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The Fine Line Between Treasure and Trash

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Inspiration can be hard to find at times. Especially if you’re an on-air talent and working with less than spectacular material during a slower period of the sports calendar. But regardless of your empty basket of content options, an audience still expects you to hit the airwaves and put on an entertaining show to allow them a distraction from life’s challenges.

But what do you do when the ideas don’t flow and the sports world offers trash instead of treasure?

The first place to start is inside your soul. It’s understandable that you’re going to have less joy for certain topics than others, but being honest, transparent, and intimate with your audience goes a long way in earning trust, respect and appreciation. People can detect when someone isn’t invested in the content and it’s your job to make sure they never feel that way about you.

On a daily basis, you’re going to sift thru stories from tons of websites, searching for a headline, paragraph, audio bite or video clip that is worth stopping in your tracks for. Sometimes you’ll find them. Other times you won’t. How you proceed when you locate gold is pretty obvious, but it’s when you uncover the equivalent of a dirty wet napkin that you discover what you’re truly made of.

Each talent is different in the way they think, operate and prepare. Some turn coal into diamonds. Others panic at the first sign of danger. But whether you’re confident and gifted or rattled and creatively challenged, an Oscar worthy performance is expected and excuses are best left at home.

What takes place before you speak into a microphone is irrelevant to the audience. To put it mildly, they don’t care about your problems or how much time you dedicated to create the content, only what comes thru the speakers. If it takes four hours of your time instead of two to satisfy their expectations, so be it. When the red light goes on, they expect you to seize the moment, or they tune you out. It’s that simple.

In thinking about the days when nothing stands out and the fear of filling two to four hours of air time with sub par material consumes you, I want you to step back and examine why you’re in that particular position.

The first issue often involves confidence and insecurity. To grab an audience’s attention, and operate to the best of your abilities, you’ve got to believe in what you’re selling. You are the salesperson of your content. If you can’t convince yourself that a topic is worth buying, then don’t expect it from your listeners.

Secondly, many hosts blame the subject matter rather than their own creativity and preparation. The beauty of the world of sports is that each day provides new content. There are days and weeks when bigger stories develop and our natural passion and interest increases, but there are no off-days in sports, let alone the sports media industry. It’s what you do with the material in front of you that determines if your programming is viewed as superior or a poor use of air time.

Rather than complaining about the lulls in the calendar, consider how you’re preparing during those tougher days. If you normally invest one to two hours of prep time into your show, slower periods day may require three or four hours. Is it a pain in the ass? Yes. But if you’re an exceptional talent with an ability to create compelling content, you’ve got to be willing to invest the time in your craft to deliver your best stuff.

Ask yourself this, if the phone lines were shut off and the audience participation on Twitter and the text line disappeared, would you still have an entertaining show? If the answer is no, reconsider your approach.

Nothing is more important than your pre-show creative process. This is your opportunity to discuss, debate, and test possible content ideas, and the final conclusion you arrive at determines if material makes it to the air or gets tossed aside. Whatever you do, don’t let that time get wasted with small talk, coffee breaks, and personal phone calls. As the old saying goes, Proper Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance!

When big stories don’t land in our lap, we have a tendency to assess blame. That may allow you to get a few things off your chest but it doesn’t solve anything. A great storyteller and entertainer understands that to win over a crowd, you sometimes need to take small items and make them feel bigger. They leave no stone unturned when searching for content, and equally as vital, they recognize the difference between making news and creating interest versus reacting to news and relying on interest.

What serves as a great indicator of a show forming a powerful connection with an audience is when people tune in for the host rather than the subject matter. That’s the goal you should be striving for. It’s similar to purchasing tickets to see a top notch comedian. We trust in their ability to make us laugh and deliver stories and punchlines in a unique and memorable way, that we disregard the subject matter.

If you’ve ever listened to Howard Stern, he’s a master at creating internal show drama and content. He uses it like bait to lure in the fish. What makes Stern’s show fascinating is that it doesn’t rely on what’s topical. It creates its own material, which then becomes content for others to talk about.

Leading up to a big interview, few are better at building suspense and anticipation than Stern. He also captivates the audience by involving his cast and exposing their various dilemmas in real life situations, which in turn makes it easier for listeners to think, play along and connect to the personalities. That makes the program easy to digest.

One show that is doing this particularly well right now is Kirk and Callahan on WEEI in Boston. Each day is unpredictable, interesting, funny, upsetting or emotional, and whether listeners love or hate Kirk, Gerry and their rotating co-hosts, they have either strong opinions or an emotional connection to the program. Because Kirk and Callahan are authentic, creating their own content, and not reliant on the day’s top sports stories, they’ve been able to generate a ton of interest, and keep listeners tuning in to see what’ll happen next. The personalities have become the point of entry for the audience. The material comes second.

