In today’s rapidly changing world, sports media consumers are making it known that they want less interruptions during their programming experiences. The problem though, is that media companies make a large portion of their revenues in between the content.
For sports radio stations, commercials occupy 20-25% of an hour’s time. The only other format with similar numbers is News/Talk. And this doesn’t take into account the extra service elements, on-air mentions, and content sponsorships that invade the programming space.
Well, the question isn’t whether or not it’s a problem now, it’s “what will be acceptable in the future?”
Look at the issues that have plagued television over the past few years. Everyone thought it was impossible for TV to feel the sting but then the DVR was introduced. Companies then began to witness their commercials being bypassed in favor of content, making their investments in the programming less valuable and necessary.
Then came the boom of YouTube, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and other viewing services which put an emphasis on ad-free content. You can watch a short video or full show with minimal interruption on these platforms. For people who are constantly on the go and searching for ways to buy back some of their free time, these type of products are very attractive.
Now television faces yet another obstacle as cord cutting has become the new trend. People have started switching to streaming services to watch programming because they can control which channels they receive and drastically reduce their costs. What was thought to be an unbreakable business, is now starting to show chinks in its armor.
For radio, the threat isn’t as scary because the medium itself isn’t as large as television. However, when you consider the way the inside of vehicles are being altered to support heavier digital listening, and you add in how people are listening more to audio through their phones, tablets and other supported devices, it doesn’t take a genius to realize that the future isn’t going to include five to six minute stop sets that fail to deliver audience or results.
Add to that the emergence of SiriusXM, who over the past decade have assembled a strong roster of high profile personalities, and present a very rich content experience with minimal disruptions. That approach combined with increased availability inside automobiles has helped the company grow its customer base to nearly 30 million, earning 510 million on 4.6 billion in revenue in 2015. SiriusXM’s stock price has also grown from $.12 cents in January 2009 to $3.70 in January 2016. It currently sits at $3.86.
When you analyze the radio business, one of its more interesting dilemmas comes from the success of the podcasting platform. Although most in the industry agree that podcasts are beneficial for the listener and important for radio’s future, if you’re an advertiser paying to be on the radio station’s airwaves, how exactly does it benefit you when the show you sponsor over the air, eliminates your commercials during its digital presentation?
Let’s take that one step further. If you’re a listener who’s working an 8-10 hour day at your place of employment, why would you listen to a radio show for a full hour and sit through its sixteen minutes of commercials and another three to four minutes of forced service elements, when you could just download that exact hour of the show later when you get home and listen to it in only forty minutes?
The main reason they sit through it is because they’re confined inside their vehicles for a long duration of time and have limited digital listening opportunities. As the dashboard changes, the options will increase, and the pressure to adapt over the air will be magnified.
Radio station’s may be helping the user by providing excellent podcast broadcasts, but they’re also placing themselves at risk with clients by eliminating their commercials.
But which one is right?
The answer is both.
The radio operator’s challenge is to get the audience to listen to their product and consume as much of it as humanly possible. The client’s responsibility is to create a message worth remembering, and air it during the radio station’s programming to try and create sales and awareness for their brand.
If the station is creative, they’ll develop programs which give the advertiser an opportunity to tap into the audience without getting in the way of the content. Whether that’s through ownership of the podcast player, owning the podcasting web page, live reads by the talent, or through some other digital element. If the goal of the client is to increase business and be viewed favorably by the audience, then they’ve got to trust the radio station to create situations that allow them to benefit.
However, podcasting does make it harder to infiltrate the area they’re most interested in being in. With opportunities inside the content very limited, the question becomes, can radio make enough money with limited sponsorship opportunities or will it bastardize the podcasting platform and hurt its own growth?
This all boils down to the future and where sports media consumption is headed. We all recognize that digital is booming, television is facing its first setback in quite some time, and radio is stuck in neutral. This is why playing in digital circles is so vital for radio. If the opportunities for sponsorship in these locations are small, then what’s the real economic upside?
Despite those facts and challenges, the question that is going to continue to surface is, “how much will the audience pay to eliminate the distractions of advertisers from the content?” We see it happening with Netflix, Amazon and YouTube. The WWE also created their own network and I made the investment for my son who loves the product. If someone enjoys pro wrestling, the $10 per month is well worth it because the content value is exceptional and ad-free.
If you use Facebook (which the majority of the world does) and tomorrow Mark Zuckerberg decided he was going to charge $5 per month to use the service, are you going to tell me that you wouldn’t pay for it? Maybe you’re one of the people who won’t, but I bet you a large number of their users would. Why? Because they see value in the product.
