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Gordon Borrell Gets The Radio Business…and So Do I

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If you work in a sports radio programming department, chances are you haven’t heard of Borrell Associates. They’re a local media research outfit fronted by Gordon Borrell. Gordon’s resume includes VP of new media for Landmark Communications, helping to establish the first TV, newspaper, cable and network TV websites which he later split up and sold to Earthlink and the Gannett Company, and being a sought-after speaker and media industry analyst, often quoted in The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Ad Age, Forbes, etc.

I’ve never met Gordon but have read a number of his thoughts on our industry and find them fascinating. Many are similar to my own. If you haven’t had a chance to read his interview with Forbes, I strongly urge you to do so. It hit many of the notes that I just touched on in Chicago when speaking to a room full of sports radio programmers.

Among the highlights that grabbed my attention were his comments on the industry needing to find a clear vision for the “new” industry that it’s looking to create. Borrell says that vision should involve being part of a bigger business than terrestrial radio and creating a marketing powerhouse.

Included in that analysis was radio’s inability to sell the right products. He said the industry is heavily reliant on website banner ads and spots in their streaming, neither of which is in high demand by advertisers. To produce solid digital revenue the radio industry must offer other digital services that more directly complement radio campaigns.

What I love about those comments is that I just stood before some of the brightest minds in the format and when I asked which brands were selling merchandise, none were doing so. I informed the group that Clay Travis, Craig Carton, and Crossing Broad were all selling products on their websites. The WWE makes merchandising a critical part of their business strategy. Bleacher Report partners with StubHub to sell tickets. Barstool Sports CEO Erika Nardini says merchandise represents a third of their business, and if sports gambling gets legalized, it’s likely that sports betting brands will accept bets thru their apps, websites and phone lines.

Speaking of Barstool, they provided my favorite example. If a New York sports radio fan wants to show off their admiration for Mike Francesa, guess where they purchase a ‘Numbah One’ or ‘Can’t Spell Francesa without FAN’ t-shirt? Barstool’s website. WFAN? Sorry, they’re not available.

RedBubble also sells a Francesa ‘Mount Rushmore’ shirt. In fact, I went on The Fan’s website last night and guess which ad showed up at the top of their page? RedBubble’s did. The company is promoting the Francesa shirt and reaching its most likely customer (The WFAN listener) by buying banner ads which appear on The Fan’s website. That’s a smart move by RedBubble, but it also highlights a missed opportunity for The Fan.

One brand I observed recently which did a nice job and was on the right track but still missed out on larger opportunities was KFAN in Minneapolis. The Minnesota sports station sold custom t-shirts at the Minneapolis State Fair and from all indications they were popular. KFAN has sold shirts at the state fair for a number of years now. Except when the fair was over, they didn’t continue making those products available for purchase on their website.

What’s the downside to allowing people who didn’t attend the fair to continue purchasing your product? If the demand is strong, why not sell them all the time? In addition to generating additional revenue, the brand also receives free marketing. Isn’t that the point?

Ask yourself this, why are your radio station’s airwaves valuable enough for advertisers to purchase time on to sell products but not good enough to sell your own? You sell content every time your hosts speak. You sell podcasts, social media pages, events, games, etc. All of these items are given promotional time because they’re seen as a benefit to the audience. Why we wouldn’t capitalize on merchandise too is beyond my level of comprehension.

And before you get defensive and tell me “it costs money to create shirts, cups, hats, etc.” let me remind you that there are local and national services available where you only pay for products once they’re ordered. You also have digital and marketing people inside your buildings creating website and social media images and powerpoint presentations to help your sellers look good on client pitches. There’s no reason logos, slogans, catchphrases and on-air incidents can’t be turned into slick looking products sold on your platforms.

It’s pretty simple, if there’s no demand, you don’t place an order. But having them readily available and promoting them across your brand’s platforms should be a no-brainer. The last time I checked, radio was looking behind every door to find new money. Whether you make 25K or 250K thru merchandising, I don’t think we can afford to not take advantage of it.

Borrell also mentioned digital advertising and that’s a hot button issue for me. I see stations bombard their websites with banner ads, creating bad user experiences and nothing productive for the client. It’s happening on social media too. Scroll thru a station’s Facebook or Twitter page and look at how they promote a sponsor. It’s often an image of the client, a few sentences of text talking about something that has zero value to the person following the brand, and do you know what it produces? Minimal likes, shares and engagement.

