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Has Sports Media Content Become Too Serious?

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Growing up in Brooklyn, sports were a huge part of my childhood. My first memory involved the New York Yankees winning the World Series in 1977, when my entire house erupted after Reggie Jackson crushed three home runs in Game 6 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. I wasn’t old enough to vividly recall any particular part of that series, but the jubilation inside my home, told me something good was happening.

Soon thereafter I became fascinated with Reggie, Willie Randolph, Ron Guidry, Goose Gossage and my personal favorite, Thurman Munson. The Yankees were atop the baseball mountain and their success produced great benefits for an adolescent including new shirts, baseball caps and trips to The House That Ruth Built.

But in the summer of 1979 I experienced my first taste of sadness. My five year old heart was crushed as I sat in the living room watching television with my grandfather and learned that Munson, the Yankees captain, had been killed in a plane crash. Reggie may have been the straw that stirred the drink, but it was Munson who was the team’s heartbeat. Needless to say, tears flowed like a waterfall that night.

At the age of five, I was given my first baseball glove. I would head outside to toss my blue rubber ball off of the wall of the auto body shop across the street, and let my imagination run wild thinking of different scenarios involving my beloved Yankees. As my passion for exerting energy outside grew, so did my interest in participating. I convinced my father to sign me up for little league, and for the next eight years I’d play every season, winning two MVP’s and being voted an All-Star six times.

The passion I developed for baseball stretched beyond playing too. I discovered the joy of collecting baseball cards, and each week would hit up my father for a quarter to run up the street and buy a new pack. Over the next thirteen years, I purchased every single Topps set, and that was followed by gaining interest in meeting players and acquiring autographs, many of which remain in my personal collection today.

When I reached my teenage years, the passion to play subsided but watching games still consumed me. Much like many teenage New York Yankees fans, I had Don Mattingly’s “Hit Man” poster on my wall. I experienced every joyless moment watching the New York Knicks get their collective throats stepped on by Michael Jordan, and I suffered thru every New York Rangers season, hearing the chants grow louder about the franchise not winning a Stanley Cup since 1940. The only saving grace were the New York Giants who produced multiple Super Bowl championships.

It was during my teenage years that I began to dabble in listening to sports radio. The format was new and unproven, and AM radio wasn’t appealing to listen to beyond the games, but because I loved the New York teams, I took a liking to hearing other people talk about it. My listening early on was very sporadic, but as the years passed by it became a bigger part of my life, especially once I started driving.

After completing high school, and entering the real world, I found myself in the car quite often. That increased my connection to my local sports radio station WFAN, particularly the Mike and the Mad Dog program. Mike Francesa had built a reputation on being smart and forceful with his opinions, but it was Chris Russo’s energy and passion which I connected to most. That was odd for me because Mike loved the Yankees, and Chris carried a huge disdain for them.

As I performed dead end jobs to pay bills, the fan in me remained alive and well. I continued to watch Yankees, Knicks, Rangers and Giants games, suffering thru a number of heartbreaks, when the tide finally turned in 1994. That year I witnessed the Rangers end a fifty four year drought, eliminating the Vancouver Canucks to bring the Stanley Cup back to New York. It’s why Mark Messier will go down in my book as the most important player in franchise history. If you wish to debate it, save your energy, you’re not going to change my mind.

Even more important to me were the Yankees championship teams of the late 1990’s. Derek Jeter’s arrival pumped new blood into an organization which had desperately needed it. After being named the team’s opening day starting shortstop in 1996, the fortunes of the Bronx Bombers began to change, and the euphoria surrounding the team became so contagious it was impossible not to get caught up in it.

In fact, when the Yankees knocked off the Texas Rangers to advance to the 1996 World Series, I was working a 10p-6a part-time job as a security guard at a local infirmary. I relied on my radio that night to hear the game. When the final out was recorded, and John Sterling announced tickets for the World Series would go on sale the following morning, I made a decision to abandon my post, and get into the car and drive to the Bronx. I had suffered thru enough bad seasons that I wasn’t going to miss out on an opportunity to be in the building when something special was taking place.

Imagine my surprise when I arrived in the Bronx a little after 1am and discovered thousands of people already in line. I was ready to give up hope and drive back home, but a fight broke out on the line, leaving a big hole in the middle. Myself and two others who were sitting on a patch of grass quickly took advantage of the situation, and eased our way in. The reward the next morning was purchasing 4 tickets to Game 2 of the fall classic, a game which left every Yankee fan miserable thanks to an October gem from Braves pitcher Greg Maddux.