Over the last couple of months, it has been extremely frustrating to watch Wall Street destroy Twitter. In dollars and cents, Twitter isn’t producing what Facebook and, Instagram, are doing at the cash register. So tonight, I’m going to start it all off. I am going to agree to pay Twitter $100 a year. If I can get a bank account to put it in, I will do it right now. While the majority of Twitter users will not be willing to do the same, there are people who are in my camp and there are greater numbers who are at least willing to pay SOMETHING.
Rovell took a poll on the issue and received 15,000 responses. Of the responses, 64% said they wouldn’t pay. But, 36% were willing to. That’s with Twitter operating in its current form. Do you think that number might increase with a few upgrades? I think so.
When you have the user base that Twitter does, and 4 out of 10 people are willing to pay for your service, that’s what allows you to limit ads and keep your product content focused.
Which brings us back to radio.
The reality is that advertising isn’t going to vanish anytime soon. But, the world is shifting and paying for ad-free content. That means radio has an opportunity to open itself up to other revenue possibilities. I’ve said this numerous times, few formats generate the amount of live content that sports talk does. It has mass appeal, can be consumed 24 hours per day, and is real time focused and locally driven.
What I see taking place all too often, is radio operating the same way it has for the past twenty to thirty years. If conversations aren’t happening right now to get out in front of where the world is headed, then once again our beloved business will be licking its wounds after taking another steel boot to the face.
I can’t tell you whether the world will accept five, ten or fifteen minutes of spots per hour in the future, but everything I see happening in other businesses shows me that the consumer wants more control and is willing to pay to eliminate disruptions to earn back some of their time.
Did you know, ad blocking services cost the ad industry 21.8 billion dollars in 2015? A report from PageFair and Adobe stated that 200 million monthly internet users used ad blockers on their browsers. That figure is expected to jump even higher due to Apple introducing ad blocking software for its Safari browser.
Why is that relevant? Because it shows you that people will go to great lengths to block out advertisers which interfere with their content experience.
Incorporating sponsors into content is going to have to be done in organic fashion, much like the way Bill Simmons weaves them into his podcasts. That’s no different than Coca Cola paying Jimmy Fallon to put a can of soda on his desk during the Tonight Show, or Applebees forking over large dollars to be included in a scene of Will Ferrell’s “Talladega Nights”.
The approach is highly effective because it doesn’t halt the content for an extended period of time, the talent are more invested in the way the message is presented, and it makes the advertiser feel connected to the show. The audience also doesn’t consider it a big disruption and are more likely to support the client because they’re part of the program they enjoy.
If we think a successful future for radio is going to include fifteen to eighteen minutes of spots, two to three minutes of service elements, and additional content inclusion for advertisers who seek non-traditional revenue opportunities, then get ready for a future that involves a steep decline in listening and ad spending. If seven million people were willing to cut ties with the #1 sports brand in the world (ESPN) over the past three years, then don’t be surprised when they do the same to your brand if you fail to adjust.
I could go on a further tangent about the future, but let’s turn our attention to the present. To get a sense of how things are working in the current marketplace, I reached out to twenty two Program Directors across the country. I wanted to understand what they were providing in terms of total commercial minutes, unit counts, service elements, and over the air spots vs. online streaming commercials.
Keep in mind, some of these brands are having great success despite being saddled with a ton of inventory. That makes it a lot tougher of an argument for any station executive who’s bitching and moaning about the inventory time on their radio station. The measure of a brand’s success isn’t just reflected by ratings, it’s the bottom line too. Heck, the bottom line is what determines whether or not you’ll even be showing up to the office to try and achieve ratings. So I understand why some of these brands are operating the way they are presently.
What I don’t understand though, are why so many stations continue to clutter the airwaves with service elements. If your station is already stuck with 20-25 units and fifteen or more minutes of spots, and the audience is tuning in for your talent, then what’s the reason for adding extra roadblocks to deny them from your hosts? Are you running updates, traffic, weather, and stock reports because it’s what you’ve always done? Or because it was sponsored?
At what point, does the listener’s wishes get taken into account?
I’m a firm believer in answering one key question when it comes to adding sponsored elements – “what’s in it for the listener?” If the only response is that it’s good for the client, then that’s the wrong reason to put it on the radio station. In that case, find a way to redirect the client to something on the air where they’ll be more included without making it harder for the audience to continue listening.
Those who don’t know any better will tell you “we have to have this service element, it’s what the client wants” but as Steve Jobs once said, and I’ve used numerous times in previous columns, “people don’t know what they want until you show it to them“.
