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Is Radio Ready For The Rise of Digital?

Jason Barrett

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Steve Jobs once said “people don’t know what they want until you show it to them” and he was exactly right. When a new product or piece of content is created and promoted through audio and visual platforms, it often leads to increased curiosity from the consumer. With each additional marketed message, the audience becomes more emotionally attached, and soon that intrigue leads to a sale or an investment of their time. It’s this very formula that fuels the growth of the music, sports, and entertainment industries.

When Jobs introduced the Apple computer, iPod, and iPhone, people lined up to purchase each product because they believed in the possibilities of what those products represented. They had no knowledge of how they’d work because they’d yet to use them, but because they were marketed well and ignited the consumer’s interest, it led to massive sales, and made Apple one of America’s most successful companies.

stanIt was that same approach that led 30 NFL owners to change direction and throw their support behind Rams owner Stan Kroenke when he was looking to move his team from St. Louis to Los Angeles earlier this year. Kroenke had to overcome competition from the Raiders and Chargers to turn the tide in his favor, and to do so, he let a room full of billionaires see the vision and fall in love with its possibilities.

“One of the most important things that nailed it (Tuesday) is that we just kept showing them pictures,” Kroenke said. “People love pictures. And what those pictures showed was the thought and the development and the plan, and the depth of the thought.”

When a great idea is captured visually, it becomes more enticing to the consumer. It percolates in their minds and fuels their curiousity. This is what drives large activity and interest in social and digital media.

Throughout the years, radio has been consistently late to the party when new ideas have been introduced. Whether it was the creation of websites, streaming, mobile listening, or the use of social media marketing, there’s always been a wait and see approach rather than a dive right in mentality. Whether that’s due to tunnel vision, a shortage of resources, or a fear of compromising its own success over the airwaves, the reality is that radio often plays catch up in a world that thrives on innovation and longs for the next big thing.

For this piece, I want to focus on the surge of social and digital media and how radio is operating in each space. It’s clearly where people are and where future business is moving, and although many brands are represented in these circles, they also lack vision and strategy.

Quite honestly, we are not innovating enough on these platforms. Our creativity and repurposing of content leaves a lot to be desired. We’re providing a basic experience and relying on the medium itself to save us, rather than understanding what must be done in the space to enjoy success.

dig1I don’t say this to hurt feelings but rather to enlighten many who may not recognize how many missed opportunities are occurring and how damaging it can be. With digital media projected to rake in 38-45% of all media ad spending between 2017-2020 (the most of any platform) and radio slotted for only 6-7%, you can see why it’s more important than ever to be crisp and creative in these places.

I browsed thirty radio station accounts (coast to coast) on Facebook and Twitter, and only two of them promoted their podcasts on their social media accounts. The writing for promoting those podcasts lacked any call to action for the listener “Podcast Hour 1 of the ____ show”. No mention of the topics discussed or key headlines offered by the host and no teases for what the listener might learn if they listen.

If you’re including a link and expecting someone to leave the social media platform they’re on, then you’ve got to give them a reason to do so. Otherwise you’ll find those posts deliver lackluster results. Without clicks, your sales team is going to struggle to create a powerful narrative for advertisers who are shifting their radio spending into the digital arena.

As part of my research I discovered numerous radio station websites with mistakes on their websites, including their own lineups. News flash, Colin Cowherd is no longer on 10a-1p on ESPN Radio and Dan Le Batard’s show moved from 4pm over seven months ago.

I also learned that there are networks out there without a Facebook page and limited activity on Twitter. If these platforms are where your audience resides each day then how can you afford not to be present?

Some of our best shows are on the air for 20-25 hours per week. There’s a lot of opinion, humor, insight, and breaking news taking place during those hours, yet we lose sight of the fact that the audience isn’t consuming every minute of content that we provide. The material we create lives forever on our websites, but once the show is done, we assume everyone has heard it and consider the job complete once we upload the audio files onto the website.

However, we’re forgetting afterwards to promote our full hours, smaller audio clips, and special guest interviews. We also fail to use graphics to highlight big opinions, stories, and one-liners offered by our talent to redirect the audience back to our websites afterwards. Why? The content is available and the majority of the local population hasn’t heard it, but because the show ended when the host delivered their final word it’s no longer relevant? That’s a giant mistake.

fallonI’ve mentioned this numerous times, but Jimmy Fallon’s show is a hit because it exists well beyond the window of which it airs on television. Each day it’s promoted throughout all social media platforms, and when quality content is available in smaller lengths, people make it a point to check it out. Even if they saw it the night before, if it was great, they’ll watch it again, and share it with their friends.