If you scan the country, you’ll find a large number of shows promoting themselves each day by touting their guest lists and giveaways, but rarely is anything mentioned about the host. It may not feel as big or unique, but the on-air talent’s observations, jokes, personal stories, and unfiltered commentaries strike a chord with people much more than a daily guest list.

Don’t get me wrong, A-list guests are worth promoting, especially if an on-air talent can pull exceptional answers out of them, but it doesn’t mean the other areas of the show aren’t also a destination or capable of becoming the larger focus of a day’s presentation. I also don’t want you to think that by becoming the focal point of a program it means that you can deliver less valuable content to people. Just like going to a concert, the crowd will sit thru a new tune or B-side song that you have a passion for, but if you feed them too many unfamiliar songs, they’ll quickly head for the exits.

If a host is capable of relaying a personal connection to a piece of topical content or offering an interesting way of understanding and viewing a specific subject, that has a better shot at staying in a listener’s head. The on-air talent are seen as the listener’s “friend on the radio” who keeps them company each day, and they go thru your ups, downs and in-betweens with you. It’s what makes radio a powerful platform.

A host doesn’t have the benefit of knowing who’s paying attention or how their comments are being consumed. The best ones though attack the air with a purpose, and welcome the challenge of stealing the audience’s attention when they appear less interested.

Anyone can hit the air the day after Jay Cutler signs with the Dolphins and question if it’s a good or bad move. Stating that Colin Kaepernick deserves to be on a roster when players with lesser skill occupy NFL roster spots requires little thought. Taking issue with LaVar Ball after he boasts about getting a referee removed from a summer game is easy. Each of those examples are things that your audience can create themselves, but as a sports media personality you’re expected to get more mileage out of the content than those who listen to you.

Over the span of a three or four hour show, some basic points are likely to be raised. That’s fine, but relying on audience reaction and simplistic headlines won’t be enough to keep people tuning in for an extended period of time.

What it boils down to are three simple things; being curious, investing prep time, and taking chances.

Are you stating the obvious or peeling back the layers of the onion to find what’s in the middle? Can you take a basic topic, relate it to a bigger local issue, and make it sound more important? Or are you regurgitating facts and information and distancing yourself from the emotional opportunities inside of a story?

To keep a topic hot for hours, and maintain mental interest and energy in a story requires developing four to five angles and having the patience and understanding to avoid unloading all at once. If you can exhaust ten to fifteen minutes of content potential from each angle, and include an interesting twist during the conversation, the audience will eat out of your hand and be back for seconds.

Reading, watching and listening to different things is a wise practice because it keeps you mentally engaged. It’s especially helpful to research how a local team, player, or story is being covered in another city, because it’s fresh and removed from everything we’re accustomed to hearing or seeing on a regular basis.

In our business it’s common to develop habits and rely on the same three or four local websites to create a rundown, but finding gems often requires searching in foreign places. When you fail to do it, especially during slower periods, you can find yourself gassed on a particular subject, and praying for a flood of phone calls or guests to bail you out.

No one said creating content and connecting with an audience was easy. It’s extremely hard. It’s why some hosts have reservations for the broadcasting hall of fame and others have futures waiting on tables or selling insurance. It doesn’t require a ton of skill to engage an audience when hot button topics are available, but you find out who’s truly worth their salt when the sports world feeds you a handful of crackers and you’re clamoring for steak.

Barrett Blogs

Black Friday Sale TODAY For 2022 BSM Summit Tickets

“BSM’s Black Friday sale on Summit tickets will begin at 12:01am ET on Friday November 26th and expire at 11:59pm later that same night.”

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There are less than 100 days remaining until the 2022 BSM Summit takes place in New York City. We’ve announced 31 participants for the show so far, and have more to reveal in the weeks and months ahead. I think you’re going to like what’s still to come.

Putting this conference together isn’t easy. It requires months of meetings, brainstorming, promotion, selling sponsorships, pursuing speakers, and creating everything that attendees see on stage over a two day period. I’m thankful to have help from some amazing partners, but as I’ve mentioned previously, this isn’t an event that makes us rich or ends with 5-10 new clients signing up to work with BSM. The goal each year is simple, make sure the conference is valuable for those who attend, and don’t run BSM out of business by doing it. As long as those two things remain solid, it’s worth doing.

Some might wonder, why go thru months of headaches if you’re not going to break the bank or immediately add clients. That’s fair to ask. If you look at it from a pure business standpoint, one could easily make a case that pouring this type of energy into something else could be more lucrative. But money was never the motivation for doing this. I felt the sports media industry lacked a signature event where smart, successful media professionals (who don’t often cross paths) could gather at one location to laugh and learn together, and I wanted to change that. If over a two day period attendees could gain insight, information, ideas, and introductions, it’d put everyone in a stronger position to remain successful.