A good idea that can deliver results will always be attractive to a client. You have the product, and the platform where thousands are stopping by each day. It’s your job to use it to keep people listening longer, and take that increased listening to direct them to your business partners. Those who find a way to excel at content with limited interruptions, while satisfying the demands of the advertiser, will enjoy great success today, tomorrow and beyond.
Before I jump into my research, I want to ask one question to those who are running companies and see the way the world is changing just as I do – “what’s your plan to keep revenues high and your listenership growing while the demand for less commercial interruptions increases?”
YouTube, Netflix, Amazon, and iTunes have figured out how to generate revenue by adopting a limited ad model, ESPN is jumping into the skinny bundle business to try to recoup some of the money it’s losing, and radio needs a remedy as well. I look forward to seeing how each group answers this challenge in the future.
Now, here are the questions I presented to twenty two sports radio Program Directors and the results of the study I conducted.
Commercial Minutes Per Hour on Your Radio Station:
- Less Than 14 Minutes Per Hour = 2 (The lowest was 13 minutes)
- 14 to 16 Minutes Per Hour = 19 (Twelve had 15 to 15:30 and Three of them expand to 17 when sales needs arise)
- More than 16 Minutes Per Hour = 1 (One runs 18 minutes)
Commercial Unit Count Per Hour on Your Radio Station:
- Under 20 = 1 (Fifteen was the number)
- Between 20-25 = 6
- Between 26-30 = 6
- No Limit = 9
*** I asked former CBS Radio CEO Dan Mason for his perspective on unit counts during a back and forth chat on Linkedin and he made a great point. He said “I’ve never believed in a unit count because I don’t think it’s possible that a listener will sit through all of the commercials. I’ve taken it as a time out of content is time out of content!”
I agree 100% with what Dan is saying. I used to get all caught up worrying whether or not the radio station was running twenty spots instead of twenty five, but when you step back and think about it, four minutes is four minutes, and no matter what you do during that time, a commercial is still a commercial to the listener. Chances are, they’re going to leave your radio station. The real question is, has your host put something in their head to think about during the break that makes them want to come back. If not, that’s your issue, not whether five or seven spots ran during the stopset. Even promos with better creative, count as commercials to the audience.
Number of Commercial Breaks Per Hour on Your Radio Station:
- Three Breaks Per Hour = 11
- Four Breaks Per Hour = 6
- Mix of 3 to 4 Breaks based on different show clocks = 5
*** If you listen to the advice of Nielsen, they suggest taking as few breaks as possible. In Toronto for example, The Fan 590 takes two breaks per hour. That means the audience is getting a lot more uninterrupted content. While The Fan does very well with that strategy, so do other stations in the states which use three to four breaks per hour. At one point Mike and Mike took five breaks per hour, and when I carried their show in St. Louis, they were in the Top 3 with that approach.
There is no perfect formula for how often a station should break. I can make a case to start an hour with forty five minutes of content and take one fifteen minute break but let’s be honest, is an advertiser going to spend their money to be heard during the eighth minute of a fifteen minute commercial break? Not a chance.
Whether you run three or four breaks per hour should come down to a myriad of factors.
First, who is the host and what type of pace do they provide? Are they slower and better at keeping the audience hanging on their every word? Or are they quick paced and tougher to endure for longer stretches? Some talent are built to deliver ten great minutes but when pushed to twenty minutes they become repetitive and start searching for direction. Others need time to set the scene and tell compelling stories, and when rushed through quick segments, it takes away their ability to do what they’re good at.
I believe you have to also consider how many meters are active each hour, when they’re using your radio station the most, and where you stand your best chances of keeping them on your airwaves for an extra quarter hour or two. Once you have those answers and you’ve analyzed the strengths of your talent, then you can make an informed decision on whether or not two, three, or four breaks per hour best fits your show.
One last suggestion on this subject, don’t be afraid to create different clocks for different shows. Some folks in your traffic and sales department may bitch because it makes their jobs more difficult, but the reality is this, you’re paid to drive ratings, and satisfy the audience. Whether Billy in Sales or Suzy in traffic like it or not, the listener comes first. Whatever has to be done to make their listening experience more enjoyable and longer, that’s what is best for the radio station. Decisions can’t be made because of objections down the hall. That’s the type of short sighted thinking that hurts your brand.