For radio, we hear something while we’re in the car or listening on our phone, and have no reason to share it on social media platforms because it’s not available. To showcase it, we have to log on to the station’s website, copy the link, go back to our social media accounts, incorporate the link and write a line or two about it, and then press send, rather than just click the share button because the radio station we listen to made it available.

If by chance it is available, it’s often a full hour of content and that’s less likely to generate a click. Radio rarely offers smaller chunks of audio to its audiences via social media, and when something is provided, it’s usually not followed up the next day or the day after. If you want people to consume your content, put it in the right places, make it quick and easy to consume, and offer it consistently.

pasrcolinTake a look at the way Zach McCrite promotes a guest’s appearance on the “Podcast About Sports Radio” and think about the way this could be utilized with your station and/or top talk show. Each day hosts on sports radio stations are delivering headline worthy opinions, interesting facts or stories about themselves, and welcoming guests who treat them to new information. With a little time, effort, creativity, and promotion on social platforms, you can engage your audience and draw them back to your content.

One other trend I unfortunately noticed during my research was how only a handful promoted their key talk shows prior to going on the air. Those who did, offered the daily guest list.

Nearly half provided minimal interactions during their shows too. If you have thousands of people following your brand on social media, is it not possible that a meter or two might be part of the group? All it takes is letting them know there’s something worthwhile to tune in for, and if they do, it can lead to your show gaining additional ratings credit.

As far as promoting the guest list is concerned, here’s the issue with it. Are you telling your audience that your host(s) doesn’t have something interesting, funny, or powerful for the audience to tune in for? Do you think that the only reason they put the dial on is because of who you booked? The names may look sexy, and certain guests do lead to tune-ins, but so does a powerful opinion, a piece of information the audience may not be aware of, an opportunity to win a big prize, or a chance to call in and interact with the show.

Rather than tossing out the usual “Today’s show includes Michael Irvin at 7:30am, Karl Ravech at 8:15am and Jerry Crasnick at 9:30am”, how about adding a popular question, topic, or fact with the guest to make it more intriguing? For example, “How would Adam LaRoche’s situation be handled in an NFL locker room? Michael Irvin’s answer at 7:30am will surprise you.”

Aside from promoting guests, there are many other layers inside of a talk show that are important to the audience, and when you look at a 9-12 segment show, if a guest occupies 3 of those segments, that means 6-9 others don’t include a guest. By not promoting other topics, stories, and opportunities to interact, you’re telling the audience to worry about 1/3 of your show, not the rest of it.

IMG_8026I came across this example from “The Swain Event” and while I believe it needs more detail to draw people in, I was impressed with the effort prior to the show to try and give the audience an idea of what was coming up. They didn’t type 140 characters and rely on text to engage people, they instead used a graphic to make it more visually appealing. With some improved detail on the chalkboard, this can lead to listeners looking forward to learning what’s coming up each day.

Next, if you’ve not been paying attention, Facebook has invaded the video space, and they’re determined to make sure that you have zero reason to leave their platform to use Periscope or any other video application. With their entry into the video world comes big opportunity for radio stations and talk show hosts.

We know the audience spends a large portion of their time each day on Facebook, and the interest in being a fly on the wall inside the studio has always been high. It’s why radio show simulcasts on television have been such a hit.

hmIf you don’t have a television deal, this can be a great way to bring your audience on the inside and further promote your station and content. Depending on your radio station’s following on Facebook, you could end up with more people watching your video stream than they would a simulcast of your show on local television.

Something to keep in mind for the sales end of your operation, this could pay dividends for your clients too. Imagine if the host’s shirt was provided by a client. Or if they had a soft drink in front of them. Or a visual display behind them. The opportunities are endless.

Yes you can expect that Facebook is going to want their fair share of what you generate, but if advertisers are demanding your brand deliver bigger in social and digital spaces, this is an easy way to tap into it. Take a look at this example of the Haberman and Middlekauff show in San Francisco on 95.7 The Game who have already started video streaming daily.

You can already see how many views are coming in and as Facebook grows even bigger in the video world, you can expect the data will become even stronger for clients to take advantage of. One suggestion if you’re using this service, pay attention to the comments delivered by your listeners. If they’re taking the time to watch you, and trying to contribute to your program, they’re just as valuable as the person who’s taking the time to call your studio line while at work or in the car.

