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Is Your Brand Ready For The Next Disruption?

Jason Barrett

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When change happens, the way you respond is everything. You can try to hang on to the status quo, but the longer you do, eventually you get trampled. Disruption waits for nobody including the radio industry. If your customers and advertisers seek more of something, you either provide it or they find someone else who can.

I spent time last week in Minneapolis at The Conclave, a great event which highlighted the radio industry. Lori Lewis and her team did an excellent job of providing a great mix of speakers and topics. All who attended left with plenty to think about. I enjoyed hearing insights and stories from Bobby Bones, Michelle Tafoya, Jsi-Chavez, Kim Reis and Traug Keller, but there was one session in particular which hasn’t escaped my brain for the past few days. I’ll get to that in a moment.

To set up the point, let me start first by taking you down memory lane.

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Remember when the internet exploded in the 1990’s? Websites began popping up everywhere. Overnight it seemed we became fixated on researching and discovering brands, and sharing our lives online. As the business world took notice of where things were shifting, many industries struggled to adapt. Radio was one of them.

I recall logging on to numerous radio station websites and the user experiences were pretty bad. Unfortunately that remained the case for over a decade. Stations relied on poorly built website shells, and assumed that a “Listen Live” button and profile page of their talent was enough to satisfy an audience. Sites were cluttered with banner ads, useless information, and repurposed content from national platforms, exposing the fact that radio wasn’t ready to handle the internet boom.

Then came podcasting, which began to gain steam in the mid 2000’s. Audio on-demand seemed like a niche thing to many when it first started but those who were doing it recall early signs of success. I used to host a wrestling show in upstate NY in the early 2000’s and was blown away by the interest in my website/content. I’d upload the two-hour weekend show, and the online traffic would be triple to quadruple what my former radio station normally generated.

Fast forward a few years later, and Bill Simmons and Adam Carolla began to dabble in the podcast space. By 2009, Simmons was receiving over 25 million downloads per year at ESPN for his audio show. Carolla was named iTunes’ best audio podcast of 2009, and began to lay the foundation for a move from terrestrial radio to digital audio.

Once again, radio adapted slowly. Solid growth was seen between 2007 and 2015, but in the past three years, interest has reached new levels. Revenue projections for podcasting have soared from 90 million in 2014 to 395 million in 2020. The big challenge now is cutting thru the clutter, and delivering a return on investment for clients.

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Next came the smart speaker. Amazon’s leap into the space produced immediate interest. Google soon followed, and Apple has taken the plunge too. Between 2016-2020 smart speaker users are expected to increase from 16 million to 76 million, adding billions in revenue as well. As of today, nearly 28% of all Americans use a smart speaker according to eMarketer.

That’s great news for the audio industry right? It is. Except there’s one issue. Have you tried discovering some of your favorite brands on these devices? There are stations which don’t come up by their name, others which transfer to TuneIn, and with Entercom’s recent announcement of moving their stations off TuneIn to Radio.com, Google Home users won’t be able to hear those brands until further adjustments are made since Radio.com isn’t available on the platform yet.

Strategic company moves are a whole other animal, so let’s instead focus on the user experience. Imagine if your station’s name includes The Fan, ESPN or FOX Sports. You’ve pounded this message into your audience’s brain for years, and now when your audience calls for you on a smart speaker, they’re directed somewhere else.

I’ve spent hours calling for brand names on Amazon Alexa and finding them is not exactly a walk in the park. Some require adding a decimal point, some don’t. Some have to be spelled out “One Hundred and Five” instead of saying “105”. Others send their audiences to national partners, and some have done a good job securing specific words and/or terms to make them easy to locate.

Since our industry was slow to respond in each of these cases, are you confident that we’ll be ready when the next big thing comes along? Well, if you were at The Conclave, then you know what that is.

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Fred and Paul Jacobs did a brilliant job taking attendees thru their recap of CES (Consumer Electronics Show), the annual industry show in Las Vegas which highlights thousands of inventors and brands, all with an eye on future technology. There were many interesting points made during the session, but the one which I have spent the past few days thinking about is where the world will be in 10 years.

According to the Jacobs brothers, autonomous vehicles are just around the corner. So too are Smart Cities. Electric charging stations will be popping up across the nation in the future, as automobile makers begin transforming the way we operate on the roadways.

