Having an in-depth conversation about diversity in sports talk radio is difficult. It’s a subject that makes many people uncomfortable and defensive, but it’s one that warrants further inspection.
To recognize the industry needs to do better is the first step. Working to improve it is the next. But progress only happens if the industry’s top decision makers believe it’s a critical issue.
Too often in our business, difficult subjects get addressed publicly, but once the questions stop being asked, it’s back to business as usual. The great Bill Parcells used to say “you are what your record says you are“. Well, if results are how we’re going to judge success and failure on the subject of racial diversity in sports talk radio, then thin-skinned members of the radio industry may want to stop reading, because they’re not going to like the evidence.
Before I continue, let me be candid for a second. I began writing this piece in January and almost decided not to publish it. It isn’t the subject matter I’m afraid to explore. I’ve already gone down this road before.
The reason why I considered keeping this column inside the vault is because our ability as a society to discuss race in a productive manner, especially as it pertains to sports media, has gone backwards in recent years. These days there’s an immediate outcry of racial prejudice whenever someone shares a different opinion or point of view about a particular story involving a high profile white or black personality. Social media for all of its positives, serves as a cesspool of negativity anytime a conversation arises that involves any inference of race.
First, nobody in the sports radio industry has gone on the record to explore this issue the way that I have. I do believe progress needs to be made, and what the business has presented collectively isn’t good enough. Let me make that crystal clear.
But despite pointing out the radio industry’s lack of diverse voices in weekday positions, and regardless of my track record of running brands and working with and hiring numerous minority voices, I’ve also been called out by people who read my website and have no knowledge of my background for ignoring black personalities in other columns I’ve written.
When I wrote the piece “Another 10 Talents You May Not Know But Should” I had a high profile TV personality respond by email adding “No blacks huh? Interesting”. It didn’t matter that the intent of the piece was to highlight people doing quality work in sports radio who didn’t earn a lot of fanfare, or that the people I selected to be featured deserved to be recognized. The simple fact of the matter was that none were black, therefore it was implied that I was ignoring minority voices.
Then in early February, I posted the annual Top 20 of the sports radio format. Over the span of 6 days I showcased who industry executives voted as the format’s top morning, midday, afternoon and national shows. Some of these categories included minority personalities. However, they were once again under represented.
At first I was bothered by the tweet because it led to receiving a few hate emails for sports radio being dominated by white males, as if I created the problem. But after having an opportunity to process things I understood exactly where Howard and some of his supporters were coming from.
As a soon to be forty three year old white male, I don’t enjoy when I hear people criticize those who hold jobs in the industry and assume they have them because they’re white. That in my opinion is irresponsible. It ignores the fact that the employed white individual likely had some degree of talent that appealed to a hiring executive. If they’ve been hired to do a job, and have continued to do it well for an extended period of time, that should be enough validation for the hiring manager.
But it’d also be foolish of me to assume that there’s nothing wrong with a picture that shows every major and mid market local morning show being led by white personalities. This is what African American’s see when they look at a list which includes only two minority hosts, Rob Long in Baltimore and Damon Benning in Omaha.
The story was similar in middays where only 6 minority hosts were part of the nation’s top 40 shows, and in afternoons where 10 minority voices contributed to the top 40 shows in the country. It was more of the same on the national scene, where Stephen A. Smith, Bomani Jones and Tiki Barber were the only African American personalities to be included on the list of the nation’s top 21 programs.
I understand that if you’re a Caucasian male you may not want to hear this. You might even be offended that I’ve raised the issue, but I guarantee that you’d have a very different opinion if you looked at the nation’s top 140 shows and saw only 21 of 271 positions occupied by white personalities.
In order to avoid any confusion, I want to be clear that this article focuses on males and the ethnic composition that exists inside many of the nation’s leading sports radio brands. I will address the challenges facing women in the sports radio industry in a separate column. Although I could combine the two, I have found through previous experiences that messages get lost when you try to tackle too much in the same space, especially sensitive subjects such as this one.