Although Facebook is powerful and expected to become an even bigger player in the video world, there are other video options available. Periscope for instance has been a huge attraction and plays perfectly with Twitter. With sports becoming a phenomenon in the Twittersphere, having your talent available in this location makes a ton of sense. It’s even better if you can find ways to incorporate your clients into it.

periscopeI was doing some digging and I stumbled across this example of what 106.7 The Fan in Washington DC is doing. Sports Anchor Pete Medhurst not only promotes and delivers his updates on Periscope and Twitter, but he also includes promotion for the sponsor and includes their twitter ID in his posts.

This shows the sponsor that they’re receiving their promotion, it makes them look good to those who follow the station and personality, and it’s non-intrusive which means the audience is less likely to be turned off by it. That’s very smart and something the sales team in DC can use with their clients to remind them that they’re incorporated into the radio station’s multi-media strategy.

Although some of these examples above show how we’re making strides to improve, we’ve still got to do a better job in how we highlight the content to get the audience interested in clicking our links. Too often station’s post links and headlines that leave little to be desired. You’ll see something like this: “Team X loses third straight”.

Ask yourself this, why would I click the link to that story on a radio station’s website, when ESPN, Yahoo, Sports Illustrated, Fox, Bleacher Report, and every other major national sports brand has the same result and likely more detail? If there’s no suspense or personalization, good luck driving large amounts of clicks.

If you think about the headline on the front page of a newspaper, it’s sole purpose is to get you to click the link and read the story. If you’re an old school individual who still likes to have the paper in their hand, they’re hoping to catch your eye and get you to buy the paper.

It’s that same mentality that’s needed when promoting your content on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or your own website. If you peak the listener’s curiosity, you stand a chance of them reading or listening to the content. If your headline lacks imagination and any sort of hook, the chances of them spending time consuming it becomes less.

saleTake a look at the way ESPN promoted Chris Sale’s reaction to the Adam LaRoche story. The text in the photo combined with the written message in the body of the post, displays great drama and makes you want to see what Sale said. ESPN even puts the word “WATCH” in capital letters to make sure you know that video exists and should be seen.

This story was popular and relatable to most people, and the way ESPN highlighted it increased their chances of gaining additional clicks.

The reason we spend the time creating content is to get an audience to consume it. When listeners become attached to our programming, that makes them attractive to advertisers, which allows our companies to capitalize on their listening and ultimately create a business. The focus for many in programming may not be on the bottom line but without positive results, there is no programming to offer.

If there’s two key things to takeaway from this column, it should be that content lives beyond your shift, and it must be distributed and promoted in a much more creative way across multiple locations consistently. The growth in digital is massive and it’s where the world’s listening and spending are headed. If radio isn’t dominant in this space, it’s going to have limited appeal and miss out on larger economic opportunities.

To those who are hosting or producing a show, think about the content you create and the multiple ways it can be promoted. That means using social media to promote your material before the show, during the show, and after the show. That includes providing long-form audio, shorter clips of memorable content, interviews, and anything else that’s clickworthy. Help yourself by taking notes during the show so the best stuff you create doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.

rkAnytime you can provide an image to help your material cut through the clutter, it’s highly recommended. If providing a plain text post leads to a 3 out of 10 response, and a visual post doubles your chances, isn’t it worth it to put the extra time in to create something that intrigues your audience? Similar to the Podcast About Sports Radio example, here’s something 101 ESPN in St. Louis did to highlight the opinions of their hosts.

When you see this type of graphic, it peaks your curiosity. The text involves drama and leaves you wanting to learn more about the subject. These type of moments though get lost because we don’t think enough about how to use shorter content as a tool to increase consumption. If we’re listening to our talent, and maximizing the massive amounts of great content they produce during a show, we’ll thrive in the digital space.

Remember, there are few platforms generating 16-24 hours of live sports content per day. Every minute becomes an opportunity. The issue for our industry in social and digital arenas has never been a lack of quality material. It’s our own lack of awareness and reliance on doing what’s acceptable instead of what’s remarkable.

If we utilize our creativity, deliver consistently, and provide a little extra TLC to the various ways we can highlight our content on these platforms, we’ll satisfy the needs of the audience and make ourselves and our business viable and necessary. Our future earning potential depends on the way we adapt to this challenge. Let’s hope for all of our sakes that radio doesn’t repeat its previous mistakes.

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Erika Ayers and Spike Eskin Led Barstool Sports and WFAN to Success But Their Exits Raise Questions

“Rod and Spike understand the business. They know people are going to ask these questions.”

