One of my favorite moments of each year’s NFL and NBA Draft’s are when the commissioner hits the stage and announces the following words – “We have a Trade”. The second that message is communicated to the audience, everyone starts freaking out. Some get visibly upset, and others start cheering without having any idea what’s actually transpired.
The questions then start circulating. Who’s being dealt? What are they getting back? Is it a superstar player from another team? How will this impact my team and the rest of the league?
It’s quite comical watching people immediately overreact, and often what follows is nothing significant or a move which can’t even be judged s a success or failure for the next two or three years. But in this instant gratification society that we live in this is how things go.
It’s no different in the world of radio. Let’s rewind to three weeks ago when the biggest story in radio hit the trades – “Entercom and CBS have announced a merger”.
Right after the news broke, there were folks on social media assuming the worst and talking on the floor at radio row about the likelihood of needing to find a new job. Rather than absorbing the information, researching the company, and talking to others about what to expect, it became a classic case of “the sky is falling and we’re all doomed”.
If you’ve seen the movie “Captain Phillips” then you’ll likely remember the numerous instances when Barkhad Abdi tells Tom Hanks “Relax Irish. Everything is going to be ok”. And that’s exactly my message to you if you work in this industry, especially if you’re involved with a sports radio brand which now falls under Entercom’s watch.
It’s understandable to question where one fits into the big picture of a new company’s plan, but there is something called due process. People foolishly assume that they’ll go to work the next day and find the grim reaper lingering outside of their cubicle or studio, rather than focusing their time and energies on the tasks at hand. If you concentrate on generating results and revenue, and limit the noise, drama, and distractions around you, you’ll often find your job stability isn’t in question, even during times of change.
As it pertains to this specific situation, the first thing to point out is that a merger takes a while to complete. This isn’t a case where the news gets announced and the following day the new company dives into action and chops off the heads of 1000 employees.
Secondly, if a company is going to invest nearly two billion dollars (stock still counts) in taking over an organization, they’re doing so because they see value in it. Companies usually retain the majority of those who perform well and help the company’s bottom line.
Third, while the immediate reaction of employees is to scrutinize the new company acquiring them, they lose sight of the message being relayed by their previous employer. In this case it was loud and clear, CBS did not believe radio was important to their future.
For decades CBS has been an excellent company, one of the best in radio broadcasting. But their priorities and interests changed. A loyal employee is entitled to feel saddened by the reality that the organization they gave years of their life to is going in a new direction, but while they reminisce about the god old days and assume the worst of what’s ahead, they lose sight of the bigger message. In this case it was cut and dry, CBS didn’t want to be part of their radio future, Entercom did.
I don’t have access to the thoughts that run thru Les Moonves’ mind, but if he felt CBS’ growth potential was stronger by breaking away from radio, and turning the business over to Entercom, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a business decision, plain and simple, and CBS will be just fine as a company without radio.
I just never understood why the group making the investment becomes the one placed under fire and the one selling off is seen as the darling of the transaction. It’s likely due to the concerns of consolidation taking place in the future, but as I said earlier, performers often are retained, and if not, other broadcast groups will be in hot pursuit of an individual’s services if they feel they can make money with them.
So how does this impact the future of sports radio? I think it couldn’t possibly be better.
No disrespect to Cumulus or iHeart, but aside from CBS, Entercom has been one of the best at operating the sports radio format. In most cases they employ a live and local strategy on their stations and carry local play by play rights. That approach has placed them either in the driver’s seat or in striking distance of the top spot in numerous markets.
The reason Entercom is a significant player in the format is because CEO David Field, COO Weezie Kramer, and President of Programming Pat Paxton have a strong passion for it. They believe in the programming, the way it connects with targeted audiences, and understand the attraction it has to advertisers. They also recognize the power of play by play and are always at the table negotiating when opportunities arise to help their local sports radio brands.
