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Attacking The Airwaves With a Purpose by Joe DeCamara

Jason Barrett

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To succeed in Philadelphia as a sports talk radio host, one must broadcast with passion, knowledge, and confidence, and possess the ability to adapt to any situation. It’s a competitive market and one bad quarter-hour performance can be the difference between finishing ahead or behind the competition.

Over the past year and a half, Joe DeCamara has won a lot. The evening host on 97.5 The Fanatic has found himself in the top spot often, much of it the result of presenting good content, well thought out opinions, and forging a strong relationship with his listeners. Having a strong lead-in from Mike Missanelli also hasn’t hurt.

Equally as important though is that DeCamara understands the ratings game. While studying topics and trends in sports may be what he needs to do to elicit an emotion out of his audience each night, he also builds his show by taking into account what he needs to achieve in order to gain ratings credit. Performing and connecting with his listeners may be what moves him but it’s the preparation and strategy that help maximize a talent’s return on what they produce through the speakers.

Having known Joe for the past decade, I’m not surprised by his success. He lives and breathes the format, yearns for the microphone, and takes his responsibility of connecting with an audience and delivering results for his radio station seriously. Having previously worked as an Assistant Program Director, Executive Producer, Producer, and Anchor, he’s seen all sides of the business. That undoubtedly has prepared him to be successful in his current role as a talk show host.

As you dive into Joe’s column, I’d encourage you to pay special attention to some of the things that have been isolated in bullet-point form. Whether you’re hosting, producing, or programming a show or radio station, these items can be very helpful in determining how to develop your game plan. They can even serve as a great tool in the future when you feel off of your game and need a reminder to help you get back on track.

Here now is a first hand account of how to attack your air time and maximize your opportunities courtesy of Joe DeCamara.

Attacking The Airwaves With a Purpose

Sports talk radio is a fascinating medium. For the purpose of this commentary I’ll speak from my own perspective both as a sports talk show host for 97.5-FM The Fanatic in Philadelphia and as a longtime observer of our industry both locally and nationally. One thing I am convinced of with sports talk radio is that there is more than one method for success. Just as Red Auerbach and Phil Jackson had vastly different styles during their phenomenally successful head coaching careers, so too can different methodologies lead to outstanding success in sports talk radio. Of course varying methodologies can also lead to failure.

Most successful sports shows are either driven by a host’s dynamic personality or by exceedingly strong sports content. It’s virtually impossible to succeed in sports talk radio without excellence in at least one of those two areas. The best shows often blend excellence from both tracts.

As a host, my self-imposed mandate every show first and foremost is to discuss the key subject matter of the day. I have to talk precisely about the subject people are thinking about — and I aim to do so while presenting compelling, and sometimes unique angles, within that subject matter to drive discussion and debate. I want to get the audience thinking and I want to grab my listeners’ attention in the process.

I usually host one of two types of shows:

1) The show where at least 95% of people are passionately on-board with the same opinion positively or negatively.  These shows do not occur often, but they happen every Monday for sixteen weeks in each NFL market.

2) The more nuanced show where opinion is much more split on a subject matter. In this far more frequent occurrence, I look to get right to the heart of the matter by identifying the fault line of exactly where people disagree. I don’t do this for divisive purposes, but because identifying that fault line and soliciting reaction from callers on both sides creates the most passionate and compelling conversation.  In the process, I always state exactly where I stand on the subject. That alone creates an entire extra wave of reaction from listeners as well.

Interviews in my opinion are at times leaned on too heavily by hosts. Great interviews serve a fantastic purpose. Good interviews also add value. However, if a host does not feel that an interview will either be good or great then the host shouldn’t bring the guest on.

I am not of the mindset to “fill-up” time, but rather I think in terms of attacking my time on-air. I only have 45 minutes on-air each hour because of our commercial inventory so I sure better make every single second count. I am always striving to keep the listeners I’ve had with me for an extended period of time while simultaneously seeking to grab listeners that just tuned in during the past five seconds. Every listener (specifically every PPM panelist) is my ticket to either success or failure depending on my conversion rate of keeping him or her listening.

