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The World of Men 25-54

Jason Barrett

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Defining success for a sports radio station can be measured in many different ways. There’s laying out guidelines and goals for what you expect from each individual. There’s bottom line revenue. There’s digital and mobile growth, social media engagement, connection in the community, content strategy and execution and of course the almighty ratings book.

PPM2Yes it’s true, the ratings game isn’t an exact science and of course most programmers complain about the lack of meters in each individual market but whether it’s fair or unfair, every single station in every market deals with the same system and your job is to deliver numbers that your sales team can use to generate more revenue for your company. Nobody complains when the numbers are good but we all piss and moan when they’re lower than expected.

I’ve had my share of ups and downs with numbers but I do believe they matter. As long as advertisers seek them and decide future ad buys on the station I operate based on them, they’ll remain a heavy focus for me. While it’s easy to make excuses and complain about the systems flaws (trust me they have plenty), everyone is playing the same game.

How many times have you seen the following “My station doesn’t subscribe to Arbitron/Nielsen because they don’t show our brand’s true audience. We remain focused on super serving our audience and advertisers“. When I hear that I start to chuckle because the real translation is “our numbers suck and we can’t convince anyone we have an audience so we’ll go on the offensive to defend our position so advertisers don’t pull their business from us”.

PPMThen there’s the talent side of things “I don’t believe in ratings. I’ve never seen a meter. I know when the show is good and we have a big audience because people see me and tell me they listen“. I’ve run 4 different radio stations in 3 different markets over the past 8 years and there’s always someone taking that position. What they mean to say is “I need an excuse to fall back on in case my numbers aren’t good because otherwise I’ll have a hard time asking for a raise in the future. Besides, I have a strong following on social media and that shows that I have a huge audience”.

In both cases I understand the skepticism due to what’s been created by Nielsen as a result of weak measurement but what I’ve yet to see is a radio station not reward an on-air talent or PD who was delivering strong ratings. Excuses come up when audience numbers are low but when they’re high, everyone brags and wants a pat on the back and companies usually reward you for it. Ratings are needed to justify the companies ability to command higher ad rates and your ability to deliver them is a critical part of your job. Without them as a host or programmer, your position could be in jeopardy.

Ask yourself this, how can we make money in this business if it’s based on subjective opinion of what we think of our own shows? Is a talent really going to walk into an office and say to a PD “My show isn’t as good as I thought it would be or what you hoped it would be and I sense the audience has checked out, maybe you should pull the plug on it“? Of course not.

crowdOn-Air talent are conditioned to pump themselves up by telling you “I have a huge audience, I know what works” but can they really prove that? Have they gone out and personally counted every listener who interacted with them in public, on social or through the station text account? Of course not. When a talent tells me they had 200-1000 people attend or send them a message on social media as evidence of having a big audience, I remind them that 200-1,000 people in a market made up of 7 million is not a number to brag about.

About 15-months ago I listened to Mike Francesa from WFAN in NY talk about the way he looks at ratings. Many would agree that Mike has been one of the most influential and dominant sports radio personalities of our lifetime and as I heard him share his views on this subject I found myself intrigued. First consider that he’s been on the air with WFAN for over 25 years and during that time he has delivered more than 80 #1 ratings performances with Men 25-54. That is incredibly impressive especially in the country’s largest market.

Some will say his success is due to being on WFAN which has a great signal, strong heritage and was the nation’s first true all-sports format and while that deserves consideration, you’d be doing him a disservice if you assumed that’s why he’s succeeded. Mike spends 5.5 hours per day on the air and he’s seen as the authority on NY sports. He’s won alongside Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo as well as on his own. His station lost major players such as Russo and Don Imus yet Mike has continued to dominate the market.

francesaWhat really impressed me most about Mike’s speech was when he discussed the value he places on his ratings performance. To learn that the #1 guy in the top US market meets every Monday with his PD to see how he’s stacking up against the competition was impressive. How many on-air talent do you know who even ask a question about their own performance at the end of a month let alone on a weekly basis?