Before I share my findings from this year, I do want to address a few things. The intent of this piece isn’t to suggest to folks on the outside looking in that all executives are against hiring minority voices. That would indicate that every single executive in a hiring position isn’t open minded to changing the look and sound of their brand. I don’t subscribe to that theory at all.
This column also isn’t intended to suggest that influence should be used to force minority individuals into high profile positions. I saw a column a few weeks ago on The Undefeated which took exception with Magic Johnson for not using his influence to make sure a minority candidate received consideration for the Lakers vacant GM position. It was insinuated that by not doing so, he failed to handle his responsibility as an African American executive. Not only do I disagree with that assessment, I feel it creates a further divide rather than progress.
Never mind that Jeanie Buss went to war with her family by firing her brother and GM Mitch Kupchak, but she also gave the keys to the Lakers kingdom to a minority (Magic Johnson) and gave him the freedom to hire the team’s next General Manager. Johnson chose Rob Pelinka (former NBA agent) who had an excellent reputation and relationship with many black players in the league, and great familiarity with the way the Lakers run their business.
Pelinka also had the blessing of another powerful minority (Kobe Bryant), who happened to be the best Lakers player of the past twenty years, and we’ve seen proof of agents (Bob Meyers) making the transition into NBA front offices and helping franchises have success. Magic did not nor should he have had to hire or pursue a minority candidate just to please members of his race. That’s the type of process I would like to see our industry avoid.
But that particular example is not what we’re here to discuss. I brought it to light because I want it to be clear that positions shouldn’t be filled based on a responsibility to pleasing one’s race, but rather in the best interests of the brand, company, and audience which each market serves.
In doing my research for this year’s piece, I focused once again on the weekday lineups of the nation’s Top 20 market sports radio stations and networks. Depending on how you look at it, we’re no better or worse than we were 12 months ago. Usually staying consistent is viewed as a positive, but in this instance, where progress is necessary, I don’t believe that does the trick.
Does this mean that companies and their executives aren’t aware of the problem? Not at all. As a matter of fact, if you flashback to ten years ago, many would say that the industry has made a better effort in adding diverse talent to its airwaves. But to expect sweeping changes or a 50/50 blend inside most brands is unrealistic, especially if a sports radio station is currently achieving success.
It’s also puzzling that minority’s rarely occupy management positions. There’s only one African American sports radio program director (Terry Foxx at 92.9 The Game in Atlanta) in a Top 20 market, and market managers, corporate executives and owners are also rarely non-white professionals. Are we really suggesting as an industry that there are no minorities capable of leading our operations? What type of message are we sending to minorities in our industry who have dreams about one day overseeing a company or sports radio station?
The real questions we must address are related to the processes being implemented inside of each station and company.
How are companies holding their executives accountable to make sure that minority candidates are given a fair look during the interview process? What checks and balances are being implemented to make sure stations place a greater importance on reflecting their communities on the air? How much involvement does a brand manager have in making sure the product is more attractive to non-white audiences?
Other questions that deserve to be asked include, is the radio station sending its leaders to speak at schools, job fairs or creating programs to invite individuals from different backgrounds to learn about their business? Are station executives analyzing their audience composition and working to make sure their brands have the right mix of personalities to reach and connect with their local demographics? Are executives looking for minority talent in different places besides colleges and other media companies? How are HR departments assisting executives to improve upon their shortcomings?
Many people love to point fingers, and express their frustrations with these type of sensitive issues, but when pressed for solutions and ideas they fire blanks. That does us no good in this conversation. Instead, we need accountability, action, and a long term strategy to make our business more attractive to people from different backgrounds.
And let’s be sure this next point is understood. As much as African Americans are underrepresented on sports radio stations, the percentage of on-air jobs that they hold is comparable to their overall population numbers inside Top 20 markets. They hold 12% of the prime sports radio positions, while representing 15% of the population from Top 20 cities.
