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How To Launch a New Show

Jason Barrett

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As someone who has spearheaded the launch of 2 FM sports stations and been responsible for creating and debuting countless talk shows, I think I have an idea or two about what goes into unveiling a brand new program. I say that not out of cockiness, but out of recognizing the details that go into everything you do to make a show matter and gain an impression from Day 1. Believe me, I’ve missed plenty of times and have made numerous mistakes so I’ve learned things that do and don’t work.

While I’ve modified my approach over the years, the importance in having a plan and going through every detail still factors into how I launch shows today. I believe first impressions still matter and you’re only going to help yourself by having your ducks in a row as opposed to working it out as you go.

First things first is identifying who your host or hosts are going to be and what the mission statement is going to be for the show. As a Programmer, you should have a strong idea of who it is you’ve hired. Then comes the challenge of deciding how to brand that personality’s style and presentation. This step is super critical because every aspect of what you do with a show is going to connect back to the overall theme. From the website to your social media platforms to your on-air imaging and external marketing, when you mention the (insert name here) show, your goal is for the audience to identify with the talent and be able to recall something about it.

From there, you can dive into what content items matter most in your market, how the flow of a show should go, if guests matter or not, which ways you’ll interact with an audience, and which qualities about the host(s) resonate and which characteristics have less appeal. I’m a firm believer in using a white board and engaging talent in discussions on these questions because the more they’re involved talking about it, the more they see it and remember it. I can recall numerous sessions where I’ve spent 3-4 hours in a conference room with a show unit and after listing strengths and weaknesses, guest ideas, features possibilities and strategy ideas to build awareness for the show it’s carried directly over to all involved with the show.

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As a rule of thumb, I try to keep a show off the air for at least 1 week and go through every single scenario possible before releasing them into the wild. Most radio people just want to go on the air, do the show, and do the least amount of analysis possible before getting started. That’s because it’s not always comfortable or easy to think about who you are, why you matter, what the theme of your show is, what strategy you’re going to implement to help the program reach a level of success satisfactory for everyone involved, and what the audience does and doesn’t value. If I had more time I’d probably give a show 2-3 weeks of strategy sessions before launching it but in the radio world, that’s an eternity and unrealistic. That said, I do believe the time you invest in understanding the goal, the people involved and the direction for where you’re headed pays off for you in the end.

Ironically enough though, the one form of media which we’re lumped in with most (TV) seems to put the extra detail into what they launch and after weeks of buildup via promos, interviews, social takeovers and numerous other marketing opportunities, they have a pretty strong impact on getting consumers to sample their brand new offerings. For radio though, it’s usually a case of hire the host, connect him or her with the producer, figure out a couple of topics and guests for show #1, and off you go. That process though is why shows usually come out of the gate unfocused and without a specific purpose.

Take a step back for a second and picture yourself in the shoes of James Gandolfini or David Chase. You’ve got a brand new show debuting on HBO and you’re the creator (PD) and the lead character (on-air host) of a program titled “The Sopranos”. Would you launch the show on the day you were hired? Would you just go in front of the camera and figure it out on the fly? Would you leave it to the consumer to figure out what the mission statement of the show is? When I hear radio people mention “we’ll get that sorted out afterwards, let’s just get it on the air” it makes me crazy. Using that rationale, a show like The Sopranos would have been a radio dud. However, because a strategy was in place, the show’s mission and audience target were understood, and the content was crisp once it hit the air, people had an expectation of what they were going to see. They then bought into the messaging, the characters, and consumed the content. The result was one of the most iconic shows in television history. Here’s the promo leading up to Season 1 on HBO. This is why radio shows need the extra detail invested in them before they even touch the airwaves.

So you’re now going to tell me that the Sopranos are an entirely different deal and not a fair comparison right? Ok then let’s take the entire movie industry. You head out on a weekend to watch a 2-hour film. What’s the first thing you watch when the lights go off? Previews! They run usually 1-2 months in advance of when a film is released in the theatres. Most film companies buy a heavy advertising schedule a few weeks prior to the release to get you interested in going to see it. Heck when you’re in the theater and the preview is done, half the time you can’t shut up about whether or not you’ll go see it once it’s released. Is there really any difference between launching a new movie and a new radio show? Actually there is. The film has spent time going through every detail and establishing what they want people to take away about it whereas most radio shows do not.

One could also suggest that the film is planned out and only 2-hours long whereas radio shows sometimes deliver 10-20 on-air hours per week. But this isn’t about how much time has to be filled, this is about drawing interest to a new show, having a creative direction and plan for where you’re headed, and understanding the roadblocks ahead you’ll have to navigate in order to achieve success. Here’s the Transformers 4 trailer. Watch it and see if you can come away with what the focus of the movie is. I’m sure you will, and like most people on this planet, you’ll be heading to the theater to watch it soon and making it the #1 film at the box office on the weekend it’s released.

