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One Size Does Not Fit All In Sports Talk Radio

Jason Barrett

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To have success in the sports radio industry as an on-air personality, you’ve got to have an ability to make the audience think and laugh, while being comfortable in your own skin. Having a strong work ethic also helps.

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For John Kincade, those three things have played a critical role in fueling his success on the local and national scene. He’s been a fixture on 680 The Fan in Atlanta for the past 16 years, while also building his brand nationally on ESPN Radio and the CBS Sports Radio network. Over the past year he’s taken on the additional challenge of hosting two podcasts per week for the Podcast One network. To say he keeps busy would be an understatement.

I first got to know John in 2005 when he came to Bristol, CT for a few test shows at the ESPN Radio Network. We worked together on the program “GameNight” and instantly clicked. I thought he was an exceptional on-air talent, but even more impressive was that he was easy to produce. He had a strong passion for radio and although he had achieved a lot of success, he remained very coachable. Not every talent operates that way.

Throughout the years we’ve stayed in touch and discussed numerous on-air subjects, industry developments and ways to make our format stronger. I have a great deal of respect for how he approaches his craft and what he provides through the speakers. His willingness to adapt, work hard, and appreciate the opportunities he’s earned makes it very easy to root for him.

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When I decided to start featuring some written content from other members of the sports media, John was one of the first to reach out. That speaks to his passion for our business and his interest in helping others enjoy many of the same successes that he has.

A quick reminder, if you work in the sports media industry and would like to write a future piece, email JBarrett@hvy.tcp.mybluehost.me.

In this article, John provides some excellent information and opinion on why programmers and personalities need to be open minded and willing to adjust their strategy for different situations. Although many have their own personal views and formulas, sports radio is not a one size fits all business, and each market requires a different plan of attack.

Rather than try to explain it myself, John Kincade the floor is all yours.

One Size Does Not Fit All In Sports Talk Radio

Not many men or women can say they’ve had their dream job. I’m blessed to be one that has. In a quarter of a century in the sports radio business, I’ve done it all. I learned early on that arriving behind the microphone was not a destination. It is supposed to be an ongoing journey of evolution as a host. Those who feel they have arrived can find their tenures short lived. 

I have the titles of intern, producer, reporter, local host and national host on my career resume. I appreciate my career more because of the grind it was to get my opportunities and what it continues to take to stay employed. Every step along the way I have learned something. Being a successful talk show host means you need to be part student and part thief. You must be willing to constantly learn and also have the ability to take little skills from others you admire and make them your own.

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One lesson has the most clarity for me. There is NOT a “one size fits all approach” to success in sports radio. This is true for hosts, producers and stations themselves. What works in New York would fail miserably in Atlanta. The successful station in Boston can’t just be recreated in Kansas City. If you don’t know your terrain and audience, you are destined for failure. I don’t know how many PD’s, Producers or Hosts have espoused their sure fire methods for success to me. Truth is, there is not one method that works everywhere for hosts. There are some things though that a host can do in any market to be successful. 

As co-host of the “Buck and Kincade Show” with Buck Belue on 680 The Fan I have learned many lessons. We debuted in September of 2000, and 16 football seasons later we are still going strong. This has required evolution, reinvention and input from many different people to keep the show successful. Truth be told, I refuse to take every piece of advice I receive. I sift through the opinions of others to find what works for me and my shows. I found out long ago that there are many exceptional talents who never sat behind the mic. These station leaders have knowledge and advice to share, but many times fail to connect with the personalities they’re asked to coach. We are not always the most open minded people in the room.

In the world of local radio, your city is different than my city. In Philadelphia, New York and Boston you have a built in audience with generational ties to the city and the teams that play there. This is not the case for Atlanta, Miami and Houston. The problem is there are programmers who believe there are methods you can just cut and paste from one market to another. It doesn’t work like that. It’s harder working in a transient local market than a city with deep rooted sports heritage. Yet there are things that would help make you a great host that you can do in both places. That is where being a student and a thief serves you well. The PD in the Northeast may find grinding calls is a successful formula. That can’t just be plugged into another market without the built in captive sports fan loyalty. In those markets, you need to entertain and engage to create a show worth sticking around for.

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As an intern and show contributor, I was exposed to some of the top names in our industry. The legendary Tony Bruno put me on the air for the first time as a correspondent when I worked for the Philadelphia Flyers. He then introduced me to Angelo Cataldi who began to showcase my comedic talents in weekly bits on Sports Radio WIP. I got to watch Howard Eskin work his magic on TV and Radio from behind the scenes. Fact is I stole components from each of them. Eskin was relentless in his desire to have strong opinions. Bruno thought every intense sports debate could always have a punch line. Cataldi was the master of creating the circus and orchestrating a team. The lessons I learned from them have worked for me.