WFAN makes a lot of money and Mike does extremely well for himself and nobody at his company is going to tell an advertiser they can’t demonstrate performance when ratings are requested. He considers it to be his report card and when you’re delivering straight A’s, you’re not embarrassed to show off your grades. To get a sense of Mike’s views on the ratings game check out this video.

While I’ve spent the first part of this piece on the mindset of ratings, the next level of what I want to discuss has to do with the demographic for which sports radio is analyzed. Anyone who works in this format knows that your success or failure is determined by how you perform with Men 25-54. You can create neat little stories with Men 18+, Men 18-34, P6, 12+ or Adults 25-54 but the number that matters when all is said and done are Men 25-54.

This is the demographic that advertisers expect sports radio stations to be strongest in and and it’s what on-air personalities and programmers get bonused on. It’s also what your company looks at to determine if the investment in a sports radio station is paying off. Every month when my ratings come out I’ll look at P6 to see what our overall cume for the station is and I’ll check out the Adults 25-54 demo to see if I can provide any stories for sales to help with some other possible buys but the main focus for myself and all involved in my group (and every station I’ve ever worked at) is always Men 25-54.

ppm3I enjoy getting the ratings report each month and I’ve found that when you create a great product and surround yourself with talented people, getting an audience to listen and reward you with proof of performance isn’t hard. While in St. Louis, my former brand 101 ESPN started 33rd and was consistently in the Top 5 in ratings within 12-18 months, including reaching #1.

When I built 95.7 The Game in SF, we started in 27th place and in under 4 years climbed to as high as 3rd with Men 25-54. It took a lot of luck, hard work, personnel changes and loss of sleep and none of it would’ve happened without a great staff performing day in and day out to entertain listeners.

While the focus for ratings success is Men 25-54, Francesa raised an interesting point about what the demographic should be. He says the format should be measured by Men 35-69. He argues that Men over 60 years old have more money whereas younger male adults can barely pay rent and if advertisers are seeking people with wealth to purchase their products, then they should put a heavier emphasis on the older demographic.

The logic makes sense but I don’t agree that Men 35-69 should be the focus. If it’s only about money then I’d give it stronger consideration but ratings are also supposed to be about listenership and I think the reason sports stations are migrating to the FM dial are because Men 25-34 have a stronger interest in the product than ever before. It’s during these years of a man’s life that he usually starts listening and forming a bond with the sports radio format and I don’t think that can be dismissed and not measured.

measurementWhether it’s Men 25-54, Men 25-64, Men 25-69 or another demographic, is subjective and while I don’t have the perfect answer, I do think that as our business grows, all options should be explored. If we can change the way radio gets measured from diary to PPM and we can see stations switch to FM and begin to deliver huge numbers on mobile and online, then we owe it to our industry to make sure that we get the best measurement possible to showcase the brand’s strength.

I think it’s silly that mobile listening and web streaming are rarely accounted for when we can see the amount of listening sessions that take place on our brands. I understand that it’s still about the over the air listening activity but with the future changing rapidly, the industry will have to evolve and put a stronger focus on “audio measurement“, not just radio measurement.

To help paint a better picture of the importance of ratings and the way people in our business see them, I asked 3 questions to some of the best minds in the sports radio business today. Taking part in the panel are the following people:

  • Jason Dixon – Program Director of Detroit Sports 105.1 FM
  • Jeff Austin – Program Director of 1080 The Fan in Portland
  • Tim Spence – Station Manager of 102.3/105.5 ESPN Denver
  • Ryan Hatch – VP of News and Sports at 92.3 KTAR and Arizona Sports 98.7 FM
  • Brian Long – Program Director of XTRA 1360 and Newsradio AM 600 KOGO in San Diego

What demographic matters most to your radio station in determining whether or not it’s been a successful month in the ratings?

Dixon: I spend most of my time looking at Men 25-54 because that’s the number that matters most to our sales department. From there I dissect the big number to see what we are doing in the various cells to find the station’s strengths and weaknesses.