Other concepts I am a big believer in which I take an enormous role in shaping include:

  • No sports updates and little to no stagers or promos in my show (let’s maximize in-segment content)
  • Getting in and out of break quickly, but having a short effective tease going to break to hold listeners
  • Voicing the Legal ID myself at the top of the hour when it makes the most sense
  • Setting times for guests and features, and clearly pre-promoting those times frequently
  • Prioritizing commercial placement each hour relative to PUMM (Persons Using Measured Media) for a given hour

Preparation is another critical element to success. Dick Vermeil once said to me “there is no substitute for preparation.” He is 100% right. Preparation is what enables me each day to confidently and effectively navigate my show. It’s not just about being knowledgeable about sports. Preparation is thinking each day before my show about the following concepts I need to consider:

  • How am I going to win with today’s show?
  • What am I going to say to differentiate myself from all others discussing the same subject matter?
  • What am I going to do to engage my listeners and draw out callers?
  • Who are the top 3 guests I can target to get on today’s show and enhance the experience for the listeners?
  • What complimentary elements aiding the discussion will I prepare before the show to utilize during the show in order to sustain myself — to keep me locked-in to the key subject matter of the day — in the event that the phone call volume drops for a brief period of time?
  • What audio from a guest on my station earlier today or from other sources around the nation can I utilize to enhance the presentation and further develop the conversation?

Everything I do on-air has purpose, and preparation before the show is crucial to it all. Much like how before a game a pitcher in baseball may visualize going through a batting order, I too visualize my show before it begins to prepare to win that day.

A mystifying element to me of our industry is how many talk show hosts simply don’t know the rules of the game – i.e., how ratings are determined. Every single Program Director should spend the necessary time to teach each host about ratings and strategies that can lead to enhanced listenership. Ratings are, after all, the scoreboard!

Could you imagine if a batter in baseball didn’t know if one strike, three strikes or ten strikes constituted a strikeout? If the batter didn’t know the rules of the game how could he most successfully strategize before and during his at-bat? Radio ratings are no different. Executives would be wise to teach their hosts the rules of the game to help them strategize how to win.

Analytics is another incredibly underutilized tool for success in our industry. If you know where to look, how to look, what the data means, and how to apply the intel moving forward, a host and radio station can create an enormous competitive advantage.

The final thought that I would like to share is how fortunate we are to work in the sports radio industry, and how I try to connect with my audience through the shared experience we have of being passionate and lifelong sports fans. Sports at its core is supposed to be fun. When we were five years old, the reason we enjoyed holding this thing our parents told us is called a “bat” while trying to hit this object coming toward us called a “ball” is because for most of us sports is more fun than sitting at a desk in class. Sports is supposed to be fun.

As adults we are well aware of the many complexities and unfortunate dark sides involved with professional and collegiate sports. We discuss them because they are an inevitable part of the landscape, and those elements infringe on both our enjoyment of sports and the ability of teams to win or compete fairly at times.

Nevertheless, I cherish the positive elements of sports and I am quick to discuss them at length on my show. History has taught us time and time again that people at their core wish to be inspired. There is no question that sports has a unique ability to inspire all of us who love it. I embrace the drama of the action, the incredible athletic ability of the players, the passion of the fans, and the great role that sports continues to play in captivating our imagination.

Joe DeCamara is a sports talk show host for 97.5-FM The Fanatic in Philadelphia.  His show airs weeknights at 6PM and was ranked #1 in the Philadelphia market in 2015 and continues to be ranked #1 in 2016. He seasonally hosts a show once per week with Ron Jaworski and another program with Adam Caplan. He has hosted national shows on ESPN Radio, is a published author, and serves as the TV play-by-play announcer for the Philadelphia Soul of the Arena Football League on The Comcast Network and Comcast SportsNet. Follow him on Twitter @JoeDeCamara.

Barrett Blogs

California College Students Earn Chance to Win 10 Free Tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit Thanks to Steve Kamer Voiceovers

“In order to win tickets to attend the Summit, students must submit a 2-minute video by email explaining why they’d like to be in attendance and what they hope to learn at the event.”

Jason Barrett

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With a new year comes renewed energy and optimism for the sports media business. Yours truly is looking forward to showcasing the best our business has to offer when we gather the industry in Los Angeles, CA at the 2023 BSM Summit at the Founders Club at the University of Southern California on March 21-22, 2023. Our conference is returning to the west coast for the first time since 2019. We’ve announced some super talented speakers. We’ve got additional things in the works and I plan to make additional announcements in the next few weeks.

People often ask me what the biggest challenge is putting this event together. My answer is always the same, it’s getting people to leave the comfort of their office and spend two days in a room together learning and discussing ways to grow the business. We have great sponsorship support and exceptional people on stage and are fortunate to have a lot of folks already set to attend. Our venue this year has extra space though, so I’m hoping a few more of you make time to join us. If you haven’t bought a ticket or reserved your hotel room, visit BSMSummit.com to make sure you’re all set.