I’ve had the honor in my career to be an accomplished role player for two major sports radio networks. At ESPN Radio in addition to hosting my own weekly show, I had the honor of filling in for Mike Greenberg, Colin Cowherd, Dan Patrick and countless others. At CBS Sports Radio I’ve filled in on nearly every show on the network in addition to hosting my own show. Each show brings a new energy, different approach and a key message. When filling in on a show bearing another’s name, remember that! I’ve heard people fill-in on shows and they barely mention the host whose seat they are occupying. Worse yet, remember the audience is tuning in expecting to hear the named host. Do their show with your particular flair. Don’t throw away all of the normal flow of the show just because you want to seize the stage. If you are good enough, you will get to do it again. 

I’ve had PD’s who have conducted aircheck sessions with me. We’d listen back to segments and discuss the formatics and content. I learned more from these than in any other forum. I was schooled on resets, constant teasing and how to plan out a show. These tactics have helped me to stay focused and energized on air. I listen to other hosts from around the country on local and national shows. I’m amazed at how many can’t get a minute into the show without tossing out a phone number. They haven’t given me any opinions yet on topics but somehow desire me to call in. It is the tell tale sign of the host wanting to mail in a show or one who has not been taught proper tactics to hold an audience. PD’s, identify talent that desire coaching. Personally, anyone who can put more money into my bank account has my attention. If you are a talent who doesn’t want coaching, you’ll most likely never maximize your earning potential. 

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I am far from a perfect host. I do know that I am one of the most competitive. I desire to win and always want to get better. I seek out mentors and pick the brains of my peers whom I admire. I always want to involve the people working behind the scenes on my shows into the on air fabric. There are PD’s that denounce that strategy. I find additional voices serve as a checks and balance system for the audience. They can get comfortable calling me out and inserting other views. When on the air, my Producers are my boss. That does not mean I will always agree or comply, but the Producer must know that I value their input and need their feedback.

Some PD’s don’t demand a show rundown sheet. Others live and die by them. I’ve been working with one on my local and national shows for years. I’m fascinated with the amount of national hosts I know that don’t ever plan out their shows. I’ve been coached to where I now script out every tease and reset. Every segment of every show has content scheduled, but the plan can always be fluid. I can always tell when one of my peers has planned their show, because I always know where they are going and what I am looking forward to.

It’s my belief that we are not being coached enough in our industry. So, I seek out personal conversations with peers I respect and try to learn from them. Many PD’s have not been on air and don’t have the ability to tell their hosts what made them successful. The error in this is that the PD can actually be valuable as a constant consumer of the on air product. Are you listening to me daily? Did you send me an email after that segment you loved? Is every interaction I have with you only after I’ve done something to annoy you? Communication with your hosts can create trust and camaraderie. 

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I have seen members of radio management that seem to enjoy pitting one show against another. I’ve known others to preach creating a “Stationality” with interaction between all shows. Competition is great, but creating a radio team will get you much further. I’ve seen too many hosts that care only about themselves and their own shows. They never devote energy to building the brand of the station. Without that brand, you have nothing.

One way for a PD to grab the attention of a host is to thicken their wallet. I have been lucky to have been coached by some that taught me valuable lessons on building my brand so I can represent others. It’s created the ultimate employment insurance. I know that my station revenues generated with advertisers justifies my paycheck. Again, I’m shocked at how many in my field still don’t get this. You are a salesperson for your station and your personal brand. 

I saw a twenty something member of the media recently say publicly after resigning that unless you are Francesa or Cowherd in our industry you get the short end of the stick. That person doesn’t have the stomach or determination to succeed. If you want to build a career and reap the financial rewards, few will do it before they hit their thirties or forties. If you quit in your 20’s, you never wanted to fight to get where I have. 

Thank you to all of the Program Directors who helped to guide me. I didn’t listen to everything you said, but the lessons that stuck have assisted me greatly. If you are a PD reading this, step up your game. The hosts you inspire with a new message may just step up theirs too.

John Kincade is Co-Host of “Buck and Kincade” on 680 The Fan in Atlanta since 2000, Host of “The John Kincade Show” on CBS Sports Radio, Co-Host of “The BIG Podcast with SHAQ” on Podcast One and Co-Host of “Draft Kings Ultimate Fantasy Podcast”. You can connect with him on Twitter by clicking here or on Facebook by clicking here.

Barrett Blogs

BSM’s Black Friday SALE on BSM Summit Tickets is Underway!