If there’s a group with an even bigger reason to feel slighted, it’s Hispanics. They hold only 9 of 399 prestigious on-air jobs inside the Top 20 markets and national networks, which is slightly above 2%. Yet they make up 22% of the population from our larger cities, and 17% of the entire population in the United States, and that number is expected to rise in the future.
Similar to an office, locker room, federal government agency or restaurant, I believe that the more people you include from different walks of life, the more interesting your operation becomes. Certain conversations that some individuals can’t tackle on the air suddenly become possible due to the different personalities involved. The sound of a station changes too and becomes more distinct, and the more variety you can offer your local audience, the more likely they are to consume your future content. That in turn helps you expand your fan base.
But as we’re discussing this issue, and how to include more people from minority backgrounds in the process, we also have to recognize and acknowledge a few other important facts.
You can slice and dice it however you wish, but the reality is that the majority of sports radio listening comes from white male audiences aged 25-54. That demographic shouldn’t be tossed aside just because the other side is underrepresented. They are people too, and they equally love the content, and spend money supporting the radio station’s advertisers.
Let’s also not be naive to the bigger picture. Sports radio is a business. If the station and company are turning a profit, and the hosts who they employ are charged with producing ratings and they’re getting the job done, then why on earth would they alter their approach?
Most brands are measured by their ability to generate income and audience. Whether success comes from an Asian host, Hispanic host, black host, female host or a middle aged white male, isn’t as important to a company as an ability to fulfill and surpass company expectations.
I understand this issue is sensitive and personal to many. It’s impossible for some of us to see the world through each other’s eyes and skin. Speaking strictly for myself, I don’t believe that one’s ethnicity or skin color should determine whether they warrant an opportunity or not. If the white individual possesses more talent than the minority candidate, and is more equipped to produce results, then that’s who deserves the job. A major league baseball team doesn’t shape its roster based on fulfilling quotas to satisfy different races. A player either has an ability to pitch or hit and help the team win, or they’re not on the roster.
However, I also don’t think the radio business and major league baseball are an apples to apples comparison.
In sports radio, the words, actions, images and voices of our personalities determine how a brand is received by local listeners. If a station doesn’t offer a minority voice on its airwaves in a key weekday time slot, then it creates the impression to minority audiences that it’s going to take an act of god for someone from their background to gain a bigger opportunity on that brand’s airwaves.
Where it becomes even more challenging is when you consider how many positions exist on each station’s airwaves, how successful the brand is, and what level of interest is displayed from qualified candidates from minority backgrounds. Unlike pro sports where 25 men occupy a major league baseball team’s roster, and 53 suit up for an NFL team, and the entire country plays them at a young age and dreams of one day doing so professionally, some sports stations may only feature 2-5 people in their starting lineups. That’s even less than what an NBA team puts on the floor each night.
The other part of the conversation that remains a real issue is the lower level of interest from qualified minority candidates. I mentioned my personal familiarity with this issue when I explored it fifteen months ago, and after speaking to numerous executives for this year’s column, it appears that not much has changed.
Maybe the guy who works at Staples in the stockroom will turn out to be the next Stephen A. Smith, but when a programmer receives an application, and it includes no experience in the radio industry, no audio to judge someone’s ability, no mention of any type of work that would be related to the field for which they’re applying, and no references to anyone inside your operation who might know something unique and interesting about the candidate, chances are that application is going into the filing cabinet.
We can blame corporations and take issue with those who are in high ranking positions at radio stations across the country, but we also need to recognize that there’s a big issue with minority candidates not pursuing this industry as aggressively as whites. If the applicants pursuing work aren’t from a minority background, and those who do apply lack the skill level necessary to land an opportunity, what’s the hiring manager supposed to do?