If there’s one thing our industry could get better at it’s opening our minds to new ideas and information. There’s more than one path to success. Just because you’re in good shape today doesn’t mean you will be tomorrow. Building brands, growing audiences, increasing revenue, and examining new opportunities is an ongoing process. There are many shifts along the way. We may not solve every business challenge during our two-days together but you’ll leave the room more connected and informed than when you entered it.

Each year I’ll get two or three emails from folks sharing that they learned more about the industry in two-days at the Summit than they have in ___ years inside of their building. That’s truly gratifying and what I strive to achieve when I put this event together. I remember when conferences like this didn’t exist for format folks and I take the risk and invest the time and resources to create it because I love the sports media industry and believe I can help it thrive. I see great value in gathering professionals to share ideas, information, and meet others who can help them grow their business, and if we do our part, I’m confident some will want to work with us too. That’s how we benefit over the long haul.

But as much as I focus on serving the professional crowd, I also think we have a responsibility to educate young people who are interested, passionate, and taking steps to be a part of our business in the future. The BSM website is visited by hundreds of thousands of people each month and it’s become a valuable resource for folks who enjoy sports radio and television. I think it’s vital to use our platform, influence and two-day event to connect generations and I’m happy to announce that we will once again welcome college students at this year’s Summit.

Most of us who’ve been in this line of work for two or three decades learned the business without podcasts, YouTube, social media, the web or conferences delivering two full days of sessions that taught you more about the business than what’s available inside of a class room. We learned by doing, and hoping we were right. Then we copied others who had success. Some of that still exists, and that’s not a bad thing. But where our business goes in the future is going to be drastically different.

I’d like to see the difference makers in our format remembered for years to come, and practices that have stood the test of time remain valued down the line. Change is inevitable in every business and I’m excited about the road that lies ahead especially some of the technological advancements that are now available or will soon become a bigger part of our industry. I think we can embrace the future while enjoying the present and celebrating the past. The best way to do that is by bringing together everyone who is and is hoping to be a part of the sports media universe.

So here’s two things we’re doing to make sure future broadcasters have an opportunity to learn with us.

First, I want to send a HUGE thank you to Steve Kamer Voiceovers. Thanks to Steve’s generosity, TEN (10) college students will be given FREE tickets to attend the 2023 BSM Summit in March. Steve is a USC graduate (Class of 1985) and he bought the ten tickets to help young people learn about the industry, save money and make valuable connections. When I first received his order, I thought he hit the wrong button. I reached out to tell him a mistake was made and I needed to refund him. That’s when he told me what he wanted to do for students who were pursuing their broadcasting dreams just as we both did years ago. A very classy gesture on his part.

As it pertains to the contest, here’s how it’s going to work.

To win tickets to attend the Summit, students must submit a 2-minute video by email to JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com explaining why they’d like to be in attendance and what they hope to learn at the event. Included in your email should be a list of steps that you’ve taken or are pursuing to explore opportunities in the media industry. If you want to pass along a resume and audio or video clips too to showcase your work and experience, that’s fine as well. BSM will accept submissions until February 17th. The winners will be announced on Friday February 24th.

Helping me select the winners will be an exceptional panel of media executives. Each of these folks below will choose one person to attend our L.A. event. The final two will be picked by Steve Kamer and myself.

  • Scott Shapiro – Senior Vice President, FOX Sports Radio
  • Justin Craig – Senior Program Director, ESPN Radio
  • Jeff Sottolano – Executive Vice President, Programming, Audacy
  • Bruce Gilbert – Senior Vice President of Sports, Cumulus Media & Westwood One
  • Amanda Gifford – Vice President, Content Strategy & Audio, ESPN
  • Jacob Ullman – Senior Vice President, Production and Talent Development, FOX Sports
  • Greg Strassell – Senior Vice President, Programming, Hubbard Radio
  • Scott Sutherland – Executive Vice President, Bonneville International

To qualify for the BSM Summit College Contest, students must be enrolled in college in the state of California, pursuing a degree that involves course work either in radio, television, print or the digital business. Those attending local trade schools with a focus on broadcasting are also welcome to participate. You must be able to take care of your own transportation and/or lodging.

This is a contest I enjoy running. We’ve had great participation during our prior two shows in New York City but haven’t done it before on the west coast. I’m hoping it’s helpful to California students and look forward to hearing from many of them during the next month.