Now put yourself in the advertiser’s shoes. The rep walks in touting their ratings, personalities and social media following, looking for you to renew. Except when you review the five social posts that went up promoting your company, you discover that the audience didn’t like you enough to respond, share or even press the thumbs up button. That not only makes you question the page’s value, but it can be embarrassing too. I’d be asking “is my brand that big of a turnoff to your listeners?”

What should you be doing? Creating branded content. Involving your talent in unique ways to make the client look good. Check out this example of Patrick “Seton” O’Connor of the Dan Patrick Show. Or this one from Barstool Sports. There’s also this one by Cricket Wireless which was a massive hit.

The bottom line, if you think recording a video endorsement or putting an ad on a social page is going to entice people, good luck. You’ve got to be creative. Try that approach with a tire dealer who’s looking to offer a discount on a new set of tires and nobody will care. Involve your talent in a video where they’re changing tires, competing against one another and having fun busting the chops of the mechanics inside of the garage and people remain interested. That interest becomes conversation which inspires the client to continue buying your brand.

The next piece of feedback that Borrell offered was radio needing to understand that its role isn’t to sell spots but to leverage all the marketing tools at its disposal–spots, events, digital advertising, and marketing services — to help its customers sell products and services. If the industry doesn’t adjust Borrell warns that it won’t be able to grow and thrive.

I don’t disagree one bit. One of my biggest concerns is radio’s failure to adapt in a rapidly changing environment. This is often due to the industry’s ‘proceeding with caution’ mentality and fear of not hitting the bottom line.

Think about it, how long did it take before your operation started hiring digital and social media content creators? Some of you may still have only one person trying to tackle the work for 3-4 brands. If you talk to sports teams, digital businesses or other media operators, there are groups dedicating 5-10 people just on the social/digital experience alone. That’s what it takes to excel and position yourself for future success.

When was the last time you created and monetized a huge ticketed event? Wing Bowl and Ticket Stock are two great examples of stations spending money to make money, but most brands don’t roll the dice that way. Do you think ESPN barters everything to execute the ESPYS? If you want to create impact and non-traditional revenue from buzzworthy events then you have to invest dollars in making those events worthy of buzz.

The final part of Borrell’s interview which I want to weigh in on were his points on radio’s biggest threat being myopic leadership. He said the business is in a period of remarkable growth and opportunity, yet so many leaders believe their job is to defend “radio.” Rather than investing time worrying about the industry’s defense, a better approach would be to spend more time and energy pursuing growth opportunities.

Those opportunities include dashboards, podcasts, and smart speakers, which some industry folks have considered to be threats. Borrell doesn’t believe they are. He continued by noting that industry leaders spend too much energy trying to hold onto their hairy-eared listeners and not enough time trying to figure out how to reach the pink-eared ones.

From where I sit, there’s never been a better time to be in the audio business. People are listening to millions of pieces of content each day. Whether it’s consumed live or on-demand thru a phone, computer, tablet, smart speaker or car stereo is besides the point. It’s the industry’s problem to figure out how to measure it but the enthusiasm for the content is there. I’d much rather walk into a client’s office with a huge splintered audience across multiple platforms than without one.

However, Borrell is exactly right about smart speakers, podcasts and digital dashboards being opportunities, not threats. The reason they’re not warmly embraced is because we tend to ease into things rather than leading the charge. I’m sure NBC, FOX, the NFL and YouTube would’ve preferred sticking to their prior ad models but when audience consumption patterns change, brands must respond.

That requires more training, recruiting, experimenting, and strategic adjusting. It can also mean a financial setback in the short-term to maximize long-term growth. You can get upset by the way the world’s changing, but if you want to avoid becoming Blockbuster Video, a Taxi company, the Newspaper or the next “going out of business” retail outlet, you better read the signs and take action or you’ll pay for it.

Here’s a good lesson. Take a few minutes today and use your smart speaker to listen to a few sports stations. Ask for the host/show names, specific content or even the brand name itself. You’d be surprised by how many stations don’t even come up by their actual name. I’ve been using a smart speaker for the past year and you’d be stunned by how how hard it is to even locate some brands, not to mention, the amount of times where I’m led to listen to stations via TuneIn or iHeartradio instead of the station’s app.