Austin: Men 25-54. It’s a wide demo but the one that the vast majority of our buys are predicated upon. We need to score with the older half of this demo as a sweet spot, and continually develop listeners in the younger half, so attention to the entire demo is a must.

Spence: What’s our job? Men. Where’s the money? 25-54. Once you are established in that demo of Men 25-54 then most stations start expanding and developing P25-54.

ryanhatchHatch: Men 25-54 is always the primary demo that sports radio stations target and evaluate, and it is ours as well but we have raised our expectations. Now on FM, our goal is to drive a male number that rolls up into a Top 10 Persons 25-54 number with the primary new audience driver coming from the younger 25-34 male demo that was almost completely inaccessible on AM. If we don’t deliver Top 3 Men 25-54 and Top 10 Persons 25-54 performance in the Fall, we’re not delivering the radio audience we need to.

Long: Men 25-54. This demo is the sweet spot for us and our targeted clients.

JB NOTE: Every single programmer here has the same mentality of capturing Men 25-54. While there are some interesting variations such as what Ryan is looking to capture in Phoenix with his brand’s migration to FM, the conversation starts with Men 25-54.

What do you think should be the demographic to measure sports talk radio’s success? 

jasondixonDixon: The most important demo to me is the one where the money is. If tomorrow, agencies and clients start placing buys based on men 35-49 or men 18-24, that will be my target. As programmers in a narrow format, we have to keep our eyes on the prize. We all want great ratings so we can pat ourselves on the back, collect ratings bonuses etc. but the fact is that they are sales tools.

Austin: Men 25-54. If you want to avoid being a “niche” station, which healthy sports stations should make a goal of, and get more listeners under your tent, you have to be a great “male listen.” If you focus on a smaller demo, you risk becoming less-relevant with large portions of your audience. If you widen your focus to consider males outside of that demo, or females, you become bland and non-exclusive to the majority of your audience.

timspenceSpence: Well, first as I mention above, it’s Men 25-54. That said, the heart of the demo is what MAKES the demo. If I own/control/kill it with Men 35-44, I’ll p/u both ends of the demo. If I focus too much towards either end, I potentially skew the other side of the demo.

Hatch: Our job will always be to deliver the most valuable audience that we can connect to our advertising partners, which will continue to be affluent men with purchase power and influence. If you’re only talking about radio ratings, it’s simple. As long as the ad agencies and buyers continue to determine Men 25-54 and Persons 25-54 are the most important demos to them, it’s going to remain that way for us.

Long: Men 25-64. People are living longer and putting off having children until later in life. Ultimately, delaying retirement . 60 is the new 50 and people’s spending habits have changed.

JB NOTE: There’s some great stuff here. First, Brian raises some excellent points about people living longer, retiring later and having children later. That makes a lot of sense in explaining why adding to the back end of the demographic could make sense in the future. I also love what Jason and Ryan had to say about satisfying the demand of agencies and clients. Until advertisers change their views, Men 25-54 will remain the format’s key focus.

How important are ratings to your business and the way you position your radio station? 

Dixon: Personally I love ratings. They can provide validation for your hard work and they can be a big warning sign for something that is not working. That being said, they are not the “be all , end all” of the sports radio business. One of my go to lines is, “I’ve never seen a Sports Radio PD with average ratings and great billing fired.” The 6 plus number that’s published in the trades does not create the narrative of your radio station. Your content, your presentation and the stories that your sales people share on the street is what defines your radio station.

1080thefanAustin: We don’t position on-air based upon ratings, but we do in the field (sales). The key for us is to be the top sports station in our market. Without a major local play-by-play property, we especially need to own Prime. As for sharing the common goal, I think it registers more clearly with the sales force.

Spence: The bottom line, ratings are important. They’re what takes the average sports station that sells just spots/dots and relationships to the next level. Eventually, if you don’t have ratings, sales will suffer.