Whether you like the idea of giving up control of your vehicle to a computer or not, and whether it’s ten years from now or fifteen, it’s safe to say that things are going to be different. When that happens, how will it affect your listener? How will it change the way you consume content inside your vehicle? What are you doing in the next decade to make sure your brand is ready unlike previous times?

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Think about what you do when you’re on an airplane or a train. If you’re similar to me, you might rest for a bit, read a book, and turn on your phone, tap into the wifi, and either browse the internet, watch video or listen to audio. When it comes time to consume content, you gravitate to the brands and personalities you know and trust. There is no button to scan radio stations, and ad consumption is drastically reduced.

Given the way smart speakers are taking over the world, they’ll soon have a dominant presence inside your vehicle. When you want to hear a specific brand, personality or content, you’ll call for it by name, and it’ll appear in your ears. If the steering wheel is removed from your hands, and you can focus solely on your listening or viewing experience, you’ll become more engaged in the content selection process.

One thing that audio hasn’t had to battle inside the vehicle is video. The car has been our safe haven because drivers are forced to focus on the road. Video is a distraction for drivers, whereas audio serves as a companion, allowing the operator to mentally engage with content without losing sight of the road. Even then, distracted driving remains a huge problem.

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But what if that driver suddenly had their hands free? Would they continue to listen to audio or use their phone or in-car video screen to watch video? How would that change the way a radio brand measures its audience impact? What happens to the traditional model of advertising when fourteen to sixteen minutes of ads per hour can’t be forced on the consumer?

Just thinking about this requires two Advil’s. If you’re a radio owner, market manager, account executive, or Nielsen representative, I’m guessing it gives you even more cause for concern.

It makes perfect sense though for the auto industry to explore this transformation, even if it creates a threat to the way the radio business operates. If automakers can reduce accidents while assuring a smooth ride, and offer individuals inside the vehicle more time to relax and enjoy their in-car experience, it’s a no-brainer. The cherry on top of the sundae is that it also gives automakers more information on their drivers, and better access to reach them with advertising messages inside the car.

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All of these possibilities seem light years away, but so too did the internet, podcasting, and smart speakers. Yet here we are in 2018 and they’re a huge part of our lives. You can try to push things aside, but if you’re not embracing changes, and doing your homework to be ready for them, you’re setting yourself up to be disrupted.

It’s critical for radio stations to brand themselves well, and make sure they’re easily discovered on smart speakers. Similar to looking for results on Google, nobody is going to waste time looking for you on page 5. If you’re not on Page 1, maybe Page 2, you’re not going to be heard.

Brands must also have content strategies for audio, video and print, and different methods for highlighting that content across different platforms. Twitter is not Instagram. Instagram is not Facebook, and Facebook is not SnapChat. More than likely something else will become part of our social media mix in the next few years, and when that next platform pops up, we’ve got to be ready and willing to adjust quickly.

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We’re heading towards a future where the automobile experience is going to turn into the equivalent of a flight or train ride. It’s not a question of IF, it’s a question of WHEN. Auto navigation is going to become a computer’s problem. That’ll open the door for us to enjoy more content with lesser distractions, even if the idea of giving up the wheel seems like a foreign concept.

When that day arrives, is your brand tattooed on the listener’s brain? Can you be easily found on all devices? Do you have a visual component to match your audio presentation? Are your personalities larger than life and important enough to be sought out? How are you planning to retain and grow your business while facing the reality of ad times being rapidly decreased?

The work we’re doing today and tomorrow to be ready for this next wave is important. We can standby and wait for the future to arrive at our doorstep, but maybe it’s time we head outside, observe the landscape, and make sure we’re well prepared to handle it, and thrive off of it. The only thing at stake is the future.

Barrett Blogs

BSM’s Black Friday SALE on BSM Summit Tickets is Underway!

Jason Barrett

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Each year I’m asked if there are ways to save money on tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit. I always answer yes but not everyone takes advantage of it. For those interested in doing so, here’s your shot.

For TODAY ONLY, individual tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit are reduced by $50.00. Two ticket and four ticket packages are also lowered at $50 per ticket. To secure your seat at a discounted price, just log on to BSMSummit.com. This sale ends tonight at 11:59pm ET.

If you’re flying to Los Angeles for the event, be sure to reserve your hotel room. Our hotel partner this year is the USC Hotel. It’s walking distance of our venue. Full details on hotel rooms can also be found via the conference website.