Jason Barrett

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Each year I’m asked if there are ways to save money on tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit. I always answer yes but not everyone takes advantage of it. For those interested in doing so, here’s your shot.

For TODAY ONLY, individual tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit are reduced by $50.00. Two ticket and four ticket packages are also lowered at $50 per ticket. To secure your seat at a discounted price, just log on to BSMSummit.com. This sale ends tonight at 11:59pm ET.

If you’re flying to Los Angeles for the event, be sure to reserve your hotel room. Our hotel partner this year is the USC Hotel. It’s walking distance of our venue. Full details on hotel rooms can also be found via the conference website.

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Barrett Blogs

Mina Kimes, Bruce Gilbert, Mitch Rosen, and Stacey Kauffman Join the 2023 BSM Summit

“By the time we get to March, we should have somewhere between 40-60 participants involved in the conference.”

Jason Barrett

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The 2023 BSM Summit is returning to Los Angeles on March 21-22, 2023, live from the Founders Club at the Galen Center at the campus of the University of Southern California. Information on tickets and hotel rooms can be found at BSMSummit.com.

We’ve previously announced sixteen participants for our upcoming show, and I’m excited today to confirm the additions of four more more smart, successful professionals to be part of the event. Before I do that, I’d like to thank The Volume for signing on as our Badge sponsor, the Motor Racing Network for securing the gift bag sponsorship, and Bonneville International for coming on board as a Session sponsor. We do have some opportunities available but things are moving fast this year, so if you’re interested in being involved, email Stephanie Eads at Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com.

Now let’s talk about a few of the speaker additions for the show.

First, I am thrilled to welcome ESPN’s Mina Kimes to the Summit for her first appearance. Mina and I had the pleasure recently of connecting on a podcast (go listen to it) and I’ve been a fan of her work for years. Her intellect, wit, football acumen, and likeability have served her well on television, podcasts, and in print. She’s excelled as an analyst on NFL Live and Rams preseason football games, as a former host of the ESPN Daily podcast, and her appearances on Around The Horn and previously on Highly Questionable and the Dan Le Batard Show were always entertaining. I’m looking forward to having Mina join FS1’s Joy Taylor and ESPN LA 710 PD Amanda Brown for an insightful conversation about the industry.

Next is another newcomer. I’m looking forward to having Audacy San Francisco and Sacramento Regional Vice President Stacey Kauffman in the building for our 2023 show. In addition to overseeing a number of music brands, Stacey also oversees a dominant news/talk outlet, and two sports radio brands. Among them are my former station 95.7 The Game in San Francisco, and ESPN 1320 in Sacramento. I’m looking forward to having her participate in our GM panel with Good Karma’s Sam Pines, iHeart’s Don Martin, and led by Bonneville’s Executive Vice President Scott Sutherland.

From there, it’s time to welcome back two of the sharpest sports radio minds in the business. Bruce Gilbert is the SVP of Sports for Westwood One and Cumulus Media. He’s seen and done it all on the local and national level and anytime he’s in the room to share his programming knowledge with attendees, everyone leaves the room smarter. I’m anticipating another great conversation on the state of sports radio, which FOX Sports Radio VP of programming Scott Shapiro will be a part of.

Another student of the game and one of the top programmers in the format today is 670 The Score in Chicago PD, Mitch Rosen. The former Mark Chernoff Award recipient and recently appointed VP of the BetQL Network juggles managing a top 3 market sports brand while being charged with moving an emerging sports betting network forward. Count on Mr. Rosen to offer his insights and opinions during another of our branding and programming discussions.

By the time we get to March, we should have somewhere between 40-60 participants involved in the conference. My focus now is on finalizing our business and digital sessions, research, tech and sports betting panels, securing our locations and sponsorships for the After Party and Kickoff Party, plus working out the details for a few high-profile executive appearances and a couple of surprises.

For those looking to attend and save a few dollars on tickets, we’ll be holding a special Black Friday Sale this Friday November 25th. Just log on to BSMSummit.com that day to save $50 on individual tickets. In addition, thanks to the generosity of voice talent extraordinaire Steve Kamer, we’ll be giving away 10 tickets leading up to the conference. Stay tuned for details on the giveaway in the months ahead.

Still to come is an announcement about our special ticket rate for college students looking to attend the show and learn. We also do an annual contest for college kids to attend the event for free which I’m hoping to have ready in the next few weeks. It’s also likely we’ll give away a few tickets to industry professionals leading up to Christmas, so keep an eye out.

If you work in the sports media industry and value making connections, celebrating those who create an impact, and learning about the business from folks who have experienced success, failure, and everything in between, the Summit is worth your time. I’m excited to have Mina, Bruce, Mitch and Stacey join us for the show, and look forward to spending a few days with the industry’s best and brightest this March! Hope to see you there.