These days you don’t necessarily have to be a radio veteran with stops in multiple cities, but you do have to provide something that gives a program director a reason to want to contact you. I may want to be the next President of the United States of America, but if I lack political experience, allies, a shortage of campaign funding, and possess little knowledge on the complex issues facing our nation, that opportunity isn’t going to be part of my future plans.
On second thought, maybe that makes me qualified after all.
But I digress.
Another issue that deserves to be raised is how smaller markets (where many people get their opportunities to learn and develop their skills) also have a shortage of minority on-air personalities. Is that because minorities are being ignored in smaller towns? Or is it due to a lack of pursuing entry level jobs in smaller regions and rejecting the idea of relocating and working for minimal pay?
Most small stations rely on young people who are willing to work for minimum wage salaries, and the trade off for low compensation is experience. Smaller markets should be even more open to giving people of color and different backgrounds a chance to learn the business, but it’s also incumbent upon minorities to explore these situations, and be willing to pay their dues because starting at the top in major markets isn’t a viable option.
I also don’t see a ton of minorities creating original content via podcasts, YouTube, Periscope or Facebook Live. These are all areas where an individual can practice their craft, build relationships with radio station executives, and develop an audience. And it costs next to nothing.
This issue is complex and it won’t be fixed immediately, but what’s critical is that the radio industry is making a collective effort to improve upon its shortcomings. Few can argue that the format is thin of minority voices. Nor can they suggest that enough training, outreach and internal accountability has been implemented to assure that brands take steps in the right direction to improve their diversity challenges.
Which means that each company has to decide if this is an issue they care deeply about, or if they’re content with their current standing. It also tells me that the current crop of minority talent on our sports radio stations can be part of the solution by getting further involved and encouraging people from different backgrounds to explore this industry.
The media business, and for that matter, the entire world, is a changed place. Image, sound, variety, and perception all impact a station’s ability to maintain and expand its business. What may have worked for the past thirty years isn’t necessarily going to work for the next thirty, which is why this is a subject that must be addressed.
Most radio industry leaders are good open-minded people with the right intentions, but the collective results we’ve delivered on this issue leave little to be desired. We can sweep it under the carpet, issue quotes to the radio trades, speak at conferences, and send out internal emails telling our employees how much we value being a diverse operation, but at some point, that noise must turn to concrete action, especially in desirable positions.
Keep in mind, I’ve only drawn to light the lack of minority voices in key weekday hosting positions. What do you think we’d find if we also shined the spotlight on update anchors, reporters and producers? Heck, is there one sports radio station in the nation that uses a minority as its main voice to position its brand? If so, I’d love to know. I study this format intently and I haven’t heard of any station doing that.
The late Michael Jackson said it best in his song “Man In The Mirror“. If you’re unfamiliar with the lyrics, they read like this:
I’m Starting With The Man In The Mirror
I’m Asking Him To Change His Ways
And No Message Could Have Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place
Take A Look At Yourself, And Then Make A Change
Jackson may not have written that song with the thought of sports radio’s lack of diversity on the top of his mind, but the message rings all too clear.
Change starts in each city, building, company, and executive’s mind. If you care about growing your radio station and relating better to the community in which you operate, be willing to consider others who you may not have previously. Explore different avenues to identify talent. Get a firm understanding of where your brand’s strengths are, and what opportunities exist to make larger inroads in the marketplace. Don’t wait until your market’s demographics change. By then it’ll be way too late to make adjustments.
The collective improvement of diversity in sports radio won’t be resolved inside of a conference room by a group of executives joining forces to introduce wholesale changes across multiple regions and companies. But if better systems are installed, and one individual in one city takes action to make his or her operation more diverse, that becomes the first step towards making an entire industry look, sound, and feel better than it did yesterday. And that my friends is where progress begins.
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.
Takeaways From The NAB Show and Six Days in Las Vegas
“I’m certainly not afraid to be critical but my enthusiasm for the NAB Show was elevated this year.”
Six days on the road can sometimes be exhausting. Six days in Las Vegas, and it’s guaranteed. That was my world last week, as I along with more than fifty thousand people headed to sin city to take in the 2022 NAB Show.