Hatch: We pride ourselves on telling the entire Arizona Sports audience story and it’s incredible influence in the market. We absolutely will not allow the radio ratings alone to define success. Granted, ratings are still the most important metric as increased radio audience is still by far the quickest way to increase revenue, especially with transactional business. The difficult part is with longtime radio talent who have been trained and bonused over the years to solely let the radio ratings dictate success. It’s still a tough putt to break that habit. The reality is that while we watch significant growth among so many of our platforms, if the ratings don’t correspond, it’s tough on the guys because that’s still their biggest badge of honor.

brianlong1Long: Ratings are very important. Having ratings on a station allows both (sales and programming) the advantage of being more discerning about the type of business you are willing to take or walk from which ultimately affects the overall sound of the station.

JB NOTE: There’s one key point made here by the group. Positioning your brand internally is equally as important as positioning it externally. If every aspect of an organization isn’t pulling in the same direction and singing the same tune then further discussion is needed to develop one unified message. The ratings absolutely matter but there’s multiple ways to sell that message and the benefits of the brand. Whichever direction you go, all departments must be on board and share in the same vision.

Barrett Blogs

Rachel Nichols and Baron Davis Headline Final Speaker Announcements For the 2023 BSM Summit

“I’m sure Baron and Rachel will have all eyes and ears focused on them when they take the stage together next Tuesday at 2:45pm PT.”

Jason Barrett

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The 2023 BSM Summit schedule is set. After months of planning and talking to everyone across the industry, I’m ecstatic to roll out next week’s agenda including making one final announcement involving seven great additions to our conference.

For starters, it is a pleasure to welcome Showtime’s Rachel Nichols to the BSM Summit. I’ve admired her work on television for years, and am thrilled to have her guiding a session which I think many in the room are going to really enjoy.

Rachel’s guest will be former NBA star Baron Davis. Baron runs his own company, Baron Davis Enterprises, and he has been active in investing in media brands, and exploring ways to evolve the industry. Among his areas of passion, athletes taking more control of their brands, and the media industry needing to improve its track record with diversity. I’m sure Baron and Rachel will have all eyes and ears focused on them when they take the stage together next Tuesday at 2:45pm PT.

Also joining the Summit are a few longtime industry friends. For starters, VSiN’s program director Jon Goulet is someone who I’ve known and worked with, and he understands the sports betting audio space extremely well. Jon and BetQL VP of Programming Mitch Rosen will spend time with another industry friend, Bryan Curtis of The Ringer. Collectively they’ll examine the state of sports betting audio on Tuesday March 21st from 3:35p-4:10p, and what they look for when it comes to sports betting talent, and how they determine what is and isn’t success in the sports gambling content world.

With Mitch taking part in the sports betting panel, Jeff Rickard of WFNZ in Charlotte steps into The Programmer’s Panel alongside Jimmy Powers, John Mamola and Raj Sharan. The session is scheduled for Wednesday March 22nd from 9:10a-9:45a PT. Ironically, all four of these programmers work for different companies, so it’ll be interesting to hear how they differ and where they align while navigating through a few sports radio programming topics.

Next, I’m excited to introduce a social media session with Karlo Sy Su of ESPN Los Angeles and Matthew Demeke of AM 570 LA Sports. If you look at the performance of their brands on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and Facebook, they’ve each delivered strong audiences and engagement. I’m looking forward to hosting this one and learning about their processes, how they decide which platforms to focus on most, what they consider a social media win when analyzing social statistics, and how they develop their content process. Given our location, we’re calling the session ‘Social Media Goes Hollywood‘. It’s scheduled for Wednesday March 22nd from 3:35-4:10 PT.

I realize you’re not going to remember all of these session speakers and times off the top of your head, so to make it easier, log on to BSMSummit.com and scroll down past our speakers. That’s where you’ll find our detailed list of sessions/times and activities planned each day. We have eighteen sessions, two awards ceremonies, and two parties. Our kickoff party is presented by the WWE and takes place Monday March 20th from 7p-9p at the 1880 Founders Room. The ESPN Radio After Party takes place Tuesday March 21st from 6p-8p at the Lab Gastropub. Both party locations are in walking distance of the USC Hotel and our conference venue.