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Barrett Blogs

Mina Kimes, Bruce Gilbert, Mitch Rosen, and Stacey Kauffman Join the 2023 BSM Summit

“By the time we get to March, we should have somewhere between 40-60 participants involved in the conference.”

Jason Barrett

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The 2023 BSM Summit is returning to Los Angeles on March 21-22, 2023, live from the Founders Club at the Galen Center at the campus of the University of Southern California. Information on tickets and hotel rooms can be found at BSMSummit.com.

We’ve previously announced sixteen participants for our upcoming show, and I’m excited today to confirm the additions of four more more smart, successful professionals to be part of the event. Before I do that, I’d like to thank The Volume for signing on as our Badge sponsor, the Motor Racing Network for securing the gift bag sponsorship, and Bonneville International for coming on board as a Session sponsor. We do have some opportunities available but things are moving fast this year, so if you’re interested in being involved, email Stephanie Eads at Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com.

Now let’s talk about a few of the speaker additions for the show.

First, I am thrilled to welcome ESPN’s Mina Kimes to the Summit for her first appearance. Mina and I had the pleasure recently of connecting on a podcast (go listen to it) and I’ve been a fan of her work for years. Her intellect, wit, football acumen, and likeability have served her well on television, podcasts, and in print. She’s excelled as an analyst on NFL Live and Rams preseason football games, as a former host of the ESPN Daily podcast, and her appearances on Around The Horn and previously on Highly Questionable and the Dan Le Batard Show were always entertaining. I’m looking forward to having Mina join FS1’s Joy Taylor and ESPN LA 710 PD Amanda Brown for an insightful conversation about the industry.

Next is another newcomer. I’m looking forward to having Audacy San Francisco and Sacramento Regional Vice President Stacey Kauffman in the building for our 2023 show. In addition to overseeing a number of music brands, Stacey also oversees a dominant news/talk outlet, and two sports radio brands. Among them are my former station 95.7 The Game in San Francisco, and ESPN 1320 in Sacramento. I’m looking forward to having her participate in our GM panel with Good Karma’s Sam Pines, iHeart’s Don Martin, and led by Bonneville’s Executive Vice President Scott Sutherland.

From there, it’s time to welcome back two of the sharpest sports radio minds in the business. Bruce Gilbert is the SVP of Sports for Westwood One and Cumulus Media. He’s seen and done it all on the local and national level and anytime he’s in the room to share his programming knowledge with attendees, everyone leaves the room smarter. I’m anticipating another great conversation on the state of sports radio, which FOX Sports Radio VP of programming Scott Shapiro will be a part of.

Another student of the game and one of the top programmers in the format today is 670 The Score in Chicago PD, Mitch Rosen. The former Mark Chernoff Award recipient and recently appointed VP of the BetQL Network juggles managing a top 3 market sports brand while being charged with moving an emerging sports betting network forward. Count on Mr. Rosen to offer his insights and opinions during another of our branding and programming discussions.

By the time we get to March, we should have somewhere between 40-60 participants involved in the conference. My focus now is on finalizing our business and digital sessions, research, tech and sports betting panels, securing our locations and sponsorships for the After Party and Kickoff Party, plus working out the details for a few high-profile executive appearances and a couple of surprises.

For those looking to attend and save a few dollars on tickets, we’ll be holding a special Black Friday Sale this Friday November 25th. Just log on to BSMSummit.com that day to save $50 on individual tickets. In addition, thanks to the generosity of voice talent extraordinaire Steve Kamer, we’ll be giving away 10 tickets leading up to the conference. Stay tuned for details on the giveaway in the months ahead.

Still to come is an announcement about our special ticket rate for college students looking to attend the show and learn. We also do an annual contest for college kids to attend the event for free which I’m hoping to have ready in the next few weeks. It’s also likely we’ll give away a few tickets to industry professionals leading up to Christmas, so keep an eye out.

If you work in the sports media industry and value making connections, celebrating those who create an impact, and learning about the business from folks who have experienced success, failure, and everything in between, the Summit is worth your time. I’m excited to have Mina, Bruce, Mitch and Stacey join us for the show, and look forward to spending a few days with the industry’s best and brightest this March! Hope to see you there.

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Barrett Blogs

Barrett Media is Making Changes To Better Serve Our Sports and News Media Readers

“We had the right plan of attack in 2020, but poor timing. So we’re learning from the past and adjusting for the future.”