The event didn’t draw as many as it had in the past, but after two years of inactivity due to the pandemic, it was good to be back. Judging from some of the vendors I talked to, the sessions I attended, and the feedback I received from folks I met with, though far from perfect, it was a solid return for an important event. Seeing people interact, celebrate others, and talk about ways to improve the business was a positive reminder of the world being closer to the normal of 2019 than the normal of 2020-2021. The only negative from the week, the consistent failure of Uber to appear in the right place at the right time. But that had zero to do with the NAB.
It feels like whenever I attend industry conferences, there are two different type of reviews that follow. Some writers attend the show and see the glass half full. Others see the glass half empty. I’m certainly not afraid to be critical but my enthusiasm was elevated this year. Maybe it was because BSM was a media partner or maybe it was due to the show not happening for years and just being happy to be among friends, peers, and clients and operate like normal. Either way, my glass was definitely half full.
For those who see events this way, it’s likely they’ll remember the numerous opportunities they had to create and reestablish relationships. They’ll also recall the access to different speakers, sessions, products, and the excellent research shared with those in attendance. The great work done by the BFOA to recognize industry difference makers during their Wednesday breakfast was another positive experience, as was the Sunday night industry gathering at The Mayfair Supper Club.
Included in the conference were sessions with a number of industry leaders. Radio CEO’s took the stage to point out the industry’s wins and growth, credit their employees, and call out audio competitors, big tech, and advertisers for not spending more with the industry. When David Field, Bob Pittman, Ginny Morris and Caroline Beasley speak, people listen. Though their companies operate differently, hearing them share their views on the state of the business is important. I always learn something new when they address the room.
But though a lot of ground gets covered during these interviews, there are a few issues that don’t get talked about enough. For instance, ineffective measurement remains a big problem for the radio business. Things like this shouldn’t happen, but they do. NBC and WarnerMedia took bold steps to address problems with TV measurement. Does radio have the courage to take a similar risk? That’s an area I’d like to see addressed more by higher ups.
I can’t help but wonder how much money we lose from this issue. Companies spend millions for a ratings service that delivers subpar results, and the accountability that follows is often maddening. Given the data we have access to digitally, it’s stunning that radio’s report card for over the air listening is determined by outdated technology. And if we’re going to tell folks that wearables are the missing ingredient for addressing this problem, don’t be shocked if the press that follows is largely negative. The industry and its advertising partners deserve better. So too do the reps at Nielsen who have to absorb the hits, and make the most of a tough situation.
Speaking of advertising, this is another one of those critical areas that deserves another point of view. Case in point, I talked to a few ad agency professionals at the show. Similar to what I’ve heard before, they’re tired of hearing radio leaders blame them for the industry’s present position. This has been a hot button topic with executives for years. I often wonder, do we help or hurt ourselves by publicly calling out advertisers and ad agencies? How would you feel if you ran an agency which spent millions on the industry and were told ‘you don’t do enough’? I’m a champion of radio/audio, and am bullish on spoken word’s ability to deliver results for clients, but having attended these shows for nearly seven years, it might be time for a new approach and message. Or maybe it’s time to put one of our CEO’s with one of theirs and have a bigger discussion. Just a thought.
Of the sessions that I attended, I thought Erica Farber’s ‘What Business Are You In?’ was excellent. I especially liked Taja Graham’s presentation on ‘Sharing Your Truth’. I also appreciated Eric Bischoff’s tips on ways to monetize podcasts, and am curious to see how Amazon’s AMP develops moving forward. My favorite session at the show though was “A GPS Session For Your Station’s Car Radio Strategy” led by Fred Jacobs. The insight shared by Joe D’Angelo of Xperi and Steve Newberry & Suzy Schultz of Quu was outstanding. Keeping the car companies on our side is vital to our survival, and how we position ourselves on the dashboard can’t be ignored. Other tech companies and audio operators take it seriously. We must too.