Jason Barrett

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There were two big management moves last week that have sports media folks talking. First was Erika Ayers Badan announcing her exit from Barstool Sports as the brand’s CEO. Second was the news of Spike Eskin returning to Sportsradio WIP and exiting his role as the VP of Programming for WFAN and CBS Sports Radio.

Let’s start with Erika. What she did for Barstool was spectacular. In 2016, I thought Barstool had a strong understanding of social media, unique talent and voices, podcasts that were cutting through, and a connection with younger fans that traditional outlets couldn’t deliver. They also produced events that drew a lot of public attention. But I didn’t view Barstool as a buttoned up business capable of generating hundreds of millions of dollars. Erika Nardini aka Erika Ayers Badan and Dave Portnoy deserve credit for making it one.

Erika told me at our 2020 BSM Summit that Barstool didn’t have a P&L sheet when she joined. She had to build systems, hire staff, grow the sales arm of Barstool, and help Dave Portnoy find investors. What followed were marketing deals with major brands, content partnerships with different media outlets, a massive investment from Penn National, and a changed perception of Barstool as a mainstream player. They were no longer just the cool, rebellious brand on social media and the internet that gave no f’s and generated attention. They became game changers in the sports content space.

So why leave?

If Barstool is now clear of restrictions and able to operate without investor influence, that should be enticing, right? In her farewell video Erika said that she felt she accomplished what she set out to do. I understand and appreciate that. But I can’t help but wonder if less structure and investor involvement made it less appealing to stay. She did join the brand after The Chernin Group got involved not before it.

I have no inside knowledge on this, and I’m not suggesting Barstool won’t continue growing and dominating. They likely will. It just raises questions about how the brand will manage sales, PR, critical internal and external issues, and battles with suitors when they try to lure away Barstool’s on-air and sales talent.

The business end of Barstool appears weaker today than it did a week ago. That’s more of a testament to what Erika did than a knock on anyone still there. To grow revenue the way she did the past 8 years speaks volumes about her skill as an executive. Wherever she lands next, it’s likely she’ll make a difference.

Will it be easier to do business with Barstool moving forward? Time will tell. I don’t expect they’ll make it easier for media outlets like ours to cover them. But if I’ve learned anything in eight years of following them it’s don’t ever bet against Dave Portnoy. Too often people have. Each time he’s proven them wrong. Portnoy has built a powerhouse brand, and grown the business by zigging when others zagged. But how Barstool moves forward without Erika will be of great interest to many in 2024.

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Spike Eskin will be leaving WFAN and his position as the VP of Programming for Audacy to return to WIP and co-host the afternoon show. On paper this is a great move for WIP. Spike understands Philadelphia and WIP’s audience, he lives and breathes Philly sports, and has a great rapport with the entire lineup. He’s maintained an on-air presence through his Rights to Ricky Sanchez podcast, and I believe that moving into a host role alongside Ike Reese and Jack Fritz will be a seamless transition for all involved. Being in his mid to late 40’s, he’s also got plenty years ahead of him to cement his spot as an on-air talent. I expect Spike, Ike and Jack to do well together.

But to exit WFAN and the top programming role at Audacy in less than three years, raises a few questions. Why is this opportunity better for Spike than the programming role he just held? Was he happy at WFAN? Were folks happy with him at WFAN? Many have opinions about WFAN’s changes the past few years. Some love the fresher approach. Others don’t. That’s what makes sports radio in New York fun, people care.

As a follower of WFAN for over thirty years, it’s a different brand than the one I grew up on. That’s not a bad thing by the way. I’m almost 50. If Spike and Chris Oliviero programmed to please the Mike and the Mad Dog crowd that’d be a mistake. Attention spans are shorter, content options are larger, digital is more important and the days of a city flocking to the radio at 1pm to hear a host’s first words are gone. Judging from the ratings, revenue, and turnout for Boomer and Gio’s last live event, the station is doing well. They’ve got a lot of talent, a stronger digital game, and they’ll continue thriving. Spike deserves credit for the brand’s progress.

But why is a hosting role and less influence over a brand better for Eskin? Spike has been a part of WIP’s afternoon show before. Though leading the show vs. being the third mic is a different animal. He also programmed the station really well. In fact, Spike did such a good job at WIP that it landed him the top programming position in sports radio. Is there a personal part to this given that his father made afternoons in Philly must-listen for 25 years? Or is it about the personal relationship he has with Ike and Jack?