What Runs During Breaks on The Stream (Same Spots/Promos or Something Different):
- Same Spots as Over The Air = 8
- Different Spots and Created Pieces = 14
*** If we see digital dollars increasing, and streaming listening providing stronger returns for sports radio stations, then why not take advantage of it by offering it separately to advertisers? I understand it’s easier to run a full simulcast of the on-air product, but we are in the business of making money right? If sales has two options to sell, that’s certainly better than one, and it allows stations to set different price points for groups who wish to invest in their over the air product vs. their online product.
I stumbled upon one group that I think is doing some great things in this space. Capitol Broadcasting in Raleigh allows only two clients to exclusively sponsor their stream on three of their properties (WCMC/WDNC/WCLY). They’ll give each client a :30 second produced spot, and a two-minute window to talk about their business, and then they complete their breaks with other local show promos, play by play promotion or classic moments sports vignettes.
This strategy enables them to keep the stream cleaner, highlight two important businesses who have recognized the value of owning the radio station’s stream, and eliminate poorly produced PSA’s which almost always end up on radio station streams. They charge a premium for the sponsorship and that makes it easier for the sales team since they’re not under the gun to sell out fifteen to sixteen minutes of on-air and digital spots per hour. That said, whether a station allows two exclusive clients, three, or four, the point is, there’s money to be made online, and this is a smart way of doing it.
Created Elements That Air During Programming (Traffic, Weather, Stock, Ski, Sports Updates):
- Sports Updates = 19
- Traffic Reports = 10
- Weather Reports = 7
- Stock Reports = 3
- Ski Reports = 1
- Fishing Reports = 1
- Trending Now = 2 (two more stations are switching soon from updates to trending now reports)
- Team Reports = 1
- CBS Sports Minutes = 3
*** Dan Mason who I mentioned earlier, wrote a great article on Linkedin about a small station he discovered in White Plains, NY. During the piece he praised the brand (107.1 The Peak in White Plains, NY) for their commitment to providing service elements. Mason said “the jocks ACTUALLY give the local weather and temperature. Imagine that. Major Market PD’s say listeners can get that from an app. Well, you better get that back on the radio or the listener will get it from an app permanently.”
That makes a lot of sense to me. However, I also think that applies differently per format. In this particular example, Mason was talking about a music station and I agree that music brands should have more service elements and community focused benchmarks because the only way they can connect with local listeners is in between the songs.
But when it comes to sports talk, my opinion differs. First, sports talkers air A LOT more commercials than music brands. Secondly, they talk forty to forty-five minutes per hour. A sports listener tunes in for insight, information, entertainment value, opinion, interaction, interviews, etc. They’re not coming to a sports station for the endless amount of forced interruptions that get tossed their way during the course of a one hour commute.
I do understand the decision to provide traffic, especially in big markets. Most listeners deal with it daily and they’d rather not leave the radio station to find out which roadways to avoid. But even if I give you that one as a freebie, does the listener really need to know the weather, skiing conditions, and stock prices on a sports talker? They’re coming to you for sports talk, not those other elements.
Ask yourself this, how has SportsCenter survived all of this time without them? Don’t tell me it’s different because it’s television. I built 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis without any of them and both prospered. As a matter of fact, we even imaged each station with liners that said “No Traffic and Weather Together, We Do Sports”.
Taking that approach doesn’t make it right and it doesn’t mean it will work for your brand. But I’ve found that the audience is comfortable being fed sports content and they won’t object to receiving more of it. The only way they’re leaving is if they don’t like the personality who’s providing the content.
There are a number of things I’ve covered in this article and I hope much of it gets your wheels spinning. I think about the future of this industry daily, and I try to approach it with the understanding that ratings and revenue matter, but without brand loyalty and adapting to the needs of the audience, you’re left searching for water in the middle of the desert.
It’s clear that listeners wants more control and are going to further lengths to remove interruptions from their programming experiences. We’ve seen it evolve with SiriusXM, WWE Network, Amazon, Netflix, YouTube, and others. There’s no question that the model works IF you provide content and a platform worth investing in.
But let me be crystal clear, I’m not advocating that radio should start charging listeners for content. This platform isn’t built that way and if we started doing it tomorrow, I think we’d be in terrible shape.
However, if we’re going to dive deeper into podcasting, and look to limit and reduce the disruptions that exist on our airwaves in order to increase listener activity, then we’ve got to be a step ahead on how we’re going to monetize things better. It’s easy to suggest increasing rates, but unless we’re promising advertisers a higher return on investments, that’s going to be an uphill climb.