For students who live out of state and wish to attend or those enrolled at local universities who enter the contest but aren’t lucky enough to win one of the ten free tickets from Steve Kamer Voiceovers, we are introducing a special two-day college ticket for just $124.99. You must provide proof that you’re currently in school to take advantage of the offer. This ticket gives you access to all of our sessions inside the Founders Club. College tickets will be limited to forty (40) seats so take advantage of the opportunity before it expires.

The 2023 BSM Summit will feature award ceremonies with Emmis Communication CEO Jeff Smulyan and legendary WFAN program director Mark Chernoff, sessions with influential on-air talent such as Colin Cowherd, Jim Rome, Joy Taylor, and Mina Kimes, big picture business conversations with executives from groups such as Audacy, iHeart, Bonneville, Good Karma Brands, Barstool, The Volume, Omaha Productions and more. For details on tickets and hotel rooms visit BSMsummit.com.

I look forward to seeing you in March in Los Angeles!

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Barrett News Media To Gather The Industry in Nashville in September 2023

“I’ve been lucky enough to play a key role in bringing the sports media industry together on an annual basis, and in 2023 we’re going to attempt to do the same for news/talk media professionals.”

Jason Barrett

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One of the best parts about working in the media business is that you’re afforded an opportunity to use your creativity, take risks, and learn if an audience or advertisers will support your ideas. Sometimes you hit a homerun, other times you strike out, but regardless of the outcome, you keep on swinging.

I’ve tried to do that since launching a digital publishing and radio consulting company in 2015. Fortunately, we’ve delivered more hits than misses.

When I added news media industry coverage to our brand in September 2020, I knew it’d be a huge undertaking. The news/talk format is two and a half times larger than sports, many of its brands are powered by national shows, and the content itself is more personal and divisive. I wanted our focus and attention on news media stories, not politics and news, and though there have been times when the lines got blurred, we’ve tried to be consistent in serving industry professionals relevant content .

What made the move into news media more challenging was that I’d spent less time in it. That meant it’d take longer to find the right writers, and it required putting more time into building relationships, trust, respect, and support. Though we still have more ground to cover, we’ve made nice strides. That was reflected by the participation we received when we rolled out the BNM Top 20 of 2022 the past two weeks. Hopefully you checked out the lists. Demetri Ravanos and I will be hosting a video chat today at 1pm ET on BNM’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, and through Barrett Media’s YouTube page discussing the series, as well as this article.

It’s because of that growing support, trust, and confidence in what we’re doing that I’m taking a risk yet again. I’ve been lucky enough to play a key role in bringing the sports media industry together on an annual basis, and in 2023 we’re going to attempt to do the same for news/talk media professionals.

I am excited to share the news that Barrett News Media will host its first ever BNM Summit on Thursday September 14, 2023 in Nashville, TN. Our one-day conference will take place at Vanderbilt University’s Student Life Center Ballroom. The venue we’ve selected is tremendous and I’m eager to spend a day with news/talk professionals to examine ways to further grow the format and industry.

If you’re wondering why we chose Nashville, here’s why.

First, the city itself is awesome. The access to great restaurants, bars, entertainment, hotels, and famous landmarks is unlimited, and when you’re traveling to a city for a business conference, those things matter. Being in a city that’s easy for folks across the country to get to also doesn’t hurt.

Secondly, a conference is harder to pull off if you can’t involve successful on-air people in it. If you look at Nashville’s growth in the talk media space over the past decade, it’s remarkable. Many notable talents now live and broadcast locally, major brands have created a local footprint in the area, and that opens the door to future possibilities. I have no idea who we’ll include in the show, and I haven’t sent out one request yet because I wanted to keep this quiet until we were sure it made sense. I’m sure we’ll have plenty of interest in participating and I can’t promise we’ll be able to accommodate all requests but if you have interest in being involved, send an email to Jason@BarrettNewsMedia.com.

Third, finding the right venue is always difficult. We looked at a bunch of great venues in Nashville during our vacation this past summer, and when we stepped on to the campus at Vanderbilt University and walked through the SLC Ballroom, we knew it was the right fit. It had the space we needed, the right tech support, access to private parking, a green room for guests, and it was within walking distance of a few hotels, restaurants, and the Parthenon.

