The daily grind to crank out compelling content can be exhausting. Hosts and reporters are under constant pressure to locate superb material that will instantly drive clicks, views and listens which will become top of the mind discussion that can breathe life into the next day. More times than not the industry succeeds, but every now and then we’re handed a lemon.
In that pursuit for locating relevant stories worthy enough of the audience’s attention, we stumble across a few questionable characters. The thought of dedicating content time to them turns our stomachs but they also serve a purpose in generating buzz and higher ratings. We may question our own standards and journalistic integrity when highlighting a rotten apple but as long as the public is eating it up, we keep putting it on the plate and telling ourselves it’s a good meal.
But while there are plenty of people willing to sell their soul to generate an extra tenth of a ratings point, there are also a large number of hypocrites sitting on the other side of the fence.
By now you’ve heard the name LaVar Ball so much that it’s likely caused you to increase your purchases of Tylenol or Advil. The more people pay attention to the sounds pouring out of this man’s mouth, the more he pushes the envelope to increase his celebrity. He may make your blood boil and cause you to question the media’s rationale for giving him air time but what he’s doing is nothing new. It’s what sold a lot of fights for Muhammad Ali. The only difference, Ali had real talent, Ball doesn’t.
As foolish and outrageous as LaVar may be, my issue isn’t with him as much as it is with the hypocrisy I’m seeing in sports and media. Let’s start with the folks who have a problem with Ball being given exposure for his ridiculous commentaries.
Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle was upset after learning of Ball’s criticisms towards Lakers head coach Luke Walton. The president of the coaches association said, “I view the recent ESPN article as a disgrace. They should look at their sources and do a better job of determining whether they have any merit or validity. Printing an article where the father of an NBA player has an opinion that is printed as anything like (it’s) legitimate – it erodes the trust we’ve built with ESPN and our coaches are upset because Luke Walton does not deserve that. To have to deal with these kind of ignorant distractions is deplorable.”
Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr also had a problem with the story. The leader of the NBA champions added, “Somewhere LaVar is laughing at all of us. People are eating out of his hands for no apparent reasons other than he has become the Kardashian in the NBA. That sells. That’s what is true in politics, entertainment and now in sports. It doesn’t matter if there’s any substance involved with any issues. It’s just, ‘Can we make it really interesting for no apparent reason?’
“This is not a ESPN judgment. It’s a societal thing more than anything. We’re going away from covering the game and getting closer to sensationalized news. It’s really not news. It’s complete nonsense. If you package that irrational nonsense with some glitter and some ribbon, people are going to watch.”
“I don’t have a problem with LaVar Ball. He’s a grown man. He can voice whatever opinion he wants. I got a problem with ESPN deciding that’s a story. I’m not meeting with their announcing crew before the game, I’m not doing the in-game interview. I’m not going to participate in the thing.”
Van Gundy’s brother Jeff, who works as ESPN’s lead analyst on NBA games agreed with the three coaches and took his own employer to task.
“Instead of focusing in on the real issues, Jeff Goodman and ESPN got what they wanted,” said Van Gundy. “They started a little fire and now everyone’s talking about it. The whole process is wrong when you write an article that doesn’t have one attributable quote — like the Patriots story.”
Upon hearing the reactions of multiple NBA head coaches, ESPN reporter Jeff Goodman, who wrote the Ball story, defended his piece.
“News has changed. I’ve been covering it for a long, long time now. What’s news today is not what was news five years ago, even two years ago. It is completely changed, and now, LaVar Ball saying what he did about Luke Walton is newsworthy. Nobody can doubt that.”
Goodman made it clear that he disagreed with Ball’s assessment of Walton and understands the public’s perception of him being a jackass, but that doesn’t mean his comments aren’t newsworthy.
“I understand thinking that LaVar is a buffoon, and that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. But I’ve seen it a lot with college basketball and NBA coaches. They always protect their own. Do they have any more knowledge of the Lakers situation, and whether Walton has lost that team, than LaVar does? The answer is no. LaVar could be dead on, we don’t know that.”
Having now absorbed the information, I have a few thoughts I want to share on both sides of the issue. Let’s start with the defense of Ball being given air time and whether or not his comments are newsworthy.