And how does this work from a financial standpoint? It’s likely that Spike was paid more to lead Audacy New York than Jon Marks was to host WIP’s afternoon show. If that’s the case, and nothing changes for Eskin, and WIP just adds payroll, does it affect what Chris Oliviero can spend on Audacy New York’s next brand leader? I can’t see that happening at all. Chris is going to make sure he has what he needs to land the right leader in New York.

Finances only come up because it’s known that Audacy is going through a bankruptcy process. Adding expenses right now seems unlikely. However, to add someone with Eskin’s skill and track record at a station where he previously shined is smart business, especially when you consider that he can win as a host and programmer if needed. That’s going to naturally lead to folks asking ‘will Spike eventually host PM drive and program WIP? If so, what does that mean for current PD Rod Lakin?’ ‘What happens when talent at WIP that Spike had a hand in hiring don’t like what Lakin suggests or if WIP’s ratings decline?’

Spike told Joe DeCamara and Jon Ritchie that’s not on his radar and the idea of joining the afternoon show was raised by PD Rod Lakin. Some of you may read that and be surprised that Lakin would suggest it. But Rod stepped into the role that Eskin previously held. I’m sure they’ve talked plenty the past few years. If their relationship is strong that should help. I don’t know it well enough to say if it is or isn’t. This move suggests Lakin’s more concerned with strengthening WIP than worrying about himself or industry chatter.

If anyone can navigate the situation and make it work, it’s Rod Lakin. He’s calm, cool, collected, smart and doesn’t get flustered by noise and pressure. I know this because we’ve known each other for over a decade, and I introduced him to folks years ago, which led to him landing the Philly role. If you read Derek Futterman’s piece on Angelo Cataldi last month, the Philly icon shared a small example of what makes Rod a great leader.

But Rod and Spike understand the business. They know people are going to ask these questions. The flurry of texts and emails I received about this last week was insane. I’m sure it was even louder on the local level. Many will suggest that Audacy will use this as an opportunity to eventually reduce expenses and stay strong by having Eskin handle two roles. Only those involved know the answers but one thing I know is that Rod Lakin knows how to program. If he’s not supported there, he’ll have plenty of interest elsewhere.

In a perfect world, Spike excels in afternoons, Rod leads WIP to greater success, and WFAN finds a great leader to move the brand forward. But until the smoke clears, noise will fill the air in the big apple and city of brotherly love.

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Thumbs Up:

Colin Dunlap, 93.7 The Fan: While on the air last week, Dunlap received a call from a 65-year old woman named Colette. She told the Pittsburgh host that she and her husband were disabled and after undergoing 28 surgeries, she was physically struggling to clear her walkway of snow. Hearing her story moved Dunlap to react. He then called on the audience to step up and help. Shortly thereafter, one of 93.7 The Fan’s listeners, a gentleman named Tom, phoned in, and made the drive over to help out a fellow listener. That’s the power of live radio at its best, all possible by Dunlap reading and reacting to the situation perfectly.

Clay Travis, Outkick: Whether you love him or hate him, Clay delivers strong opinions and commands your attention. A perfect example was his Friday night reaction video to the demise of Sports Illustrated. If you haven’t watched it, it’s worth checking out. It’s nearing one million views at the time of my writing this.

VSiN: The sports betting network based out of Las Vegas recently redesigned its website and the new look and feel of it is excellent. Clean throughout, easy to navigate, and rich of content. Nice work by Bill Adee all involved.

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Thumbs Down:

Sports Illustrated: Laying off the majority of its staff was bad enough, but to notify people by email or have them find out on social media shows a lack of class and a disgusting approach to running a business. All of those traits by the way are the exact opposite of what SI once stood for – RESPECT.

During SI’s glory days, the content was must read. But in recent years, the outlet landed in the hands of operators who valued clicks over quality. Many predicted and expected this once storied brand to crumble. Unfortunately, the naysayers were proven right.

To those affected, I’m sorry for the crummy news. Some will rebound and help other established brands. Some will launch their own platforms or exit the industry. Anyone looking to do future freelancing work is invited to email [email protected].

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BSM Summit Update:

I’m happy to share that Good Karma Brands president Steve Politziner, Edison Research co-founder and president Larry Rosin and ESPN Chicago program director Danny Zederman have been added to our lineup. We’ve also finalized two of our four awards recipients and are working on a third. I’m hoping to share those details soon along with a few other high profile additions to this year’s show. I’ll be heading to Las Vegas during Super Bowl week, which is when we reveal our BSM Top 20 of 2023, and after that I’m hoping to finalize our schedule so it can be released by the end of February.