As I went through the process of deciding if this event was right for BNM, a few folks I trust mentioned that by creating a Summit for news/media folks, it could create a competitive situation. I don’t see it that way. I view it as a responsibility. I think we need more people coming together to grow the industry rather than trying to tear each other down. I hear this far too often in radio. We worry about what one station is doing rather than strengthening our own brand and preparing to compete with all audio options.

For years I’ve attended conferences hosted by Radio Ink, NAB, Talkers, and Conclave. I’ve even spoken at a few and welcomed folks who operate in the consulting space to speak at my shows. I’ll continue to support those events, read various trade sites, and invite speakers who work in a similar field because they’re good people who care about helping the industry. I believe BNM and BSM add value to the media business through its websites and conferences, and though there may be a detractor or two, I’ll focus on why we’re doing this and who it’s for, and let the chips fall where they may.

I know juggling two conferences in one year is likely going to make me crazy at times, but I welcome the challenge. In the months ahead I’ll start lining up speakers, sponsors, building the conference website, and analyzing every detail to make sure we hold up our end of the bargain and deliver an informative and professionally beneficial event. The news/talk media industry is massive and making sure it stays healthy is critically important. I think we can play a small role in helping the business grow, and I look forward to finding out on September 14th in Nashville at Vanderbilt University.

Hope to see you there!

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Jimmy Powers, Raj Sharan, Matt Berger and John Goforth Added to 2023 BSM Summit Lineup

“BSM is having a special Holiday SALE this week. Individual tickets are reduced to $224.99 until Friday night December 23rd at 11:59pm ET.

Jason Barrett

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In less than a hundred days, the BSM Summit will return to Los Angeles for two-days of networking, learning, laughing, and celebrating. The conference hasn’t been held on the west coast since 2019, and we’re looking forward to returning to the city of angels on March 21-22, 2023, and bringing together sports media professionals at the Founders Club, located inside the Galen Center at the University of Southern California.

For those of you who haven’t purchased your ticket(s) yet, BSM is having a special Holiday SALE this week. From today (Monday) through Friday 11:59pm ET, individual tickets are reduced to $224.99. If you’re planning to come, and want to make sure you’re in the room, take advantage of the extra savings and secure your seat. To buy tickets, reserve your hotel room, and learn more about the Summit’s speakers, click here.

We’ve previously announced twenty one (21) participants who will join us on stage at the 2023 BSM Summit. Today, we’re excited to expand our lineup by welcoming four (4) more additions to March’s industry spectacular.

First, BSM is thrilled to have two accomplished sports radio programmers contributing to the event. Jimmy Powers of 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit will make his Summit debut in L.A.. Fresh off of a Marconi victory earlier this fall, The Ticket’s brand manager will share his insights on the present and future of sports radio on one of our programming panels. Also taking part in that panel will be the leader of 104.3 The Fan in Denver, Raj Sharan. Raj appeared on stage at the 2022 BSM Summit in NYC, and we look forward to having him return to lend his voice to an important sports radio programming discussion.

But programming won’t be the only thing we invest time in out west. Growing a business, more specifically, a digital business will be part of our conference agenda as well.

When it comes to maximizing digital revenue, few brands understand the space better than Barstool Sports. Charged with growing the brand’s revenue is Senior Vice President and Head of Sales Matt Berger, and we’re looking forward to having Matt join us for a conversation that will focus on monetizing digital opportunities. Before joining Barstool, Matt sold for Bleacher Report/House of Highlights. He’s also worked for Warner Brothers and the Walt Disney Company. We’re excited to have him share his wisdom with the room.

Also taking part in our digital sales panel will be John Goforth of Magellan AI. John knows the radio business well from having served previously as a sales manager and salesperson. Since leaving traditional media and joining Magellan AI, John has studied the podcasting advertising space and learned who the top spenders are, who’s making big moves with their podcast advertising budgets, and which publishers are best positioned to benefit. Having his expertise on stage will help many in the room with trying to better understand the digital sales space.

There are other speaker announcements still to come. We have some big things planned, which I’m hoping to reveal in January and February. I want to thank ESPN Radio, FOX Sports, Showtime, and Point to Point Marketing for coming on board as partners of the 2023 BSM Summit. The support we’ve received heading into Los Angeles has been tremendous, and we greatly appreciate it. If you’re looking to be associated with the Summit as an event partner, email Stephanie Eads at Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com.

That’s all for now, but be sure to take advantage of the Summit Holiday Sale. You have until Friday night December 23rd at 11:59pm ET to take advantage of discounted tickets. Happy Holidays!

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