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Hosting in Markets with No Professional Teams

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Hosting a sports radio program in a market with professional teams makes the job less difficult. Each day you’re provided with local content from your local market’s franchise(s), interest from your local listening audience, and if your station is in business with a team, then you’re likely to leverage that partnership to increase your ratings and revenue.

But what do you do when you operate in a city that has no professional local market team? Do you turn your attention to the local area clubs that don’t produce a major impact? Do you focus more on college sports? Do you shift your attention to talking about national events? Or do you try something completely different?

Depending on where you are and who you work for, the line in those situations is constantly moving.

I thought it’d be interesting to gain the perspective of someone who recently went thru that experience firsthand. Jeff Pantridge served as afternoon host on ESPN Radio 94.1 in Norfolk, Virginia. Having moved to the market from Tampa, Florida, Jeff had to learn on the fly and figure out what did and didn’t matter in a city that had splintered interests.

For those of you who broadcast in similar situations or are preparing to go thru it for the first time, I think you’ll find Jeff’s takeaways on how to approach the situation very valuable. Be sure to connect with him afterwards. His contact information is listed at the bottom of this article.

Hosting in Markets with No Professional Teams

There aren’t many things more important in sports radio, or any form of radio for that matter; than knowing your audience. What teams and topics do they care about? For those who host sports radio shows in large markets; it’s easy. Large markets have multiple teams with large fan bases; so you fish where the fish are. But what if you’re doing a show in a medium-sized market with zero pro or major college teams? Where do you fish?

Do you do a local show or do you do a national show? Do you do both? An old colleague of mine once told me that the answer to 99% of the questions asked in this world is… “It depends.” What does YOUR AUDIENCE want? What do they respond to?

Every market is different, but it’s up to you to gather all of the information that your market provides and use it to create a show that they desire. I worked in Virginia Beach recently and I found out that our listeners’ tastes and teams were all over the place. For those of you that don’t know, VB is the largest city in Virginia and Virginia is the largest state (population wise) without a professional sports team. Norfolk, just 20 miles west, is home to the largest naval base in the world. What do beaches and military bases mostly attract? People that aren’t from there!

So, what do you talk about? If nobody is from the market that you’re talking to, then you just do a national show right? What if you have a AAA baseball team? Do you talk about them? What about a mid-major university? I wish I had a definitive answer for you, but I don’t. The best advice I can give you is to combine my two “I’s”. (I may or may not be stealing this from one of Barrett’s favorite guys, WWE Hall of Famer, Kurt Angle). Technically, he had three “I’s”. Intensity, Integrity and Intelligence. Unfortunately, I have none of those so I will give you my two… Information and Instincts.

Gather any and all information that you can with your program director. Are you seeing meter spikes when you talk about certain teams or topics? And when you’re done gathering and processing your info; use your gut man! Use your instincts! You know what drives me nuts? When I see managers in baseball making ALL of their decisions based on what a spreadsheet tells them to do. I get sabermetrics and why they have a huge role in today’s game, but when you’re in Game 7 and your pitcher is throwing a gem; don’t just assume you need to yank him because he’s about to face the lineup for the third time. What is your gut telling you? What are his performance, his eyes and his body language telling you?

If your phone’s light up when you talk about the Cowboys, then talk about the Cowboys. Here in Virginia Beach, we love NFL Football. The three most popular teams here are the Redskins, the Cowboys and the Steelers. (Probably in that order). With the information that I had gathered, the Redskins were the most popular of the three, but last year, my gut told me that they weren’t as compelling as they might have been in years past. Yeah, you had the Kirk Cousins angle, but that got to a point that I felt like I was beating a dead horse. I actually talked more Steelers because, not only were they good… they were INTERESTING! Big Ben hinted at retirement. Le’Veon Bell wanted to get paid. Antonio Brown through temper tantrums and damnit! Jesse James caught that ball! But, I digress. The Cowboys are always interesting and that certainly was the case last year. The Redskins were an uninteresting team without a lot of star power, that went 7-9. If I were hosting a sports radio show in Virginia Beach this year; would I go at it the same way? It depends…

Listening to your audience is very important, but it is not an exact science. Some people will tell you that you need to do more local topics and I believe that makes senses if it benefits the majority of your audience. But if doesn’t; how do you “sound local” without breaking down high school water polo? I believe the best way to “sound local” is to BE local. While 98% of your audience may not care about X’s and O’s of a minor league baseball game; there are other ways to talk about it. My radio station was the home of The Norfolk Tides; the Baltimore Orioles’ AAA affiliate. When I would talk about the Tides; I would talk about the experience more than the actual games themselves. I love going to baseball games! Always have. Would I do an entire segment on the Tides? No. But I would mix it in after after their games were promoted during our sports updates. Sometimes I would do a quick mention on how the team was doing or show them some love for their latest promotion. It’s a great way to not only support our station’s partners but to build a better connection with the audience. Whenever I planned on going to a game; I would tell my audience to come find me at the right field tiki bar.

Locals of mid-market cities appreciate it when you embrace their community. I certainly did when I worked in Hampton Roads because, 1). I loved living there. And 2). I feel that is important for your audience to connect with you in every way possible. Sports radio listeners aren’t stupid. They can sniff out the hosts that are using their market as a “stepping stone” to something bigger down the line. I always made a point of highlighting my experiences as a resident of the 757; whether it be at sporting events or concerts or restaurants/bars etc. If you see my social media accounts; you will see the hashtag #RepYourCity in a lot of my posts. We should all rep our cities and be proud of where we live. I certainly do and I certainly am.

Jeff Pantridge is a sports radio host and former producer. He has worked for WDAE, ESPN Radio 94.1, The Schnitt Show and the now defunct 98.7 The Fan. You can reach him on Twitter @PantsPartyRadio or by email by clicking here.

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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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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