As we left the stadium and made our sixty mile trek home, WFAN provided much needed noise. My father bitched and moaned the entire time about how pathetic the team had played, and wrote off any possibility of the Yankees battling back to win the series. It was hard to argue, given that they had been outscored 16-1 in the first two games, but the optimist in me held out hope that David Cone could save the season in Game 3.

Luck was on the Yankees side in Game 3, giving fans a renewed energy and confidence, but the euphoria started to dissipate when Kenny Rogers laid an egg in Game 4. The Yankees trailed 6-0 at the end of five innings, and every New York baseball fan was mentally preparing to hear the fat lady sing later that night.

But then the baseball gods decided to intervene.

Jim Leyritz, who had been a hero in the 1995 playoffs against the Seattle Mariners, stepped to the plate and delivered one of the most clutch home runs in franchise history, sending a Mark Wohlers slider over the left field wall, just beyond the reach of Braves left fielder Andruw Jones. That tied things up at 6-6. Quickly the momentum had shifted, and when Wade Boggs battled Steve Avery to earn a bases loaded walk in the 10th inning, Yankees fans lost their minds, and began to believe that destiny was on their side.

The next two games would be close and intense, but fortunately the Yankees prevailed. Their 4-2 series win brought a world championship back to the Bronx for the first time since 1978, and a ticker tape parade down the canyon of heroes, one which I was in attendance for.

By now you’re either asking yourself, what exactly does Jason’s recollection of New York sports moments have to do with this article? Or you’re screaming at your computer or phone, “I don’t give a damn about the Yankees or any other New York team.”

Allow me to explain why I took you down my personal memory lane.

Each of us have these kind of sports memories stained in our minds. They evoke emotions that run thru us and are part of what makes sports special. For many of us who choose to pursue sports media work professionally, these celebratory and devastating moments fuel our desire to tell stories, connect with fans, and experience excitement in each venue.

But as you distance yourself from high school and college, and settle into a career, joy and fandom start to wane. The pressures of paying bills, raising families, battling everyday issues, and tackling work responsibilities become your priority and the time you spend in front of a television or radio decreases. Suddenly the little kid in you who lived each day to throw a ball outside or open up a new pack of baseball cards is pushed aside, and the new adult version of yourself takes over.

Many in our audience work a full-time job that they don’t enjoy. They do it to put a roof over their families heads and food on the table. They’d prefer to make a living like us playing in the toy department of life, but being broke, living longer at home with mom and dad, and feasting on ramen noodles and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches doesn’t have great appeal.

For those of us in the sports media business who have paid our dues and been fortunate to escape low paying jobs and earn opportunities on larger stages, what’s our excuse? We’re not digging ditches, operating on patients, selling insurance or welding metal. We are talking sports, on radio, on television, on social media, and in print, and part of our job description includes watching games, reading stories, and conveying our honest thoughts to form a deeper bond with an audience. That should elicit excitement, passion, curiosity and fun in each of us.

But sadly when you look around the industry that isn’t always felt or presented on the air.

It’d be unfair of me to suggest that every sports media personality has silenced their inner fan. There are exceptions. Play by play announcers would be one of them. But, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to point out that a large majority of talk show personalities have distanced themselves from the teams and players they once loved.

In many cities and buildings, show units work together to identify topics and angles, and line up callers and guests who can fuel conversation and provide additional entertainment value. The host opinions are delivered from a neutral or antagonistic position, and the thought of being labeled a professional fan with access and a microphone is quickly rejected.

And the teams don’t make it any easier.

Inside every press box, media members are encouraged to cut the chord to their teams. If a player makes a great play or the team you’re covering rallies to win an important game, you’re reminded to avoid cheering or expressing yourself in a positive manner.

It’s easy to see why many in the media become jaded. After spending years developing a deep love and passion for sports and those who cover them, you’re immediately met by neutrality and negativity once you start covering them. It was OK to root, love, and support players and teams when you were younger and not a working professional, but once you earn a paycheck from a media outlet and enter an arena or stadium, a burial for your fandom is scheduled.

Another  problem which causes broadcasters to disconnect is the way they’re treated by those they cover. Many players are cynical of the media, and at times, even disrespectful. They view writers, reporters and personalities as potential enemies, and although the good ones may squeeze out solid information from time to time, the willingness of players, coaches, and executives to be candid, conversational, and unguarded is rare at best.