I know everyone likes waiting until the last minute to buy tickets and reserve hotel rooms. If you want to avoid being left out though, the time to act is now. Everything you need is posted on BSMSummit.com. Our deadline for hotel room reservations is February 13th. We’ve also sent out free ticket contests by email to the advertising community and tri-state area colleges. We’ll have two more this week for executives and programmers. Be sure to check your spam folder just in case it doesn’t arrive in your inbox.

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2-Seconds to Vent:

Jimmy Pitaro, Eric Shanks, John Skipper, Nick Khan, Colin Cowherd, Paul Finebaum, Clay Travis, Craig Carton, Adam Schein, Michael Kay, and Fred Toucher all have something in common with many others across the industry. They’re accomplished professionals with plenty on their plate yet when contacted, they always respond. Most of the time, they do so quickly. That’s greatly appreciated.

If those tasked with running the largest media companies in America, and hosting shows with content, advertising, and audience commitments can find time to respond, why is it so hard for other professionals to do the same? If you don’t want to be featured on BSM, speak at a Summit, market with us or answer a question, just say ‘not interested‘. It takes two seconds. The best in the business understand the value of relationships and promotion. Unfortunately, many do not. I don’t use this platform to draw attention to these issues but sometimes I wonder, should I?

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Original Projects:

On BNM this week we’re doing five days of features on NPR professionals as part of ‘Public Radio Week‘. It’s not easy pulling it off but we’re trying some different stuff. Next week we launch ‘Where Are They Now‘ on BSM. Peter Schwartz will have the first feature next Tuesday. Coming up in February, we drop the BSM Top 20, Derek Futterman’s ‘Day Spent With‘ series which includes spending a day with professionals across different areas of the industry, and we’ll profile a number of black voices on BNM as part of the brand’s focus on Black History month. I hope you’ll check them out whenever time allows.

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Recommended Viewing:

If you’re looking for a movie to watch during the week, check out Blackberry if you haven’t already done so. The film is about the rise and fall of the Blackberry phone, and I thought it was excellent. It had a similar feel to the movie Jobs, and the series Super Pumped: The Battle For Uber. Worth your time if you’ve got two hours available to watch something different than live games or sports programming.

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If you have a question or comment you’d like addressed in a future column, please send it to [email protected]. That same email address can be used to pass along press releases, interview requests or news tips. Thanks for reading!

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Justin Craig, Chris Kinard, Mary Menna Added to 2024 BSM Summit Lineup

“What I’ve always enjoyed about the BSM Summit is that it showcases speakers from many different areas of the industry.”

Jason Barrett

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To kick off 2024, we’re announcing the additions of three more talented broadcasters to our 2024 BSM Summit. More on that shortly. The Summit takes place March 13-14 at the Ailey Theater in New York City. For tickets, hotel rooms, and additional details, visit BSMSummit.com. Those interested in sponsorship opportunities, contact Stephanie Eads. A number of items are already claimed but she can tell you what’s left. Reach her by email at [email protected] or by phone at 415-312-5553.

What I’ve always enjoyed about the Summit is that it showcases speakers from different areas of the industry. We’ve featured top talent, researchers, agents, digital leaders, podcasting experts, ratings analysts, tech builders, play by play voices, and of course, program directors and market managers. There’s many ways to succeed, and no better way to learn than to hear from folks who consistently win.

In the sports audio world, 98.5 The Sports Hub, 106.7 The Fan, and ESPN Radio are highly respected brands. The Hub and The Fan are dominant in Boston and Washington D.C.. ESPN Radio meanwhile maintains a strong position as one of the top national audio brands. All feature strong leaders, and we’re fortunate to have all of them represented in NYC.

It’s a pleasure to welcome Beasley Boston Market Manager Mary Menna to the Summit. This is her first appearance at the conference. Mary is responsible for managing The Hub’s business, currently the top revenue generating brand in all of sports radio. I’m excited to have her offer her insights on a panel with Chris Oliviero and Scott Sutherland. More details on the session, date/time closer to the show.

On the programming side, it’s great to welcome back Chris Kinard of 106.7 The Fan, and Justin Craig of ESPN Radio. Both will be involved in programming panels at the show.

CK has helped lead The Fan and Team 980 to consistent growth in the nation’s capital. He’s a forward thinking type of leader with a great feel for the current and future challenges facing the business. I’m looking forward to having him share a few lessons he’s learned with the rest of the room.