If there’s one big question that should be on the mind of everyone in this format and industry it’s, “how do we provide a heavier content experience, grow our bottom line, and still reduce our interruptions to better satisfy the needs of the audience“? The ones who figure that out, are going to be very successful in the future.
Barrett Sports Media To Launch Podcast Network
“We will start with a few new titles later this month, and add a few more in July.”
To run a successful digital content and consulting company in 2022 it’s vital to explore new ways to grow business. There are certain paths that produce a higher return on investment than others, but by being active in multiple spaces, a brand has a stronger chance of staying strong and overcoming challenges when the unexpected occurs. Case in point, the pandemic in 2020.
As much as I love programming and consulting stations to assist with growing their over the air and digital impact, I consider myself first a business owner and strategist. Some have even called me an entrepreneur, and that works too. Just don’t call me a consultant because that’s only half of what I do. I’ve spent a lot of my time building relationships, listening to content, and studying brands and markets to help folks grow their business. Included in my education has been studying website content selection, Google and social media analytics, newsletter data, the event business, and the needs of partners and how to best serve them. As the world of media continues to evolve, I consider it my responsibility to stay informed and ready to pivot whenever it’s deemed necessary. That’s how brands and individuals survive and thrive.
If you look at the world of media today compared to just a decade ago, a lot has changed. It’s no secret during that period that podcasting has enjoyed a surge. Whether you review Edison Research, Jacobs Media, Amplifi Media, Spotify or another group’s results, the story is always the same – digital audio is growing and it’s expected to continue doing so. And that isn’t just related to content. It applies to advertising too. Gordon Borrell, IAB and eMarketer all have done the research to show you where future dollars are expected to move. I still believe it’s smart, valuable and effective for advertisers to market their products on a radio station’s airwaves, but digital is a key piece of the brand buy these days, and it’s not slowing down anytime soon.
Which brings me to today’s announcement.
If you were in New York City in March for our 2022 BSM Summit, you received a program at the show. Inside of one of the pages was a small ad (same image used atop this article) which said “Coming This Summer…The BSM Podcast Network…Stay Tuned For Details.” I had a few people ask ‘when is that happening, and what shows are you planning to create?’ and I kept the answers vague because I didn’t want to box ourselves in. I’ve spent a few months talking to people about joining us to help continue producing quality written content and improve our social media. Included in that process has been talking to members of our team and others on the outside about future opportunities creating podcasts for the Barrett Sports Media brand.
After examining the pluses and minuses, and listening and talking to a number of people, I’m excited to share that we are launching the BSM Podcast Network. We will start with a few new titles later this month, and add a few more in July. Demetri Ravanos will provide oversight of content execution, and assist with production and guest booking needs for selected pods. This is why we’ve been frequently promoting Editor and Social Media jobs with the brand. It’s hard to pursue new opportunities if you don’t have the right support.
The titles that will make up our initial offerings are each different in terms of content, host and presentation. First, we have Media Noise with Demetri Ravanos, which has produced over 75 episodes over the past year and a half. That show will continue in its current form, being released each Friday. Next will be the arrival of The Sports Talkers Podcast with Stephen Strom which will debut on Thursday June 23rd, the day of the NBA Draft. After that, The Producer’s Podcast with Brady Farkas will premiere on Wednesday June 29th. Then as we move into July, two more titles will be added, starting with a new sales focused podcast Seller to Seller with Jeff Caves. The final title to be added to the rotation will be The Jason Barrett Podcast which yours truly will host. The goal is to have five weekly programs distributed through our website and across all podcasting platforms by mid to late July.
I am excited about the creation of each of these podcasts but this won’t be the last of what we do. We’re already working on additional titles for late summer or early fall to ramp up our production to ten weekly shows. Once a few ideas and discussions get flushed out, I’ll have more news to share with you. I may consider adding even more to the mix too at some point. If you have an idea that you think would resonate with media professionals and aspiring broadcasters, email me by clicking here.
One thing I want to point out, this network will focuses exclusively on various areas of the sports media industry. We’ll leave mainstream sports conversations to the rest of the media universe. That’s not a space I’m interested in pursuing. We’ve focused on a niche since arriving on the scene in 2015 and have no plans to waver from it now.
Additionally, you may have noticed that we now refer to our company as ‘Barrett Media’. That’s because we are now involved in both sports and news media. That said, we are branding this as the BSM Podcast Network because the titles and content are sports media related. Maybe there will be a day when we introduce a BNM version of this, but right now, we’ve got to make sure the first one works right before exploring new territory.