Having had the benefit of working for them, I can tell you that they get involved with local leadership to help each brand prosper. I especially valued and appreciated how they gave their leaders a voice in the room, and were willing to make additional investments and support decisions that they may have been on the fence about if the acting PD and/or GM could make a strong case for it. I don’t know many companies who’s CEO takes the time during a market visit to personally sit down with a programmer and seek their input in trying to make a radio station better, but that’s what you get with David Field.
Once the merger is completed, Entercom will become the dominant force in sports radio programming. They will oversee the biggest local brands in the format, plus assume control of the CBS Sports Radio Network. The company could choose to give the network a much needed jolt to become a bigger national player or if they feel the network’s upside is limited they could elect to focus those resources in other areas.
If you look back at the company’s 2016 performance, Entercom was up in each quarter. Their stock price also grew from $11.23 per share on January 1, 2016 to $15.30 per share on December 31, 2016. Consider that during this same period of time, other groups were clinging to their stocks remaining listed and battling to avoid bankruptcy.
CBS during that period also remained a solid performer but once again, the company was on the record saying they wanted to exit the radio business. That isn’t a good long-term recipe for gaining confidence from advertisers, employees, business partners, and stockholders.
Although there are many positives to look at, don’t forget that this merger isn’t finalized yet. There will be more transactions completed before we know what the entire big picture for the company looks like. Entercom will have a few markets where they’ll be over the limit of how many stations they can own and operate, which means they’ll have to either sell or trade off some of those stations. They’ll also have to decide during the process which brands they want to retain and which ones they’ll part with.
Case in point, in Boston, the company will have two of the most dominant sports stations in the country, WEEI and 98.5 The Sports Hub. Collectively they reach 25% of the male demo in the market. The first reaction from many was “they can’t possibly operate both sports radio brands”. My response, “why not”?
Nobody bats an eye when a company has two music stations or news/talk stations, so why is it not possible to operate two dominant sports brands? If the stations are generating revenue and ratings, and possess the radio rights to every professional and collegiate sports team in the market, why wouldn’t that be attractive to hold on to?
I have no idea if that will wind up being the case or not, and the same questions will come up in Miami and Sacramento where they now have two sports radio stations, but from where I sit, that’s a great problem for Entercom to have.
To paint a picture of where the company will sit in the sports radio space after this merger, assuming no additional sports stations get added to their portfolio, check this out.
The company also operates a few other AM sports talkers which primarily feature network programming, and as impressive as all of these brands and markets are, now add the following list of play by play partnerships below into the mix.
That’s a total of 45 play by play partnerships, and that doesn’t include college sports. The company also has some of those relationships too, including the rights to some prestigious schools such as North Carolina, Michigan, Miami, Kansas, LSU and a few others.
Depending on the language in each contract, some teams may have an opportunity to pull their rights from their current radio stations, and re-open the local bidding due to the merger. Given though the company’s increased power in the sports format, and its commitment to doing business with professional sports teams, I’d expect most franchises will want to remain in their current situations, especially if local business is strong.
When you analyze the way the company looks on paper, assuming the merger goes thru without any drastic changes, it is extremely impressive, and puts Entercom at the top of the sports radio empire. If you’re a market manager, host, producer, programmer, sales manager, account executive or imaging director with a passion for sports radio, this becomes the company you want to work for. If you’re an advertiser, there isn’t a group with more attractive sports assets, markets and brands who can put your message in front of the right audience on a local and national scale.
Only time will tell how it all plays out, but for the health of the sports format, and for the radio business as a whole, I think this is wonderful news. I don’t often say that when one radio company expands, and another is eliminated, but my personal history with Entercom gives me great confidence that they’ll execute in superb fashion.
Now it’s up to the company’s leaders, and every employee entering the workplace to deliver results, and use the momentum of this merger to help sports radio gain a much bigger piece of the pie. I look forward to seeing how it all comes together over the next few years.
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.