For my friend JC, he’s seen ESPN Radio evolve for the better part of two decades. Liked and respected by most, he’s valued and trusted to guide ESPN Radio’s day-to-day operations. Given the network’s change in focus, talent, and structure, he’ll have great insights to share on where national sports audio is moving.

Our speaker list now sits at twenty. It will grow much more over the next two months as we reveal other additions to the show. We’ll also be announcing our award winners, and a few other surprises. This is a fun and informative two-day event for sports media professionals. If you haven’t joined us before, I hope you’ll do so this time. Everything you need to know prior to the event will be available at BSMSummit.com.

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The Media Business Must Reset Its Message and Market Its Stars in 2024

“The only way to change perception is to remind people what makes radio/TV special, and how well it works.”

Jason Barrett

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The end of the year is upon us, and I hope you’re happy, healthy, and excited about what lies ahead in 2024. The older I get, and the more I work with different companies and people, I’m reminded that the relationships and results are what makes this all worthwhile. In my thirties, I wanted to stomp competitors into the ground, and own the space in the cities I worked in. I even did it a few times. But as happy as I was for my crew and seeing our strategy work, the more I learned it was about growing a business, and enjoying the ride with colleagues, not seeing others unemployed. If there’s only one game in town, the game itself becomes less fun. The professional benefits shrink too for those on the winning side.

It’s no secret that 2023 has been a roller coaster ride for the media industry. Take for instance this recent Forbes article. If their math is correct, more than 20,000 people lost media jobs in 2023. That can’t make you feel good about the state of our business. It doesn’t inspire confidence in advertisers to invest in us either. With 2024 approaching, there’s optimism, pessimism, and focus on what may change. The common belief is that revenues will rise due to a political year, but we can’t just look at dollars and cents when it comes to evaluating our industry. If we do, we’ll be back here in 2025 when political advertising shrinks.

I started covering sports media in 2015. News media coverage was added in 2020. During that time, radio and TV revenues haven’t risen like a Phoenix and headlines about both mediums have been mostly negative. Do a quick google search and look at how many stories focus on low stock prices, headwinds/layoffs, revenue projections missed, bankruptcy, executive’s on shaky ground, brands losing their identity and purpose, AM radio becoming extinct, etc.. This is what investors and advertisers see every day. It creates a negative perception of our business. You’d see it that way too if you were in their shoes.

Now combine that with the way media sells the next big thing. Meta told us virtual reality was the future but bailed on that idea in favor of artificial intelligence. Spotify dove into podcasting with its foot on the gas but is now driving under the speed limit. Elon Musk bought X to be the everything app yet can’t inspire confidence in the advertising community.

Radio’s issues are more self inflicted. Groups have been saddled with so much debt that even a good year in local markets gets ignored due to larger corporate problems. Judging from what gets printed you’d think no radio station grew revenue this year, which is false. TV isn’t immune either. All too often the focus is on viewers aging or watching less, and young people streaming yet the biggest point gets missed – people are still watching content, most of it produced by the TV industry. They just do it in different ways.

I’m sure there are exceptions but those I know who work in radio, TV, podcasting or social media do so for the access, content, creativity and fun. If you do the job well enough and long enough, the pay can be pretty good too. Most don’t enter the business to discuss plans to boost a stock, raise quarterly revenue or frame a press release to soften the blow when laying people off.

Our industry is attractive because we create programming that excites viewers/listeners and is led by people who are passionate about the content featured on their brands. When that content is supported by data that shows people enjoy it, it attracts advertisers. If those paying clients invest in a brand, and it increases sales, that creates a healthy business. This isn’t rocket science, folks.

My hope for 2024 is that the media industry puts greater focus on resetting its messaging and marketing its stars. Podcasting and streaming get discussed with high enthusiasm. Marketers are made to feel that they are growing spaces they have to be in. Radio and TV, which are both larger, and have delivered results for decades, are seen as less attractive. But they shouldn’t be. We’ve allowed that to happen. The only way to change it is to remind people what makes radio/TV special, and how well it works. It starts with marketing the right people and message. Otherwise perception becomes reality.

Too often I see narratives shaped for advertisers and investors instead of the public. If you want the business world’s money and attention, don’t bore them with business headlines. Create a party with your stars, attract a passionate audience, and generate results. Do that consistently and watch how fast the money follows. Given how our industry has been portrayed the past decade, we’re not inspiring many with hype about revenue projections, profitability, and staff reductions.