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Barrett Blogs

Barrett Media is Making Changes To Better Serve Our Sports and News Media Readers

“We had the right plan of attack in 2020, but poor timing. So we’re learning from the past and adjusting for the future.”

Jason Barrett

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When I launched this website all I wanted to do was share news, insight and stories about broadcasters and brands. My love, passion and respect for this business is strong, and I know many of you reading this feel similar. I spent two great decades in radio watching how little attention was paid to those who played a big part in their audiences lives. The occasional clickbait story and contract drama would find their way into the newspapers but rarely did you learn about the twists and turns of a broadcaster’s career, their approach to content or the tactics and strategies needed to succeed in the industry. When personal reasons led me home to NY in 2015, I decided I was going to try my best to change that.

Since launching this brand, we’ve done a good job informing and entertaining media industry professionals, while also helping consulting clients and advertising partners improve their businesses. We’ve earned respect from the industry’s top stars, programming minds and mainstream media outlets, growing traffic from 50K per month to 500K and monthly social impressions from a few thousand to a few million. Along the way we’ve added conferences, rankings, podcasts, a member directory, and as I’ve said before, this is the best and most important work I’ve ever done, and I’m not interested in doing anything else.

If I’ve learned anything over seven years of operating a digital content company it’s that you need skill, strategy, passion, differentiating content, and good people to create impact. You also need luck, support, curiosity and an understanding of when to double down, cut bait or pivot. It’s why I added Stephanie Eads as our Director of Sales and hired additional editors, columnists and features reporters earlier this year. To run a brand like ours properly, time and investment are needed. We’ve consistently grown and continue to invest in our future, and it’s my hope that more groups will recognize the value we provide, and give greater consideration to marketing with us in the future.

But with growth comes challenges. Sometimes you can have the right idea but bad timing. I learned that when we launched Barrett News Media.

We introduced BNM in September 2020, two months before the election when emotions were high and COVID was a daily discussion. I wasn’t comfortable then of blending BNM and BSM content because I knew we’d built a trusted sports media resource, and I didn’t want to shrink one audience while trying to grow another. Given how personal the election and COVID became for folks, I knew the content mix would look and feel awkward on our site.

So we made the decision to start BNM with its own website. We ran the two brands independently and had the right plan of attack, but discovered that our timing wasn’t great.

The first nine months readership was light, which I expected since we were new and trying to build an audience from scratch. I believed in the long-term mission, which was why I stuck with it through all of the growing pains, but I also felt a responsibility to make sure our BNM writing team and the advertising partners we forged relationships with were being seen by as many people as possible. We continued with the original plan until May 2021 when after a number of back and forth debates, I finally agreed to merge the two sites. I figured if WFAN could thrive with Imus in the Morning and Mike and the Mad Dog in the afternoon, and the NY Times, LA Times, KOA, KMOX and numerous other newspaper and radio brands could find a way to blend sports and news/talk, then so could we.

And it worked.

We dove in and started to showcase both formats, building social channels and groups for each, growing newsletter databases, and with the addition of a few top notch writers, BNM began making bigger strides. Now featured under the BSM roof, the site looked bigger, the supply of daily content became massive, and our people were enjoying the increased attention.

Except now we had other issues. Too many stories meant many weren’t being read and more mistakes were slipping through the cracks. None of our crew strive to misspell a word or write a sloppy headline but when the staff and workload doubles and you’re trying to focus on two different formats, things can get missed. Hey, we’re all human.

Then a few other things happened that forced a larger discussion with my editors.

First, I thought about how much original material we were creating for BSM from our podcast network, Summit, Countdown to Coverage series, Meet the Market Managers, BSM Top 20, and began to ask myself ‘if we’re doing all of this for sports readers, what does that tell folks who read us for news?’ We then ran a survey to learn what people valued about our brand and though most of the feedback was excellent, I saw how strong the response was to our sports content, and how news had grown but felt second fiddle to those offering feedback.

Then, Andy Bloom wrote an interesting column explaining why radio hosts would be wise to stop talking about Donald Trump. It was the type of piece that should’ve been front and center on a news site all day but with 3 featured slots on the site and 7 original columns coming in that day, they couldn’t all be highlighted the way they sometimes should be. We’re actually going through that again today. That said, Andy’s column cut through. A few sports media folks didn’t like seeing it on the site, which wasn’t a surprise since Trump is a polarizing personality, but the content resonated well with the news/talk crowd.