Our commitment to delivering original industry news, features and opinions in print form remains unchanged. This is simply an opportunity to grow in an area where we’ve been less active. I know education for industry folks and those interested in entering the business is important. It’s why young people all across the country absorb mountains of debt to receive a college education. As valuable as those campus experiences might be, it’s a different world once you enter the broadcasting business.
What I’d like to remind folks is that we continue to make investments in the way we cover, consult, and discuss the media industry because others invest in us. It’d be easy to stockpile funds and enjoy a few more vacations but I’m not worried about personal wealth. I’m focused on building a brand that does meaningful work by benefitting those who earn a living in the media industry or are interested in one day doing so. As part of that process I’m trying to connect our audience to partners who provide products, services or programs that can benefit them.
Since starting this brand, we’ve written more than 18,000 articles. We now cover two formats and produce more than twenty five pieces of content per day. The opportunity to play a small role in keeping media members and future broadcasters informed is rewarding but we could not pay people to edit, write, and host podcasts here if others didn’t support us. For that I’m extremely grateful to those who do business with us either as a consulting client, website advertiser, Summit partner or through a monthly or annual membership. The only way to get better is to learn from others, and if our access to information, knowledge, relationships and professional opinions helps others and their brands, then that makes what we do worthwhile.
Thanks as always for the continued support. We appreciate that you read our content each day, and hope to be able to earn some of your listenership in the future too.
5 Mistakes To Avoid When Pursuing Media Jobs
“Demetri Ravanos and I have easily done 50-60 calls, and it’s been eye opening to see how many mistakes get made during the hiring process.”
I recently appeared on a podcast, Monetize Media, to discuss the growth of Barrett Media. The conversation covered a lot of ground on business topics including finding your niche, knowing your audience and serving them the right content in the right locations, the evolution of the BSM Summit, and why consulting is a big part of our mix but can’t be the only thing we do.
Having spent nearly seven years growing this brand, I don’t claim to have all the answers. I just know what’s worked for us, and it starts with vision, hard work, consistency, and a willingness to adapt quickly. There are many areas we can be better in whether it’s social media, editing, SEO, sales, finding news, producing creative original content or adding more staff. Though there’s always work to be done and challenges to overcome, when you’re doing something you love and you’re motivated to wake up each day doing it, that to me is success.
But lately there’s one part of the job that I haven’t enjoyed – the hiring process. Fortunately in going through it, I was able to get to know Arky Shea. He’s a good guy, talented writer, and fan of the industry, and I’m thrilled to share that he’s joining us as BSM’s new night time editor. I’ll have a few other announcements to make later this month, but in the meantime, if you’re qualified to be an editor or social media manager, I’m still going through the process to add those two positions to our brand. You can learn more about both jobs by clicking here.
Working for an independent digital brand like ours is different from working for a corporation. You communicate directly with yours truly, and you work remotely on a personal computer, relying on your eyes, ears and the radio, television, and internet to find content. Because our work appears online, you have to enjoy writing, and understand and have a passion for the media industry, the brands who produce daily content, and the people who bring those brands to life. We receive a lot of interest from folks who see the words ‘sports’ and ‘news’ in our brand names and assume they’re going to cover games or political beats. They quickly discover that that’s not what we do nor are we interested in doing it.
If you follow us on social media, have visited our website or receive our newsletters, you’ve likely seen us promoting openings with the brand. I’ve even bought ads on Indeed, and been lucky enough to have a few industry folks share the posts on social. We’re in a good place and trying to make our product better, so to do that, we need more help. But over the past two months, Demetri Ravanos and I have easily done 50-60 calls, and it’s been eye opening to see how many mistakes get made during the hiring process.
Receiving applications from folks who don’t have a firm grasp of what we do is fine. That happens everywhere. Most of the time we weed those out. It’s no different than when a PD gets an application for a top 5 market hosting gig from a retail employee who’s never spoken on a microphone. The likelihood of that person being the right fit for a role without any experience of how to do the job is very slim. What’s been puzzling though is seeing how many folks reach out to express interest in opportunities, only to discover they’re not prepared, not informed or not even interested in the role they’ve applied for.
For instance, one applicant told me on a call ‘I’m not interested in your job but I knew getting you on the phone would be hard, and I figured this would help me introduce myself because I know I’m a great host, and I’d like you to put me on the radar with programmers for future jobs.’ I had another send a cover letter that was addressed to a different company and person, and a few more applied for FT work only to share that they can’t work FT, weren’t interested in the work that was described in the position, didn’t know anything about our brand but needed a gig, were looking for a confidence boost after losing a job or they didn’t have a computer and place to operate.