What if your brand uses the moniker The Fan, The Game, ESPN Radio or FOX Sports Radio in its branding. Do you know how many stations exist with those names? What do you think is going to happen when the listener says “Alexa, play The Fan”? They’re going to be sent to whichever station Alexa recognizes first. It’s no different than a Google search. You don’t want to appear on Page 3. The more complicated it becomes (trying to find stations by call letters, cities, website addresses, etc.) to find you, the quicker the audience moves on to something else.

As far as myopic leadership is concerned, I think it’s unfair to place all managers and companies under one umbrella because they’re not all the same. I’ve been fortunate to work with some outstanding leaders and groups, and I’ve encountered a few bad apples too, especially since launching BSM two and a half years ago.

I do become puzzled when I interact with an executive or market manager and they ask for a favor or information, and I reach out afterwards and they can’t even take a few minutes to respond to an email or call. That’s even more likely to occur if the mere mention of doing business together comes up. In this small world of radio where relationships matter, people talk, and your reputation is everything, I think that’s a bad way of operating. Guess what happens when they reach out again asking me for another favor? I stop helping.

One of our industry’s biggest challenges is failing to adjust our viewpoints. Many are consumed by numbers, set in their ways, and see the world thru the inside of their hallways rather than from the outside looking in. They reject the social space because it’s a tougher sell, even though it’s where their audience lives. They turn a blind eye towards diversity and youth development because it requires doing things differently. Mention the idea of charging for digital content and you’re hit with the old school response “people expect radio to be free.”

Because of that logic, 13% of M-F hosting roles in top 20 markets are occupied by minority voices. We ignore the fact that 38% of those cities are populated by minority people, and when you look at the makeup of listening (92% ‘Other’/White and 8% Black/Hispanic) you can see where the growth opportunities lie.

Let me share one of my favorite examples. If you ask an executive what I do, they’ll say “he’s a consultant.” Ask them what that entails and they’ll list off the same description of what consultants did 10-20 years ago. Their impression is that I sit in my office, listen to the radio, analyze the ratings and give advice on content and how to increase numbers.

That’s certainly part of the job, but there’s much more to it than that. I’m a mentor, influencer, connector, teacher, analyst, creator and researcher. If you asked the room of people who spent time with me last week in Chicago, they’d tell you I explored a lot more than just clocks, content and ratings. I traveled to visit with a client this past September for 2-3 days and that entire trip had zero to do with their brand’s on-air execution and everything to do with digital/social analysis and strategy.

My point is that it’s a different world and it requires expanding your horizons.

Along those lines, the idea of charging for digital content may feel awkward because we’re so conditioned to giving it all away, but that shouldn’t deter you from considering it, especially if the audience demand is high for your programming. Good Karma in Cleveland wasn’t afraid to take the risk. Neither was The Athletic. Or ESPN. Or Barstool. Or Bleacher Report. Or the multiple TV and print outlets calling on their fans to help fund their efforts.

I don’t know about you, but I pay $10 per month for the WWE Network and never have buyer’s remorse. I feel the same way about subscribing to The Athletic and Radio Ink. My fiance pays for Netflix and Amazon Prime and is more than satisfied with what she receives each month.

When you add up the amount of hours and resources put into creating digital content and the return on investment associated with it, most brands struggle to turn a profit. It’s why we’re living with an antiquated system of airing 14-20 minutes of commercials per hour on our stations. We’d rather have 100,000 listeners paying zero instead of 10,000 listeners paying $5-$10 per month.

But is that audience truly valuable if it isn’t monetized? We can blame the sales team for not selling it but if demand for your content is high, why wouldn’t you charge for it? What’s better, 10,000 paying supporters or 100,000 free ones that provide no financial impact?

The world is constantly evolving. The user is in control and willing to pay for premium content and experiences. They’ll buy your podcast if it’s unique. They’ll purchase your merchandise and market your brand without needing to be asked. They’ll buy tickets to your events if you make them worthwhile. They’ll also reject your attempts to push things at them in an intrusive way.

Between Gordon Borrell and myself, you’ve been given plenty to think about. I should be taking my own advice and charging you just for reading this. But since I’m a nice guy, I’ll just wait for that follow up call or email that I’m sure you’ve been working on. Since the likelihood of that happening though isn’t very high, I’ll just settle for a free t-shirt or podcast subscription.

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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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