I’ve unapologetically loved the sports media business since I started listening to Mike & the Mad Dog on WFAN and watching SportsCenter on ESPN. I was fortunate to live and work in a number of cities over the past two decades, learning how different companies and people operate, and I remain involved today thru my work with BSM. I mention this because I also know media people. They tend to wait until the last minute to book hotel rooms, airfare, and purchase tickets, even if they can save money by acting sooner. I know, I used to do it too. I can’t control when you book your room or plane ticket, but I do want to give you an added incentive to buy your ticket to this year’s show. Seating is limited, and once the last seat is filled, that’s it. We can’t make extra room.

With that in mind, most of you are either taking today off or working inside a much quieter building. If you’ve thought about coming to the Summit, take 5-10 minutes to log on to BSMSummit.com to take advantage of our special Black Friday sale. We’ve reduced tickets for the day, so whether you’re planning to attend in NYC or watch the conference online, there’s a discount to help you out. Just $199.99 for live tickets, and $124.99 for virtual.

BSM’s Black Friday sale on Summit tickets expires at 11:59pm tonight. In the meantime, Hotel Edison in NYC is offering rooms for just $109 + taxes to Summit attendees. Click here to take advantage of the special room rate we’ve secured for this year’s show. Those of you planning to fly to NYC for the show, there have been a ton of great deals offered by American, Southwest, United, JetBlue and Frontier. It might be worth checking into today since Black Friday often has even better sales on travel.

If you’re interested in learning more about the industry, staying a step ahead, forming new relationships, strengthening existing ones, exploring potential business deals, and celebrating the business you’re in, I hope you’ll join us either online or in New York City for the 2022 BSM Summit. I’m making it easier on you, by offering lower ticket prices today. The rest is up to you!

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Barrett Blogs

Craig Carton, Fred Toucher, Mike Felger To Speak At The 2022 BSM Summit

“Few understand what it takes to deliver success in this format consistently like Craig, Fred and Mike, and I’m glad they’re making the time to share their knowledge with us.”

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When you talk to industry people about successful brands in sports talk radio, most conversations include WFAN and 98.5 The Sports Hub. The New York and Boston sports radio brands are consistently recognized for their ability to deliver large audiences and revenues.

Helping to create that success is a mixture of strong play by play partnerships, skilled programmers and even more importantly, some of the most dynamic on-air personalities in the format. Fortunately for us, a few of those gamechangers will be present to share their opinions and insights on content matters in New York City at the 2022 BSM Summit.

Starting in New York, it’s an honor to welcome WFAN afternoon drive host Craig Carton to the 2022 BSM Summit. Heard daily on ‘Carton and Roberts‘ alongside Evan Roberts, which is also featured on TV on SNY, Carton has made his presence felt ever since returning to the airwaves in November 2020. Prior to taking on the challenge in afternoons, Craig spent a decade partnering with Boomer Esiason on ‘Boomer and Carton‘, forming one of the most successful sports radio morning shows in the country. In addition to enjoying success in New York, Craig has also experienced the ups and downs that come with performing in different markets. His radio travels have taken him to Philadelphia, Denver, Buffalo and Trenton, NJ. The Syracuse graduate and outspoken host is expected to join BSM President Jason Barrett for a one on one conversation at this year’s Summit.

Shipping up to Boston, it’s a pleasure to welcome two of the format’s highest rated performers to New York City. They’re heard on 98.5 The Sports Hub in morning and afternoon drive, and at the Summit, they’ll interact together during an in-depth content conversation with BSM President Jason Barrett.

Fred Toucher is one half of the Sports Hub’s popular morning show ‘Toucher & Rich‘, which recently added syndication. The Detroit native started his career in Georgia before moving to Boston in 2005. Toucher & Rich, which includes Rich Shertenlieb, officially moved into the sports talk format in 2009. Since making the format switch, the duo have consistently produced some of the best ratings in the entire format in mornings during the past fifteen years. Toucher & Rich have also been recognized by industry executives as one of the top two morning shows in the format each of the past three years in the BSM Top 20, including taking top honors in 2018.

Mike Felger on the other hand is heard on the ride home alongside Tony Massarotti on The Sports Hub. The Marconi Award-winning afternoon radio show has been a fixture in Boston since the station’s inception in 2009. During the past twelve years, Felger & Mazz have been a steady force atop the Men 25-54 ratings including recently delivering an impressive 18.9 share in the summer book to finish 1st. The Milwaukee native also hosts a show for NBC Boston, and has previously served as a columnist for the Boston Globe. Similar to Toucher & Rich, Felger & Mazz have earned high praise from format execs in the BSM Top 20. They’ve been voted one of the top 2 afternoon shows each of the past 2 years including grabbing the top spot in 2019.