National talk radio host Mike Gallagher was among the folks to see Andy’s piece, and he spent time on his show talking about the column. Mike’s segment was excellent, and when he referenced the article, he did the professional thing and credited our website – Barrett SPORTS Media. I was appreciative of Mike spending time on his program discussing our content but it was a reminder that we had news living under a sports roof and it deserved better than that.

I then read some of Pete Mundo, Doug Pucci and Rick Schultz’s columns and Jim Cryns’ features on Chris Ruddy, Phil Boyce, and David Santrella, and knew we were doing a lot of quality work but each time we produced stories, folks were reminded that it lived on a SPORTS site. I met a few folks who valued the site, recognized the increased focus we put on our news/talk coverage, and hoped we had plans to do more. Jim also received feedback along the lines of “good to see you guys finally in the news space, hope there’s more to come.”

Wanting to better understand our opportunities and challenges, I reviewed our workflow, looked at which content was hitting and missing the mark, thought about the increased relationships we’d worked hard to develop, and the short-term and long-term goals for BNM. I knew it was time to choose a path. Did I want to think short-term and keep everything under one roof to protect our current traffic and avoid disrupting people or was it smarter to look at the big picture and create a destination where news/talk media content could be prioritized rather than treated as BSM’s step-child?

Though I spent most of my career in sports media and established BSM first, it’s important to me to serve the news/talk media industry our very best. I want every news/talk executive, host, programmer, market manager, agent, producer, seller and advertiser to know this format matters to us. Hopefully you’ve seen that in the content we’ve created over the past two years. My goal is to deliver for news media professionals what we have for sports media folks and though that may be a tall order, we’re going to bust our asses to make it happen. To prove that this isn’t just lip service, here’s what we’re going to do.

Starting next Monday November 28th, we are relaunching BarrettNewsMedia.com. ALL new content produced by the BNM writing team will be available daily under that URL. For the first 70-days we will display news media columns from our BNM writers on both sites and support them with promotion across both of our brands social channels. The goal is to have the two sites running independent of each other by February 6, 2023.

Also starting on Monday November 28th, we will begin distributing the BNM Rundown newsletter 5 days per week. We’ve been sending out the Rundown every M-W-F since October 2021, but the time has come for us to send it out daily. With increased distribution comes two small adjustments. We will reduce our daily story count from 10 to 8 and make it a goal to deliver it to your inbox each day by 3pm ET. If you haven’t signed up to receive the Rundown, please do. You can click here to register. Be sure to scroll down past the 8@8 area.

Additionally, Barrett News Media is going to release its first edition of the BNM Top 20 of 2022. This will come out December 12-16 and 19-20. The category winners will be decided by more than 50 news/talk radio program directors and executives. Among the categories to be featured will be best Major/Mid Market Local morning, midday, and afternoon show, best Local News/Talk PD, best Local News/Talk Station, best National Talk Radio Show, and best Original Digital Show. The voting process with format decision makers begins today and will continue for two weeks. I’ve already got a number of people involved but if you work in an executive or programming role in the news/talk format and wish to be part of it, send an email to me at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.

We have one other big thing coming to Barrett News Media in 2023, which I will announce right after the BNM Top 20 on Wednesday December 21st. I’m sure news/talk professionals will like what we have planned but for now, it’ll have to be a month long tease. I promise though to pay it off.

Additionally, I’m always looking for industry folks who know and love the business and enjoy writing about it. If you’ve programmed, hosted, sold or reported in the news/talk world and have something to offer, email me. Also, if you’re a host, producer, programmer, executive, promotions or PR person and think something from your brand warrants coverage on our site, send it along. Most of what we write comes from listening to stations and digging across the web and social media. Receiving your press releases and getting a heads up on things you’re doing always helps.

If you’re a fan of BSM, this won’t affect you much. The only difference you’ll notice in the coming months is a gradual reduction of news media content on the BSM website and our social accounts sharing a little about both formats over the next two months until we’re officially split in February. We are also going to dabble a little more in marketing, research and tech content that serves both formats. If you’re a reader who enjoys both forms of our content, you’ll soon have BarrettSportsMedia.com for sports, and BarrettNewsMedia.com for news.

Our first two years in the news/talk space have been very productive but we’ve only scratched the surface. Starting November 28th, news takes center stage on BarrettNewsMedia.com and sports gets less crowded on BarrettSportsMedia.com. We had the right plan of attack in 2020, but poor timing. So we’re learning from the past and adjusting for the future. If we can count on you to remember two URL’s (add them to your bookmarks) and sign up for our newsletters, then you can count on us to continue delivering exceptional coverage of the industry you love. As always, thanks for the continued support. It makes everything we do worthwhile.

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