As an added bonus, thanks to the generosity of our friends at WWE, we will be giving away a pair of tickets to the first night of WrestleMania, and a WWE title at our kickoff party. WrestleMania takes place this year in Los Angeles at Sofi Stadium on March 25-26. You must be present at the kickoff party to win either prize.

We’ll have more to share next week including providing an ongoing blog with session news and notes for our readers. We’ll also have a ton of content available on our social media channels so if you’re not following @BSMStaff on Twitter, @BarrettSportsMedia on Facebook or @BarrettMedia on LinkedIn, what are you waiting for?

The focus now shifts to finishing our creative for next week’s show, sending information to our speakers for their sessions, and finalizing our attendees list. For those who are attending, we’ll be sending out an email on Friday or Saturday with a complete list of names of who’s coming so you can plan meetings in advance.

If you forgot to buy your ticket after seeing months of promotion about the event and meant to do so, you can still do that, but it costs more. Students on the other hand can take advantage of a low rate established for college kids at https://bsmsummit.com/registration.

Putting this event together isn’t easy, but I’m extremely pleased with how it’s come together. We have a lot of smart, talented, and accomplished people making time to be part of this, and I appreciate each and every one of them for doing so. Now, it’s all about the execution. Hope to see you next week in LA.

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Sports Broadcasting Icon Al Michaels To Be Honored at the 2023 BSM Summit

“This is a man who has spent more than five decades on your television screen calling the biggest games, and producing some of the most iconic moments sports has to offer.”

Jason Barrett

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If you work in the sports media industry you’ve likely heard someone along the way utter the phrase “don’t bury the lead“. I’m usually good about following that advice but I didn’t do that at our 2022 BSM Summit.

We introduced the greatest tandem in sports radio history, Mike Francesa and Chris ‘Mad Dog’ Russo and it was a special half hour. Mike and the Mad Dog were reunited after seven years apart and every individual at the event knew they were witnessing something magical on stage. I created a Mike and the Mad Dog Award for the event, which went to Felger and Mazz, who were the absolute right choice to win it. Even Chris remarked ‘that’s the right call‘.

But I learned quickly that although the intention was right in honoring the industry’s current top performing show, when you have legends in the room and they’re in their element, the last thing you want to do is overcrowd them. The connection Mike and Chris had on the air became the gold standard by which we measure successful sports talk shows, and they didn’t need an award created to deliver a special moment, just two mics and 20-30 minutes of stage time.

As I began thinking about the 2023 BSM Summit, I knew there was an opportunity to build on what we started last year with Mike and Chris, and after talking to a few people who I trust and respect, the decision of who we would recognize became crystal clear. I believe it’s important to honor the greats in our business because those who leave a permanent mark on our industry deserve it. The man we’ve selected has spent more than five decades on your television screen calling the biggest games, and producing some of the most iconic moments sports has to offer. He’s worked with the best of the best inside the booth, has helped elevate the presentation and execution of in-game content for ABC, NBC and Amazon, and his call of the Miracle on Ice, the US Olympic hockey team’s 1980 gold medal win over Russia remains one of the best calls in the history of sports.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am honored and privileged to share that Al Michaels will join us on Wednesday March 22nd at the 2023 BSM Summit for our awards presentation, where we will present him with BSM’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Michaels is one of America’s most respected sports broadcasting voices, known for his exceptional work on Monday Night Football (1986-2005), Sunday Night Football (2006-2022) and Thursday Night Football (2022-Present). He’s called the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals, Stanley Cup Finals, Hagler-Hearns, the Olympics, the Indy 500, Horse Racing’s Triple Crown races, College Football and Basketball games, Golf, and more. He’s even held roles as the voice of the University of Hawaii, the Cincinnati Reds, and the San Francisco Giants, and was in the booth in 1989 when an earthquake rocked the Bay Area during Game 3 of the A’s-Giants world series.

The Brooklyn native turned Los Angeles resident has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and owns a ton of hardware including five sports Emmy’s, three NSMA Sportscaster of the Year honors, the 2013 Pete Rozelle Radio & Television Award distributed by the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the 2021 Ford C. Frick Award given out by the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. Though his trophy case may be full, we’re excited to add another to his collection to show our appreciation and respect for the impact he’s made on the sports media business.