Sessions aside, it was great to check out the VSiN and Blue Wire studios, connect with a bunch of CEO’s, GM’s and Market Manager’s, and visit with Kevin Jones, Joe Fortenbaugh, Jeremiah Crowe, Jon Goulet, Bill Adee, Q Myers, Mike Golic Jr. and Stormy Buonantony. The NFL’s setup for the Draft, and the light show presented at the Bellagio was without a doubt spectacular, plus Stephanie had a chance to say hello to Raiders owner Mark Davis who was inside the back room of a Westgate restaurant where we were having a business lunch meeting. The personal tour we received at the Wynn showed off some of the best suites I’ve seen in Las Vegas, and I was finally able to witness Circa’s Stadium Swim in person, and meet owner Derek Stevens (heck of a suit game). What an outstanding hotel and casino.
Altogether, it was a productive trip. As someone who knows all about building and executing a conference, I appreciate the work that goes into pulling it off. This event is massive, and I have no idea how the NAB makes it happen so flawlessly. This was the first time my head of sales, Stephanie Eads, got to attend the show. She loved it. Our only negative, going back and forth between convention halls can get exhausting. Wisely, Stephanie and Guaranty Media CEO Flynn Foster took advantage of the underground Tesla ride to move from the North hall to the West hall. I wasn’t as bright. If that’s the worst part of the experience though, that’s pretty solid. I look forward to returning in 2023, and attending the NAB’s NYC show this fall.
You’ve likely seen posts from BSM/BNM on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn promoting a number of open positions. I’m adding crew to help us pump out more content, and that means we need more editors, news writers, features reporter’s and columnists. If you’re currently involved or previously worked in the industry and love to write about it, send a resume and few writing samples by email to JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.
With that said, I’m excited to announce the addition of Ryan Brown as a weekly columnist for BSM. Ryan is part of ‘The Next Round’ in Birmingham, Alabama, which previously broadcast on WJOX as JOX Roundtable. The show left the terrestrial world in June 2021 to operate as its own entity. Ryan’s knowledge and opinions should provide a boost to the site, and I’m looking forward to featuring his columns every Tuesday. Keep an eye out for it tomorrow, and if you want to check out the guest piece he previously wrote for us, click here.
Demetri Ravanos and I have talked to a lot of people over the past month. More additions will be revealed soon. As always, thanks for the continued support of BSM and BNM.
Six New Contributors Join Barrett Media
“These latest additions will make our product better. Now the challenge is finding others to help us continue growing.”
Building a brand starts with a vision. Once that vision is defined, you identify the people who fit what you’re creating, lay out the game plan, and turn them loose to execute. If the product you’re creating is original, fills a gap in the marketplace, and the work turned in by your team is consistently excellent and promoted in the right locations, more times than not you’ll build an audience.
As you grow, the focus turns to studying what your audience wants, needs, and expects from your brand. Certain things you expect to be big turn out small, and the things you saw limited upside in create opportunities you never saw coming. It’s critical to be open minded and ready to pivot while also examining where and when people consume your product, which pieces of content do and don’t matter, and then use that information to direct your team to give folks more of what they value and less of what they don’t. Team members should want that feedback too. It tells them what is and isn’t worth spending their time on.
As I lay all of that out it may sound like I’m talking about a radio station or television operation. These are the things programmers do frequently to make sure the talent, shows, and brand is satisfying the expectations of an audience. But what I’m actually referring to is the brand you’ve made a choice to click on to read this column, Barrett Media.
I’ve mentioned many times on this website how I started this operation by myself, and didn’t expect to have a team of writers involved in it. I was focused on consulting sports stations, sharing my programming views on this website, and as I cranked out content consistently, I discovered others loved the business like I did and had a desire to share their insights too. Rather than sticking to my original plan, I pivoted and increased our content offerings. In return, the audience grew, clients grew, and it’s led this brand to grow beyond my expectations. Now we cover sports AND news media, we run an annual conference, feature a membership program, create podcasts, deliver a daily 8@8 and three times per week BNM Rundown newsletter, and work with various brands and companies across the broadcasting industry. I’m extremely fortunate to be in this position and don’t take it for granted.