It’s no excuse, but when you’re treated poorly or disrespected, it’s going to show up at some point in your work. Rather than giving a player or coach the benefit of the doubt after a tough game or offering praise for a particular feat, the media gravitate to pointing out flaws, selling concern, and pouring gasoline on the fire. It becomes the one way they can fight back against individuals who play the game and think they’re invincible. It also reminds those players, coaches and executives just how powerful the media can be in shaping public opinion.

If you read a sports website, listen to sports radio, or watch sports television, you may notice that the majority of content is supplied by media members who are over 35 years old. Coincidentally, the content appeals better to the older part of the audience (35-64) than it does the younger demo (18-34). If a media member is mature, experienced, and able to reduce their fandom and handle egotistical, sensitive and guarded sports personalities, then it allows the outlet they’re working for to maintain a more neutral position.

But is that really what drew us to wanting to work in sports? Didn’t we become interested in doing this line of work because we appreciated great players with unmatched skill and larger than life personalities? Weren’t we enamored watching two teams or individuals compete to find out who was better? If they failed to execute or made bad decisions, we held them accountable, but we attached ourselves to teams and players and emotionally invested in their success.

That connection enabled us to invite conversation with others who shared similar interests. It allowed us to be kids again, and forget about life’s responsibilities and pressures for a while.

Which is why I wonder if the sports media business is hurting itself by becoming too serious. I see a lot of parallels today between the presentation of sports/talk and news/talk, and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing.

News is about reality. It’s our wake up call. It’s serious conversation, and what we need to hear, even when we don’t necessarily want to hear it. It’s often negative in tone, but helps to put life and its day to day challenges into perspective.

Sports is supposed to pull us away from that reality and negativity. We rely on it to make us feel good. It becomes a conversation starter, and the link between childhood and adulthood. Whether we’re with our families or complete strangers, it brings us together and gives us hope, joy, and something positive to look forward to.

But we don’t always hear, see or feel that from those who lead the sports conversation across the airwaves. Instead, there’s a strong journalistic approach, and the intent is often to dissect stories, provoke thought, and generate emotional responses, rather than share any genuine semblance of joy, passion, love or appreciation.

Are audiences really clamoring for neutrality and cynicism? Have they demanded broadcasters possess black hearts and icy veins and shun the idea of expressing their true passions and love for the teams that inspired them to want to earn a living in sports media?

The last time I checked, they had not.

Didn’t America’s best broadcasters grow up watching sports, loving them, playing them, and wanting to be around them? Then why have we silenced that part of our personalities now that we’ve become adults?

It’s OK to be excited to talk to a guest who you once cheered for and display that vulnerability to the audience. Expressing joy when your favorite team wins makes you human and more relatable. Sharing your personal memories and feelings, opens the door for further discussion and deeper attachments with your listeners or viewers. If we can’t take these qualities with us to the air, then we’re robbing the audience of half of who we are.

Many in sports media have become so disenchanted with the organizations and people they cover, that it’s rubbed off on areas of their presentation. Maybe the travel, long work hours, and interactions with delusional listeners and arrogant players can be a drain, but talking about sports and watching them for a living should lift us up, not bring us down.

A question we should all be asking ourselves is, how does being jaded, angry, detached and emotionless help us? Certainly there are times when tough conversations and negative stances are warranted, but is it to much to ask that our best on-air voices also display a little bit of love, joy, excitement and vulnerability?

It’s been said before that the sports media cares more about what takes place outside the lines than what occurs inside of them. I think that’s true. If you watched or listened to 60-minutes of any show last week, you heard much more discussion about Kyrie Irving demanding a trade, Colin Kaepernick not being signed, Tim Tebow deserving a call up from the Mets and the selling of hate between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor, then you heard about athletic performances or any team’s progress.

But is that really good for our business? Does sports programming need to continue being served in a similar way to news?

If one of the few joys we share in life (sports) is presented in a neutral or negative fashion, and the personalities discussing them aren’t personally excited or invested in a team or individual’s success, it becomes harder to connect with the audience. I don’t think the airwaves need to be full of cheerleaders and apologists, but having fun, showing you care, and experiencing the same euphoria and agony with an audience shouldn’t require a sales pitch.

In life, people turn to sports because it makes them happy. They believe in its power to unite. I just wonder if the direction we’ve headed in is doing more to divide.

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Would Local Radio Benefit From Hosting An Annual Upfront?

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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.

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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.”

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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.

Additional:

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.

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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.”

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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.

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