At first I thought this might be an exclusive issue only we were dealing with. After all, our brand and the work we do is different from what happens inside of a radio or TV station. In some cases, folks may have meant well and intended something differently than what came out. But after talking to a few programmers about some of these things during the past few weeks, I’ve been stunned to hear how many similar horror stories exist. One top programmer told me hiring now is much harder than it was just five years ago.
I was told stories of folks applying for a producer role at a station and declining an offer unless the PD added air time to the position. One person told a hiring manager they couldn’t afford not to hire them because their ratings were tanking. One PD was threatened for not hiring an interested candidate, and another received a resume intended for the competing radio station and boss. I even saw one social example last week of a guy telling a PD to call him because his brand was thin on supporting talent.
Those examples I just shared are bad ideas if you’re looking to work for someone who manages a respected brand. I realize everyone is different, and what clicks with one hiring manager may not with another, but if you have the skills to do a job, I think you’ll put yourself in a better position by avoiding these 5 mistakes below. If you’re looking for other ways to enhance your chances of landing an opportunity, I recommend you click here.
Educate Yourself Before Applying – take some time to read the job description, and make sure it aligns with your skillset and what you’re looking to do professionally before you apply. Review the company’s body of work and the people who work there. Do you think this is a place you’d enjoy being at? Does it look like a job that you’d gain personal and professional fulfillment from? Are you capable of satisfying the job requirements? Could it potentially put you on the path to greater opportunities? If most of those produce a yes, it’s likely a situation to consider.
Proofread Your Email or Cover Letter and Resume – If the first impression you give a hiring manager is that you can’t spell properly, and you address them and their brand by the wrong names, you’re telling them to expect more mistakes if they hire you. Being detail oriented is important in the media business. If this is your introduction to someone and they have a job you’re interested in, you owe it to yourself to go through your materials thoroughly before you press send. If you can have someone else put an extra set of eyes on your introduction to protect you from committing a major blunder even better.
Don’t Waste People’s Time – You’d be annoyed if a company put you through a 3-4 week process only to tell you they didn’t see you as a viable candidate right? Well, it works the other way too. If you’re not seriously interested in the job or you’re going into the process hoping to change the job description later, don’t apply. If the fit isn’t right or the financials don’t work, that’s OK. Express that. People appreciate transparency. Sometimes they may even call you back in the future when other openings become available. But if you think someone is going to help you after you wasted their time or lied to them, trust me, they won’t.
Don’t Talk Like An Expert About Things You Don’t Know – Do you know why a station’s ratings or revenue is down? Are you aware of the company’s goals and if folks on the inside are satisfied or upset? Is the hiring manager someone you know well enough to have a candid professional conversation with? If the answers are no, you’re not helping your case by talking about things you don’t have full knowledge of. You have no idea how the manager you’re talking to has been dealing with the challenges he or she is faced with so don’t pretend you do. Just because someone wrote an article about it and you read it doesn’t mean you’re informed.
Use Social Wisely – Being frustrated that you didn’t get a job is fine. Everyone goes through it. Asking your friends and followers for advice on social of how you could’ve made a better case for yourself is good. That shows you’re trying to learn from the process to be better at it next time. But taking to social to write a book report blasting the hiring manager, their brand, and/or their company over a move that didn’t benefit you just tells them they made the right move by not bringing you in. Chances are, they won’t be calling you in the future either.
Would Local Radio Benefit From Hosting An Annual Upfront?
How many times have you heard this sentence uttered at conferences or in one of the trades; radio has to do a better job of telling its story. Sounds reasonable enough right? After all, your brands and companies stand a better chance of being more consumed and invested in the more that others know about them.
But what specifically about your brand’s story matters to those listening or spending money on it? Which outlets are you supposed to share that news with to grow your listenership and advertising? And who is telling the story? Is it someone who works for your company and has a motive to advance a professional agenda, or someone who’s independent and may point out a few holes in your strategy, execution, and results?
As professionals working in the media business, we’re supposed to be experts in the field of communications. But are we? We’re good at relaying news when it makes us look good or highlights a competitor coming up short. How do we respond though when the story isn’t told the we want it to? Better yet, how many times do sports/news talk brands relay information that isn’t tied to quarterly ratings, revenue or a new contract being signed? We like to celebrate the numbers that matter to us and our teams, but we don’t spend much time thinking about if those numbers matter to the right groups – the audience and the advertisers.