The last time I checked, this is a free country right? We’re all entitled to freedom of speech and Ball just happens to speak a little louder than most. In some ways, he’s doing what so many talk show hosts strive to do each day – deliver a strong opinion, make a connection and generate a reaction. You may not like what he’s saying but if it wasn’t of interest to people it wouldn’t be given the frequency of air time that it’s received. By the way, we also have the choice about whether or not to pay attention to him or tune him out.
Secondly, when did we rewrite the rules to only feature credible individuals and hard hitting news on sports media shows and websites? I must have missed that memo.
We didn’t seem to have a problem building up P. Diddy’s interest in buying the Carolina Panthers. When Kate Upton sounded off about the voting for the 2016 Cy Young award because Justin Verlander didn’t win it, that seemed to be newsworthy. How about Katy Perry making college football picks on College Gameday, Chris Pratt eating toasted grasshoppers on SportsNation, and stories being written about what rapper Paul Wall would give the Astros if they could deliver a championship for the city of Houston?
Just this morning I’ve seen multiple media outlets run stories on Dr. Dre talking to Golden State Warriors players. Was that really newsworthy or were brands simply using the popularity of Dre’s name to drive clicks?
On Tuesday afternoon I was driving to pick up my son from school when I landed on Stephen A. Smith’s show on ESPN Radio. What Smith said about the situation was right on point. It’s worth your time to listen back to it. I even convinced my fifteen year old to pay attention for a whole segment without checking Instagram, YouTube or Snapchat. That’s a whole other column though.
Stephen A. mentioned that he didn’t particularly like that ESPN was covering the Ball’s in Lithuania but he took issue with Kerr, Carlisle and Van Gundy over their criticisms of the network’s decision making on news stories. Smith reminded them that they’ve been very outspoken on the political climate in our country which has zero to do with basketball. Yet when they’ve had something to say, ESPN has covered them. Some fans may agree with their political views but others don’t and would rather see them focus on basketball and avoid creating division.
Continuing on, Smith pointed out that whether you like it or not, LaVar Ball is the father of the number two overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft who is now the starting point guard of the Los Angeles Lakers. He may be obnoxious, annoying, distasteful and classless but what he said about head coach Luke Walton is newsworthy. Smith even made the point, if LaVar went on the record tomorrow saying that Lonzo wanted to be dealt from the Lakers because Magic Johnson is inept at his job, would that not be something ESPN should share with fans?
We may agree that Kerr, Van Gundy and Carlisle have much more professional credibility than LaVar but that doesn’t mean his comments aren’t news. The Lakers knew this was a potential issue when they drafted Lonzo and when the outspoken and arrogant father goes on the record suggesting Walton isn’t good enough to lead the Lakers to success, that’s a story worthy of airtime. It’s certainly much more relevant than some of the examples I mentioned above.
I also think Jeff Van Gundy is way off track on this issue. I’m a fan of Jeff’s analysis and candid style, and I loved when he coached my beloved New York Knicks but if all stories required attributable sources the entire sports news cycle would be drastically altered. Off the record conversations happen frequently and are vital in addressing problems and creating solutions. Using the Tom Brady story as an example, it would be professional suicide for any member of the Patriots organization to go on the record blasting the greatest quarterback of all time.
However, in the case of the Ball story, LaVar did go on the record. The disagreement from these coaches stems from their belief that he shouldn’t be given a platform. The media outlets get to make that call, not the head coach of a basketball team with no knowledge of a brand’s content strategy and no personal investment in the success or failure of the company. Their one option is to choose whether or not to read and react to it.
So that’s one side of the discussion. Now let’s flip the script and look at the other side.
If you’re sitting in your studio or office defending the coverage of LaVar Ball and citing the ratings spikes, web clicks and Facebook views as your evidence, stop it right now. Seriously, stop it. Remember this and never forget it, the media has a HUGE influence over people. If you feature someone repeatedly on television, radio and online, and tell the public they should care about it, eventually they start to follow it. The expression of the world being full of sheep and following the media’s message isn’t exactly untrue.
Case in point, think back to the coverage provided towards Tim Tebow’s quest to be an NFL starting QB, Brett Favre’s problems with the Packers, Barry Bonds’ steroids allegations, Mike Tyson’s fights and real life problems or the latest case, the world according to Lavar Ball. When networks and websites sink their teeth into coverage of an individual or issue, they don’t let up until they squeeze every last drop out of it. That doesn’t mean the public is salivating over it, it means they’ve been beaten down enough to pay attention to it.