An Important Year For Barrett Media

We enter 2024 with a lot of promise. Dave Greene was recently announced as our new Chief Media Officer. I also revealed a few additions, and shared that I’d write a weekly column and host a podcast in April. But we’re not done. We’re adding two more columnists, who I’m very excited about.

Mark Kreidler joins BSM to write a weekly column on Wednesday’s. Mark is an award winning author who previously wrote for ESPN, the San Diego Union-Tribune, and Sacramento Bee. He has also worked in radio for 95.7 The Game, Sactown Sports 1140, and ESPN 1320.

Dave Williams is also joining us to write a weekly column each Friday on BNM. Dave has spent over four decades in news/talk working for top brands such as WBAP/KLIF in Dallas, KNX in Los Angeles, and KFBK in Sacramento. He announced his retirement from radio in early November.

Cementing our position and value as a media outlet is a priority. We root for the industry, support it, and try to educate, celebrate, inform, and challenge those inside of it. But with that comes a responsibility to offer opinions and cover the news. We prioritize 4 key things on our websites: features on industry people, expert opinions from columnists, daily news about brands/people changes or performance, and industry reactions. The occasional 5th area of focus is original projects like the BSM Top 20.

Our editors and news writers watch, listen and read daily. If it’s said on the air or social, it may end up on our sites. You’ll agree with some, and disagree with others, but it’s no different than how athletes react to hosts talking about sports. The difference is we highlight discussions about media brands, people, and the industry not local teams.

If you see something you don’t like, Garrett and Dave manage our websites. Both are accessible – [email protected] or [email protected]. Just understand that if brands make decisions, results are bad or public comments are offered, we are going to cover it.

We’ve spent 8 years building two respected brands and working hard to attract industry professionals. With two websites, newsletters, social media brands, and conferences, I feel good about our progress. The web traffic, social media impressions, and newsletter data shows that we’re on the right track.

Consulting clients and executing top notch events remain my top priority but growing our marketing partnerships is vital too. Stephanie Eads has worked hard on this and we are excited to welcome Ramsey Solutions, JJ Surma Voiceovers, Harker Bos Group, Doug Stephan’s Good Day Networks, and the Motor Racing Network as 2024 partners. We’re also thrilled to extend relationships with our friends at Point to Point Marketing, Backbone, Steve Stone Voiceovers, Core Image Studio, Jim Cutler, and Premiere Networks. If you’d like to work with us too, contact Stephanie by email at [email protected].

To continue building BSM and BNM, we are launching two new newsletters next week. BSM will deliver the 8@8 weekdays at 8am, and the Press Pass at 5pm. BNM will distribute the Rundown weekday mornings at 9am, and the Wrap Up at 6pm. Our afternoon editions will feature a different content approach so I look forward to your feedback on it. To sign up for BSM’s newsletters, click here. For BNM, go here.

Sticking with BNM, we will have a special announcement on Tuesday January 2nd at 9am. I’ll be announcing the dates, host city, and venue that day for our 2024 BNM Summit. Our 2023 event in Nashville was excellent but I think this next one could be even bigger and better. The Rundown and BNM’s website and social media accounts will relay the details. Also, BNM is launching a special series the week of January 22-26. Public Radio Week will feature NPR folks all week long.

Before I wrap up the column, I want to address a few BSM items. First, the BSM Top 20 of 2023 drops February 5-9 and February 12. Voting opens next week (January 2nd) and emails will go out to all PDs and executives invited to participate in the process. We’ll also have two new original projects in January starting with Social Studies written by Alex Reynolds on Wednesday January 3rd. Peter Schwartz’s monthly feature Where Are They Now debuts Tuesday January 30th.

We have other things in motion for February including a cool project titled “A Day Spent With.” Derek Futterman will run point on that series. I’ll share more in my next column on January 8th.

Last but not least, the 2024 BSM Summit takes place March 13-14, 2024 in New York City. We’ve already announced a number of people and I’ll have another announcement next week. If you plan to attend, don’t wait until the last minute to buy a ticket and reserve your room. Go to BSMSummit.com to take advantage of our holiday sale. It expires Sunday December 31st.

I want to thank you for continuing to read our work, following our brands, attending our events, and considering the different ideas and opinions offered by our writers. Covering this business is complex. It has its fair share of warts but it also provides a ton of value, massive creativity, incredible content, and a path full of untapped potential. More importantly, it’s full of quality people. I look forward to watching each of you build stronger businesses in 2024, and helping those who I’m fortunate to work with.

Cheers to 2024!

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