours with their regulars but they also work at getting to know them even better. By doing so, it strengthens the relationship and makes for an even more compelling and informative conversation. Let’s face it, people are more likely to open up and share things when they feel more connected to the person they’re speaking with. It’s all about comfort.

For the past 3 years in San Francisco and my previous 2 years in St. Louis, I’ve done deals with athletes, coaches, analysts and executives who I felt could help the programming team improve its performance. This approach has helped my employers see increased ratings and it’s given my staff and our shows a leg up when heading into their daily talk shows. While each market and guest opportunity is different, I don’t waver much on positioning people in regular spots because the top contributors typically outperform the show’s ratings and that has a lot to do with making sure the audience knows where to find it. Very rarely have I seen success come from weekly guests who weren’t offered in a set position.

For example, when I was in St. Louis, our afternoon show would deliver between a 6-8 share and place themselves consistently in the top 3. Those numbers were always at their peak during football season which was also when former Rams Running Back Steven Jackson would appear on the show every Monday at 4pm. Steven was the team’s top star at the time and he was the type of guy who fans either loved or hated so it wasn’t difficult to recognize that having him on regularly would lead to increased listening.

sj39I remember looking at the quarter hour appearances for when Steven’s segment ran and they’d always be in the double digits. There was one specific appearance where he showed up and the segment registered a 26 share (back in 2006 after he got into a heated exchange on the field with Aaron Curry of the Seahawks) which was insane. In addition to that, the show would get lift in its next quarter-hour because the momentum from Steven’s interview would carry over. That’s the type of value that a great contributor can provide your show. Once the afternoon crew saw how Steven was helping them lead people to the dial, they became even more energized from it and worked diligently to find ways to make it even better. That’s the goal of what you’re trying to do with a regular weekly appointment.

Look at it like this, if you have a 4-hour daily talk show registering a 6 share and the contributor is strong enough to influence growth in two quarter-hours per day (one during the interview and one the segment after), that’s roughly over 10% of the show’s performance being lifted. If the show is 2-3 hours in length, the percentage is even higher. Now if you add more than 1 strong contributor per day to your station’s lineup, you’re slanting the odds in your favor even more and that’s ultimately what this game is about – playing the odds to give yourself a chance to win.

I have an old saying that I’ve used with some of my people over the years and I still believe in it to this day – when you look at a superstar athlete on your local team you should see one thing – dollar signs! On every team there is at least one superstar who people in your market are excited to cheer for. They buy tickets, merchandise, watch games on TV and listen to them on radio all because of this guy. If you have the ability to develop a relationship with that individual and grow it to the point where it leads to a regular position on your show, you’re going to see it pay off in a big way when it comes to growing your ratings, revenue and external buzz.

appointmentI’ve seen it happen with Steven Jackson, Buster Posey, Jerry Rice and countless others and it’s not going to change anytime soon. People today care more about what exists outside the lines than what happens inside the lines and they’re not just interested in the performer they see on the field, they want to know everything they can about the individual. The best way to do that is through a set regular appointment.

Every focus group and listener survey I’ve ever been a part of, guests usually generate a very high response. Your audience wants to hear from people they like, cheered for and have interesting opinions and insight to share on the subjects that appeal most to them. Usually the ones inside the radio station who want no part of the bigger guests are the people who either don’t want to do the leg work to track them down or those who feel that the appearance of the guest could upstage their own relevance.

In both cases, I think that’s ridiculous. When all is said and done, a strong high profile guest with great content to offer enhances the image of the host and the extra effort invested behind the scenes to get it done, leads to a measurable win for the show. To do big things takes hard work and if you’re not doing it, trust me your competitor will.

brandAs I started out at the beginning of this piece, not everyone agrees with booking regular appointments and that’s ok. You’ve got to take the approach that you feel most comfortable with. For me though, I believe your shows start off feeling more confident because they know they have something strong and unique each day that the audience will enjoy. I know the advertisers like it because it allows them to be connected to high profile personalities which helps showcase their brand in a better light and I know the audiences support it because if the content has strong appeal and is easy to find, they’ll prefer routine over unpredictability.