Do you honestly think one hundred thousand people would give a rat’s ass about watching a basketball game in Lithuania on Facebook featuring LaVar’s kids if the media wasn’t firmly behind it? In the words of Chad Johnson, child please!
The reason LaVar draws huge interest from the public is because he’s bombastic and flamboyant and the media loves to showcase personalities who operate that way. If an individual is willing to say controversial things which entertain us and cause mixed reactions, there’s always going to be a reporter on standby with a microphone, camera or pen.
How many times have you put on a radio station and heard a new song that you didn’t like? A few days later after hearing it five or six times your opinion switches to ‘maybe I rushed to judgment, it’s not that bad.’ After a couple more days, you start to actually like the song and tell others about it, and before you know it you’re either buying it on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify or in a store. The reason that happens is because the exposure to the content eventually wears you down. Whether it’s been LaVar Ball, the NFL’s TV ratings, Anthem protests or Colin Kaepernick being blackballed, if a story is told over and over again on every platform, eventually the public interest grows.
The other issues which are much more complex are determining what is news, what your professional standards are, and how much you’re willing to allow the pressure of increasing ratings to shape your editorial decisions.
I’ve spent time inside a number of radio station sales departments and I’ve often heard them say they don’t sell ratings. What’s ironic about that is the people in the programming department inside the same building are working under the assumption that the ratings are vital to the station’s success. What you discover as you go along is that some brands can make a ton of revenue without numbers, some enjoy ratings wins but can’t scratch two nickels together, and others are exceptional at both.
During the first ten years of my career I never went to work thinking about the ratings. That changed when I became a programmer. My focus then was to use my time and energy to develop topics, book guests, create production, events and ideas, meet the expectations of my bosses, and concern myself with what mattered most to my station’s audience. I didn’t stress over the sales department meeting their budget, the company needing to grow its stock price or anything else unrelated to content.
I suspect that there are many of you working in your station’s programming department reading this who operate the same way. If your program director never discusses the ratings and says they’re irrelevant to your performance, don’t build your show and make your daily content decisions based on whether or not they’ll generate a higher number. Do what feels right and interests your host and audience. If the ratings are a huge internal focus and a content strategy has been developed to help you be successful, then follow that game plan, ask questions, and analyze what is and isn’t working.
The reason that’s important is because the brand vision will influence how you make your editorial decisions. In the case of the LaVar Ball story, there are many outlets featuring his antics because it helps them capture an audience. Those brands have made it clear, the ratings DO matter. But you can also ignore the story and focus on other things and still have success. If you go that route though be consistent. Otherwise you’ll be called out for being hypocritical. That was the case this week with The Athletic who claimed to have a policy of ignoring LaVar Ball yet have wrote about him on multiple occasions.
I think it’s important to remember that disagreement is an essential part of life. There’s a growing problem in our country where we want to hear what we like and silence what we don’t rather than educating ourselves, welcoming an opposing view and increasing dialogue. There’s a need for both sides of a story to be presented. Steve Kerr, Stan Van Gundy and Rick Carlisle may not like LaVar Ball and ESPN’s decision to feature him, and they’re entitled to feel that way, but nobody forced them to read it or watch it. It’s not their place to dictate what ESPN should cover, and given the amount of money spent by the network on airing NBA games, I’d be all over the commissioner’s office if I were a Bristol suit making sure problems with the Pistons are solved before airing their next game.
The beauty of covering sports is that the majority of the content we work with focuses on things that most of us love or find interesting. We watch and attend games, talk to high profile people, and dissect what those individuals say about newsworthy material. We then form our own conclusions about the information we have at our disposal and invite further conversation with others over it. In that process we laugh, learn, love and loathe, and are left with something to think about before reconnecting.
There are many who will change the channel when LaVar Ball and his family get mentioned. Others will turn up the volume to hear what he has to say. Personally I could care less about Lonzo, LiAngelo and LaMelo or if they have distant cousins named La Bamba, La Familia, and La Cucaracha.
Rather than trying to decide who deserves air time, we should be thinking more about our brand’s identity and content strategy, and if the story fits and is one we can get behind consistently. It’s easy to sell the flavor of the month for a quick ratings surge but eventually a lack of substance will wear you out.
The power you wield sitting behind that microphone is strong. People will invest their time in your content if you tell them it’s relevant, worth their time, personally important, and in line with your brand’s standards. It’s the process of arriving at that point that’s complicated. Good luck finding your solutions.
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.