Jason Barrett

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When I launched this website all I wanted to do was share news, insight and stories about broadcasters and brands. My love, passion and respect for this business is strong, and I know many of you reading this feel similar. I spent two great decades in radio watching how little attention was paid to those who played a big part in their audiences lives. The occasional clickbait story and contract drama would find their way into the newspapers but rarely did you learn about the twists and turns of a broadcaster’s career, their approach to content or the tactics and strategies needed to succeed in the industry. When personal reasons led me home to NY in 2015, I decided I was going to try my best to change that.

Since launching this brand, we’ve done a good job informing and entertaining media industry professionals, while also helping consulting clients and advertising partners improve their businesses. We’ve earned respect from the industry’s top stars, programming minds and mainstream media outlets, growing traffic from 50K per month to 500K and monthly social impressions from a few thousand to a few million. Along the way we’ve added conferences, rankings, podcasts, a member directory, and as I’ve said before, this is the best and most important work I’ve ever done, and I’m not interested in doing anything else.

If I’ve learned anything over seven years of operating a digital content company it’s that you need skill, strategy, passion, differentiating content, and good people to create impact. You also need luck, support, curiosity and an understanding of when to double down, cut bait or pivot. It’s why I added Stephanie Eads as our Director of Sales and hired additional editors, columnists and features reporters earlier this year. To run a brand like ours properly, time and investment are needed. We’ve consistently grown and continue to invest in our future, and it’s my hope that more groups will recognize the value we provide, and give greater consideration to marketing with us in the future.

But with growth comes challenges. Sometimes you can have the right idea but bad timing. I learned that when we launched Barrett News Media.

We introduced BNM in September 2020, two months before the election when emotions were high and COVID was a daily discussion. I wasn’t comfortable then of blending BNM and BSM content because I knew we’d built a trusted sports media resource, and I didn’t want to shrink one audience while trying to grow another. Given how personal the election and COVID became for folks, I knew the content mix would look and feel awkward on our site.

So we made the decision to start BNM with its own website. We ran the two brands independently and had the right plan of attack, but discovered that our timing wasn’t great.

The first nine months readership was light, which I expected since we were new and trying to build an audience from scratch. I believed in the long-term mission, which was why I stuck with it through all of the growing pains, but I also felt a responsibility to make sure our BNM writing team and the advertising partners we forged relationships with were being seen by as many people as possible. We continued with the original plan until May 2021 when after a number of back and forth debates, I finally agreed to merge the two sites. I figured if WFAN could thrive with Imus in the Morning and Mike and the Mad Dog in the afternoon, and the NY Times, LA Times, KOA, KMOX and numerous other newspaper and radio brands could find a way to blend sports and news/talk, then so could we.

And it worked.

We dove in and started to showcase both formats, building social channels and groups for each, growing newsletter databases, and with the addition of a few top notch writers, BNM began making bigger strides. Now featured under the BSM roof, the site looked bigger, the supply of daily content became massive, and our people were enjoying the increased attention.

Except now we had other issues. Too many stories meant many weren’t being read and more mistakes were slipping through the cracks. None of our crew strive to misspell a word or write a sloppy headline but when the staff and workload doubles and you’re trying to focus on two different formats, things can get missed. Hey, we’re all human.

Then a few other things happened that forced a larger discussion with my editors.

First, I thought about how much original material we were creating for BSM from our podcast network, Summit, Countdown to Coverage series, Meet the Market Managers, BSM Top 20, and began to ask myself ‘if we’re doing all of this for sports readers, what does that tell folks who read us for news?’ We then ran a survey to learn what people valued about our brand and though most of the feedback was excellent, I saw how strong the response was to our sports content, and how news had grown but felt second fiddle to those offering feedback.

Then, Andy Bloom wrote an interesting column explaining why radio hosts would be wise to stop talking about Donald Trump. It was the type of piece that should’ve been front and center on a news site all day but with 3 featured slots on the site and 7 original columns coming in that day, they couldn’t all be highlighted the way they sometimes should be. We’re actually going through that again today. That said, Andy’s column cut through. A few sports media folks didn’t like seeing it on the site, which wasn’t a surprise since Trump is a polarizing personality, but the content resonated well with the news/talk crowd.

National talk radio host Mike Gallagher was among the folks to see Andy’s piece, and he spent time on his show talking about the column. Mike’s segment was excellent, and when he referenced the article, he did the professional thing and credited our website – Barrett SPORTS Media. I was appreciative of Mike spending time on his program discussing our content but it was a reminder that we had news living under a sports roof and it deserved better than that.