At the end of the day, we’re in the ratings and revenue business and regular appointments help both sides of the operation deliver results. All we can go on is the evidence we’ve accumulated and as long as the data suggests that it helps us win, it’s our job to use it to help our shows and companies. After all, isn’t that what we’re in this for?

Barrett Blogs

Jeff Catlin, John Mamola, Gordy Rush & Maggie Clifton Join The 2023 BSM Summit Lineup

Jason Barrett

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We’re less than two months away from the 2023 BSM Summit in Los Angeles. This year’s conference takes place on March 21-22, 2023 at the Founders Room inside of the Galen Center at USC. Many industry professionals are set to attend but sports media folks tend to be a last minute crowd whether it’s buying a ticket, reserving a room or committing to be a sponsor. Yes, tickets, rooms, and a select few sponsorships are still available, but the longer you wait, the more you risk not being in the room, featured as a partner, and paying higher prices for travel. To make sure you have a seat and a place to stay, log on to BSMSummit.com. For sponsorship inquiries, email Stephanie at Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com.

I am really excited about this year’s Summit. The venue is tremendous, the agenda is coming together nicely, and there’s no doubt we’ll have great weather when we gather in LA. Some have asked me why I don’t reveal the full schedule of sessions months in advance, and it’s because I believe in swinging for the fences and trying to do big things. To do that, you’ve got to be willing to invest time and explore every opportunity that can be impactful. It’d be much easier to fill the schedule and be done with everything but if it’s going to take a little longer to deliver the best speakers, discussions and experiences for all in the room, then that’s what I’m going to do.

Those involved in the creation of this conference know that I set a very high standard for it. We’ve run some great events over the years, and it’s because we put everything we have into making sure each session is valuable to a different segment of the industry. My goal each year is to present an action packed agenda that helps people learn, gain access to information to improve themselves and/or their brands, and create a few connections and memorable moments to justify it being worth a few days away out of the office or studio. If we can do that, it makes the sacrifices worthwhile. If we can’t execute at a high level, then I’d probably pass on doing it.

Before I tell you about the four people we’re adding to our speaker lineup, I do want to remind you that we recently announced a contest for California college students. We’re giving away ten (10) FREE tickets to the show courtesy of Steve Kamer Voiceovers. If you know a student in California please let them know about this. If they’re not in California but want to attend the event, we’ve created a special college rate to make it affordable for young people. Everything is listed on BSMSummit.com.

Now, for the new additions to the lineup.

I’m excited to welcome Jeff Catlin of The Ticket in Dallas to the Summit. This will be Jeff’s first Summit visit, and I appreciate him making time to share his programming wisdom with the rest of the room. Jeff will be part of a programming panel that kicks off day #2. That panel will include Jimmy Powers of 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit, Raj Sharan of Denver’s Sports Station 104.3 The Fan, and our next addition, John Mamola of WDAE. John has been at all of our events dating back to our first test event in Chicago. I’m looking forward to giving him an opportunity to offer his programming insights alongside this talented group.

Also joining the Summit lineup is Maggie Clifton, Blue Wire’s Senior Vice President of Business Development. Maggie has played a vital role in growing Blue Wire’s revenue, and I’m looking forward to having her join Barstool Sports’ SVP, Head of Sales Matt Berger, and Magellan AI’s Chief Revenue Officer John Goforth on a panel that focuses on digital monetization.

Guiding that conversation will be Guaranty Media’s Gordy Rush. The Baton Rouge Vice President and General Manager who doubles as LSU’s sideline reporter on football broadcasts is well versed in monetizing content, and understanding the opportunities and challenges broadcasters face. I’m confident those in the room charged with maximizing digital revenue for their brands will gain great value from these four professionals.

There’s much more in the works that I’m looking forward to announcing in the coming weeks. Whether you own a company, manage a cluster as a GM, lead a sales team, host or produce a podcast or radio/TV show, buy advertising, oversee a brand’s social media strategy or program a network or local outlet, there’s something for every sports media professional at the BSM Summit. I invite you to come see for yourself. To do so, visit BSMSummit.com.

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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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