Having covered the sports and news media business for the past seven years, and published nearly eighteen thousand pieces of content, you’d be stunned if you saw how many nuggets of information get sent to us from industry folks looking for publicity vs. having to chase people down for details or read things on social media or listen to or watch shows to promote relevant material. Spoiler alert, most of what we produce comes from digging. There are a handful of outlets and PR folks who are great, and five or six PD’s who do an excellent job consistently promoting news or cool things associated with their brands and people. Some talent are good too at sharing content or tips that our website may have an interest in.
Whether I give the green light to publish the material or not, I appreciate that folks look for ways to keep their brands and shows on everyone’s radar. Brand leaders and marketing directors should be battling daily in my opinion for recognition anywhere and everywhere it’s available. If nobody is talking about your brand then you have to give them a reason to.
I’m writing this column today because I just spent a day in New York City at the Disney Upfront, which was attended by a few thousand advertising professionals. Though I’d have preferred a greater focus on ESPN than what was offered, I understand that a company the size of Disney with so many rich content offerings is going to have to condense things or they’d literally need a full week of Upfronts to cover it all. They’re also trying to reach buyers and advertising professionals who have interests in more than just sports.
What stood out to me while I was in attendance was how much detail went into putting on a show to inform, entertain, and engage advertising professionals. Disney understands the value of telling its story to the right crowd, and they rolled out the heavy hitters for it. There was a strong mix of stars, executives, promotion of upcoming shows, breaking news about network deals, access to the people responsible for bringing advertising to life, and of course, free drinks. It was easy for everyone in the room to gain an understanding of the company’s culture, vision, success, and plans to capture more market share.
As I sat in my seat, I wondered ‘why doesn’t radio do this on a local level‘? I’m not talking about entertaining clients in a suite, having a business dinner for a small group of clients or inviting business owners and agency reps to the office for a rollout of forthcoming plans. I’m talking about creating an annual event that showcases the power of a cluster, the stars who are connected to the company’s various brands, unveiling new shows, promotions and deals, and using the event as a driver to attract more business.
Too often I see our industry rely on things that have worked in the past. We assume that if it worked before there’s no need to reinvent the wheel for the client. Sometimes that’s even true. Maybe the advertiser likes to keep things simple and communicate by phone, email or in-person lunch meetings. Maybe a creative powerpoint presentation is all you need to get them to say yes. If it’s working and you feel that’s the best way forward to close business, continue with that approach. There’s more than one way to reach the finish line.
But I believe that most people like being exposed to fresh ideas, and given a peak behind the curtain. The word ‘new’ excites people. Why do you think Apple introduces a new iPhone each year or two. We lose sight sometimes of how important our brands and people are to those not inside the walls of our offices. We forget that whether a client spends ten thousand or ten million dollars per year with our company, they still like to be entertained. When you allow business people to feel the excitement associated with your brand’s upcoming events, see the presentations on a screen, and hear from and interact with the stars involved in it, you make them feel more special. I think you stand a better chance of closing deals and building stronger relationships that way.
Given that many local clusters have relationships with hotels, theaters, teams, restaurants, etc. there’s no reason you can’t find a central location, and put together an advertiser appreciation day that makes partners feel valued. You don’t have to rent out Pier 36 like Disney or secure the field at a baseball stadium to make a strong impression. We show listeners they’re valued regularly by giving away tickets, cash, fan appreciation parties, etc. and guess what, it works! Yes there are expenses involved putting on events, and no manager wants to hear about spending money without feeling confident they’ll generate a return on investment. That said, taking calculated risks is essential to growing a business. Every day that goes by where you operate with a ‘relying on the past’ mindset, and refuse to invest in growth opportunities, is one that leaves open the door for others to make sure your future is less promising.
There are likely a few examples of groups doing a smaller scaled version of what I’m suggesting. If you’re doing this already, I’d love to hear about it. Hit me up through email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com. By and large though, I don’t see a lot of must-see, must-discuss events like this created that lead to a surplus of press, increased relationships, and most importantly, increased sales. Yet it can be done. Judging from some of the feedback I received yesterday talking to people in the room, it makes an impression, and it matters.
I don’t claim to know how many ad agency executives and buyers returned to the office from the Disney Upfront and reached out to sign new advertising deals with the company. What I am confident in is that Disney wouldn’t invest resources in creating this event nor would other national groups like NBC, FOX, CBS, WarnerMedia, etc. if they didn’t feel it was beneficial to their business. Rather than relying on ratings and revenue stories that serve our own interests, maybe we’d help ourselves more by allowing our partners and potential clients to experience what makes our brands special. It works with our listeners, and can work with advertisers too.