I then read some of Pete Mundo, Doug Pucci and Rick Schultz’s columns and Jim Cryns’ features on Chris Ruddy, Phil Boyce, and David Santrella, and knew we were doing a lot of quality work but each time we produced stories, folks were reminded that it lived on a SPORTS site. I met a few folks who valued the site, recognized the increased focus we put on our news/talk coverage, and hoped we had plans to do more. Jim also received feedback along the lines of “good to see you guys finally in the news space, hope there’s more to come.”

Wanting to better understand our opportunities and challenges, I reviewed our workflow, looked at which content was hitting and missing the mark, thought about the increased relationships we’d worked hard to develop, and the short-term and long-term goals for BNM. I knew it was time to choose a path. Did I want to think short-term and keep everything under one roof to protect our current traffic and avoid disrupting people or was it smarter to look at the big picture and create a destination where news/talk media content could be prioritized rather than treated as BSM’s step-child?

Though I spent most of my career in sports media and established BSM first, it’s important to me to serve the news/talk media industry our very best. I want every news/talk executive, host, programmer, market manager, agent, producer, seller and advertiser to know this format matters to us. Hopefully you’ve seen that in the content we’ve created over the past two years. My goal is to deliver for news media professionals what we have for sports media folks and though that may be a tall order, we’re going to bust our asses to make it happen. To prove that this isn’t just lip service, here’s what we’re going to do.

Starting next Monday November 28th, we are relaunching BarrettNewsMedia.com. ALL new content produced by the BNM writing team will be available daily under that URL. For the first 70-days we will display news media columns from our BNM writers on both sites and support them with promotion across both of our brands social channels. The goal is to have the two sites running independent of each other by February 6, 2023.

Also starting on Monday November 28th, we will begin distributing the BNM Rundown newsletter 5 days per week. We’ve been sending out the Rundown every M-W-F since October 2021, but the time has come for us to send it out daily. With increased distribution comes two small adjustments. We will reduce our daily story count from 10 to 8 and make it a goal to deliver it to your inbox each day by 3pm ET. If you haven’t signed up to receive the Rundown, please do. You can click here to register. Be sure to scroll down past the 8@8 area.

Additionally, Barrett News Media is going to release its first edition of the BNM Top 20 of 2022. This will come out December 12-16 and 19-20. The category winners will be decided by more than 50 news/talk radio program directors and executives. Among the categories to be featured will be best Major/Mid Market Local morning, midday, and afternoon show, best Local News/Talk PD, best Local News/Talk Station, best National Talk Radio Show, and best Original Digital Show. The voting process with format decision makers begins today and will continue for two weeks. I’ve already got a number of people involved but if you work in an executive or programming role in the news/talk format and wish to be part of it, send an email to me at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.

We have one other big thing coming to Barrett News Media in 2023, which I will announce right after the BNM Top 20 on Wednesday December 21st. I’m sure news/talk professionals will like what we have planned but for now, it’ll have to be a month long tease. I promise though to pay it off.

Additionally, I’m always looking for industry folks who know and love the business and enjoy writing about it. If you’ve programmed, hosted, sold or reported in the news/talk world and have something to offer, email me. Also, if you’re a host, producer, programmer, executive, promotions or PR person and think something from your brand warrants coverage on our site, send it along. Most of what we write comes from listening to stations and digging across the web and social media. Receiving your press releases and getting a heads up on things you’re doing always helps.

If you’re a fan of BSM, this won’t affect you much. The only difference you’ll notice in the coming months is a gradual reduction of news media content on the BSM website and our social accounts sharing a little about both formats over the next two months until we’re officially split in February. We are also going to dabble a little more in marketing, research and tech content that serves both formats. If you’re a reader who enjoys both forms of our content, you’ll soon have BarrettSportsMedia.com for sports, and BarrettNewsMedia.com for news.

Our first two years in the news/talk space have been very productive but we’ve only scratched the surface. Starting November 28th, news takes center stage on BarrettNewsMedia.com and sports gets less crowded on BarrettSportsMedia.com. We had the right plan of attack in 2020, but poor timing. So we’re learning from the past and adjusting for the future. If we can count on you to remember two URL’s (add them to your bookmarks) and sign up for our newsletters, then you can count on us to continue delivering exceptional coverage of the industry you love. As always, thanks for the continued support. It makes everything we do worthwhile.

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