But with growth comes change. We’ve been blessed to have a lot of talented people contribute to this site over the years, and as they produce quality work, and others across the industry recognize it, they earn interest for their services. That then leads to some having to sign off for bigger opportunities. I see that as a great positive for the brand. Would it be nice to have more consistency and keep a crew together for years? Of course. I know it’d make Demetri’s life a lot easier. If we’re losing people for the right reasons though, and they’re landing opportunities that help them advance their careers, I’m going to be happy for their success, and trust that we’ll find others to keep us moving forward. The success of our team helps make what we do more attractive to others because it shows that if you do good consistent work here, you can put yourself in a position to attract attention.
Over the past two months, I have challenged Demetri Ravanos to invest more time talking to people about writing for us. Expanding our Barrett News Media roster is a priority. So too is adding quality people to help us improve Barrett Sports Media. BSM has had just under seven years to earn trust with readers. BNM has had less than two. We’ve put out ads on our website and newsletters, social posts, an ad on Indeed, and we’ve reached out directly to people who we’ve felt may be able to add something interesting to our brand. Most of my time is spent listening to stations and talking with clients, but my eyes are always roaming looking for content, and my mind is always thinking about what we can create next to make an impact.
I don’t judge our brand’s success based on clicks, shares, breaking news before other outlets or showing up in the top three listings on Google. I care more effort accuracy, timeliness, passion, consistency, storytelling, insight, and being fair and non-agenda driven. We’ve found our niche being able to tell stories about broadcasting professionals, relaying news, and offering expert knowledge to serve those involved in the broadcasting industry. If we continue to excel doing those things consistently, I’m confident our audience will reward us by reading and sharing more of our content. It’s why we never stop recruiting to keep things fresh.
Having said that, I am excited today to reveal six new additions to the Barrett Media staff. Peter Schwartz is a name and voice many in New York sports radio circles are familiar with. Peter has spent three decades working with various outlets and I’m thrilled to have him writing weekly feature stories for us. Brady Farkas is a talented host and former programmer who now works for WDEV in Burlington, VT. Karl Schoening is a play by play broadcaster who has worked in San Antonio sports radio and has had the added benefit of learning the industry from his talented father Bill who calls Spurs games. Each of them will produce bi-weekly feature stories for the brand. Jason Ence is in Louisville and has written about sports betting for Twin Spires while also working for ESPN 680. He’ll be writing sports betting content for us on a weekly basis. Jasper Jones will help us by adding news stories on Friday’s. He’s presently in Philadelphia learning the business working for Audacy. Last but not least, veteran author, Brewers writer, and former radio professional Jim Cryns comes on board to help us with features on news media professionals.
These six additions make us stronger, and I’m excited to have them join the team to help us add more quality content to the website. That said, we’re not done yet. Demetri and I are still talking with others and I expect to make a few more additions in the weeks ahead. As I said earlier, we want to improve the news media side of our operation and continue adding people to help us make a bigger dent in the sports media space. Broadcast companies invest in us to help them, and I believe it’s important to invest back.
If you’ve programmed, hosted a top rated show, worked in measurement, led a cluster as a GM, sold advertising, represented talent or have worked in digital and feel you have knowledge to share, reach out. I can’t promise we’ll have room but we’re always willing to listen. I’m not worried about whether or not you’ve written for professional publications. Passion, experience and unique insights matter much more than a resume or journalism degree.
I appreciate everyone who takes time to read our content, like and share it on social, and all involved with this brand who help bring it to life each day. The latest additions of Schwartz, Farkas, Schoening, Ence, Jones and Cryns will make our product better. Now the challenge is finding others to help us continue growing.