A quick reminder, the BSM Summit takes place on Tuesday March 21st and Wednesday March 22nd at the Founders Club at the University of Southern California. Tickets are on-sale at BSMSummit.com.

Be advised, we have started adding sessions and times on the website. As always, the schedule is subject to change. Our final agenda will be posted by the end of next week. In addition, attendees will receive an email by next Friday with details of who will be in attendance. We hope to see you there.

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Rob Parker, Brian Long, Sean Thompson and Matt Fishman Join The BSM Summit Speaker Lineup

“I’m excited to welcome a few folks who have enjoyed success in different parts of the country, and in different areas of the business.”

Jason Barrett

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As we gear up for our 5th annual BSM Summit on March 21-22, 2023, I’m starting to get a better feel for how the final puzzle may look. When this process starts I have no idea how it’s going to turn out because so much depends on who says yes and no. Many who’ve attended over the years have complimented our lineups, and I appreciate it because I put a lot of time and effort into featuring a strong mix of professionals from different areas of the industry. Though I’m proud of the work we do and the schedule we deliver, there are so many things pursued leading up to the event that I can’t help but wonder ‘what if this or that had worked out?’

One thing that some folks don’t understand if they haven’t been to the show before is that this is not a talent conference. It’s a sports media business conference. That means we feature radio, TV and digital executives, programmers, researchers, sales professionals, and yes, talent. I believe on-air performers are vital to the industry’s success and I want the best of the best sharing their wisdom with everyone in the room, but we’re also not going to do two full days of on-air conversations. Being successful in sports media requires understanding the on-air side and the business side, and we do our best to offer a blend of both.

For today’s announcement, I’m excited to welcome a few sports media pros who have enjoyed success in different parts of the country, and in different areas of the business.

First, Rob Parker is someone who has made a name for himself as a radio host, writer, TV commentator, and teacher. He’s currently heard weeknights on FOX Sports Radio, teaches students at USC Annenberg, writes for Deadspin, and is helping MLBBro gain awareness and a bigger mainstream media presence covering Major League Baseball. He’s experienced, smart, and never short on opinion. I’m looking forward to having him join Mitch Rosen of 670 The Score/BetQL, and Scott Shapiro of FOX Sports Radio for a session titled “Aircheck On Campus“. They’ll take the stage together on Wednesday March 22nd from 2:10-2:45.

My next three speakers, all come from the sports radio programming department.

Matt Fishman is the Director of Content for ESPN 850 Cleveland. Fishman has been with the brand since January 2020 following stints at SiriusXM, 610 Sports in Kansas City, and 670 The Score in Chicago. He even wrote for BSM for a few years.

Sean Thompson is responsible for programming decisions at Arizona Sports and ESPN 620 AM. He joined the well respected Phoenix brand after more than a decade in Atlanta at 92.9 The Game. Sean has also worked in affiliate relations for Westwood One, and on the air and as a programmer in music radio for Good Karma Brands in Madison, WI.

Brian Long is the program director of both San Diego Sports 760 and KOGO 600 in San Diego. In addition to guiding two of the top talk brands in his market, he has also managed Seattle Sports 710, and served as the Assistant Program Director for ESPN LA 710.

Matt, Sean, and Brian will be part of one of our final sessions on day two of the Summit. The Last Call which yours truly is hosting, will explore unique revenue opportunities created by local brands, and examine a few new ideas and missed opportunities that brands and managers may want to take advantage of in the future.

As of today, the Summit has more than forty accomplished professionals taking the stage at the Founders Club at USC’s Galen Center on March 21-22, 2023. I’ve got a few others still to announce as well, including a few cool giveaways planned for the WWE’s Kickoff party.

If you haven’t bought a ticket and wish to be in the room, visit BSMSummit.com. The last day for ticket sales will be Monday March 13th. I’m hoping to release our final schedule of sessions on Tuesday March 14th. Hopefully I’ll see you in the city of angels.

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