We’re excited to add all three of these men to the lineup for the 2022 BSM Summit. As vital as it may be to spend time on business issues in order to stay ahead of a rapidly changing media climate, without great talent and content, the rest is irrelevant. Few understand what it takes to deliver success in this format consistently like Craig, Fred and Mike, and I’m glad they’re making the time to share their knowledge with us.

To reserve your hotel room, purchase tickets or learn more about the speakers we’ve lined up for the 2022 show, visit BSMSummit.com. We hope to see you online or in New York City this March.

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Barrett Blogs

BSM Summit Adds Borrell, Crain, Cutler, Goldstein, Scott, Shapiro & Thomas

“The Summit is just 104 days away, so if you haven’t purchased your ticket yet, please do so. Half of the room is already full and seating for the conference is limited.”

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The 2022 BSM Summit continues to add firepower to the sports media industry’s premier conference. After previously announcing the first twenty one participants to take part in March’s event in New York City, another seven talented media professionals have been added to the speaker schedule.

Making his BSM Summit debut in 2022 will be the media industry’s leading business analyst Gordon Borrell. The well respected and accomplished CEO of Borrell Associates is featured frequently in the trades and mainstream publications for his insights on advertising trends and forecasts in local media. Borrell will join Amplifi Media CEO Steven Goldstein on stage at the Summit for an in-depth discussion on the advertising climate in 2022. The two men will offer insights and opinions on what advertisers value most, where they’re expected to invest future dollars, which categories will continue to rise and decline, and what brands can do to position themselves better to increase revenue. Additionally, Borrell will be hosting his local advertising conference in Miami a few days after the Summit. Those interested in heading to South Beach and learning more about the marketing world can learn more by clicking here.

Switching to the content end, the Summit is thrilled to welcome The Volume’s Jake Crain to New York City. The host of The JBoy Show will also be making his debut at the conference. Crain will be part of a talent panel along with John Jastremski and Kazeem Famuyide.

Also making his debut at the Summit will be Carl Scott. Meadowlark Media’s Executive Director of Audio will join our podcasting panel featuring Blue Wire CEO Kevin Jones and The Volume’s Head of Content Logan Swaim. Hubbard Radio’s Digital Content Director Phil Mackey will guide the conversation.

Not everyone participating at the Summit will be new to the audience though. Returning to the stage as part of our GM’s discussion will be newly appointed Audacy Boston Market Manager Mike Thomas. Thomas recently led ESPN 1000 in Chicago as the station’s GM after working with Mark Hannon to turn 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston into one of sports radio’s top performing stations. It should be noted that each time Thomas appears at the Summit it follows a recent promotion. We figure by 2023 or 2024 he’ll be running the entire industry.

A Summit isn’t complete without attention given to programming matters. To help us address some of those key issues, we’re excited to welcome back the Vice President of FOX Sports Radio & Podcasts Scott Shapiro. The passionate network executive who oversees many of the nation’s top national programs is always a great listen for folks interested in learning how programmer’s view and tackle the industry’s most important affairs.

Last but certainly not least, voice talent extraordinaire Jim Cutler will return to the stage to lead a session on storytelling. One of the industry’s prominent station voices and creative minds has a penchant for putting on entertaining and informative sessions. If you’ve attended the conference before, you’re already aware. To those planning to catch this one, you’re in for a treat.

Keep an eye out over the next two weeks. We’ll be making additional announcements involving a few high profile talents we’ve lined up for the 2022 BSM Summit. A reminder, the event is just 104 days away, so if you haven’t purchased your ticket yet, please do so. Half of the room is already full and seating for the conference is limited. I realize some folks may prefer to wait until the last minute to make sure the world is safe. If you’re not comfortable flying to NY for the show, we do have an option in place to enjoy the conference virtually thanks to NuVoodoo Media. For more information on tickets, click here.

That said, the in-person environment is excellent. If you haven’t attended the Summit before I think you’ll find the two days in New York City to be time well spent. This conference is not open to the general public. You must either presently work in an area of the media industry or be pursuing a degree in the broadcasting field.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that we still have some sponsorship opportunities available for the show. We’re thrilled to have the support of great partners, ESPN Radio, Premiere Networks, FOX Sports Radio, Stone Voiceovers, Compass Media Networks, Point to Point Marketing, and Core Image Studio. If you’d like to be part of the event too, email JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com for additional details.

One final note, airfare is low right now. There are roundtrip flights to and from New York from many major cities for less than $200.00. We’ve also secured a low hotel rate of $109.00 per night at Hotel Edison in NYC to help companies and individuals keep costs down. The sports media industry has endured two years of difficulty due to the pandemic, preventing many from networking, learning, celebrating, and growing. The two days we spend together in the big apple won’t solve every issue facing our business, but I promise you’ll leave the show more informed, more connected, and better prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.

Hope to see you in New York on March 2nd and 3rd.

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