It seems simple and it should be, but strategic planning doesn’t happen often yet it’s an essential focus for the launch of any new show. I believe it makes a HUGE difference between having short-term and long-term success. If you can spend time with your talent and production staff and go over what the main hook of the show is going to be and illustrate a plan for how to create something which is going to matter to the local audience, then your chances of success are much higher.

I also find that most of your staff will appreciate the time you took to analyze them and provide them with ammunition helpful to their future success. Subconsciously they’ll end up recalling parts of what you taught them and that’ll carry over to their conversations without you needing to say anything further. They may not want to spend 3-4 hours trapped inside a conference room but those who understand the big picture of what’s being created will adjust and they’ll be thankful later when the audience shows up to listen.

For a closer look at a day to day game plan and what’s required to launch an effective show click on the link below!

New Show Strategy 

Additionally I’ve attached a few promos which my former Imaging Director Jeff Schmidt produced to help launch some talk shows on 95.7 The Game. Typically I like to promote a brand new show for at least 2 weeks prior to a launch. If time allows to do it even longer I don’t see any negative in building even deeper suspense. I believe a new show should be given a ton of promotional support prior to hitting the airwaves, so from a promo standpoint a healthy number to schedule is somewhere between 100-125 over the span of 14 days.

The main goal when launching a new show is to generate curiosity to make people sample. Then it’s up to your talent to deliver on the expectations that have been positioned in the promos, and make sure that the hype created for the new program is warranted. You’ve heard it time and time again, you never get a second chance to make a first impression, so get your details together, have a focused plan and understand what you’re trying to create and tap into before you do it. You’ll be much further along this way then if you tried to figure it out as you go!

Haberman & Middlekauff – Launch Promos:

Damon Bruce Show – Launch Promos:

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California College Students Earn Chance to Win 10 Free Tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit Thanks to Steve Kamer Voiceovers

“In order to win tickets to attend the Summit, students must submit a 2-minute video by email explaining why they’d like to be in attendance and what they hope to learn at the event.”

Jason Barrett

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With a new year comes renewed energy and optimism for the sports media business. Yours truly is looking forward to showcasing the best our business has to offer when we gather the industry in Los Angeles, CA at the 2023 BSM Summit at the Founders Club at the University of Southern California on March 21-22, 2023. Our conference is returning to the west coast for the first time since 2019. We’ve announced some super talented speakers. We’ve got additional things in the works and I plan to make additional announcements in the next few weeks.

People often ask me what the biggest challenge is putting this event together. My answer is always the same, it’s getting people to leave the comfort of their office and spend two days in a room together learning and discussing ways to grow the business. We have great sponsorship support and exceptional people on stage and are fortunate to have a lot of folks already set to attend. Our venue this year has extra space though, so I’m hoping a few more of you make time to join us. If you haven’t bought a ticket or reserved your hotel room, visit BSMSummit.com to make sure you’re all set.

If there’s one thing our industry could get better at it’s opening our minds to new ideas and information. There’s more than one path to success. Just because you’re in good shape today doesn’t mean you will be tomorrow. Building brands, growing audiences, increasing revenue, and examining new opportunities is an ongoing process. There are many shifts along the way. We may not solve every business challenge during our two-days together but you’ll leave the room more connected and informed than when you entered it.

Each year I’ll get two or three emails from folks sharing that they learned more about the industry in two-days at the Summit than they have in ___ years inside of their building. That’s truly gratifying and what I strive to achieve when I put this event together. I remember when conferences like this didn’t exist for format folks and I take the risk and invest the time and resources to create it because I love the sports media industry and believe I can help it thrive. I see great value in gathering professionals to share ideas, information, and meet others who can help them grow their business, and if we do our part, I’m confident some will want to work with us too. That’s how we benefit over the long haul.

But as much as I focus on serving the professional crowd, I also think we have a responsibility to educate young people who are interested, passionate, and taking steps to be a part of our business in the future. The BSM website is visited by hundreds of thousands of people each month and it’s become a valuable resource for folks who enjoy sports radio and television. I think it’s vital to use our platform, influence and two-day event to connect generations and I’m happy to announce that we will once again welcome college students at this year’s Summit.

Most of us who’ve been in this line of work for two or three decades learned the business without podcasts, YouTube, social media, the web or conferences delivering two full days of sessions that taught you more about the business than what’s available inside of a class room. We learned by doing, and hoping we were right. Then we copied others who had success. Some of that still exists, and that’s not a bad thing. But where our business goes in the future is going to be drastically different.

I’d like to see the difference makers in our format remembered for years to come, and practices that have stood the test of time remain valued down the line. Change is inevitable in every business and I’m excited about the road that lies ahead especially some of the technological advancements that are now available or will soon become a bigger part of our industry. I think we can embrace the future while enjoying the present and celebrating the past. The best way to do that is by bringing together everyone who is and is hoping to be a part of the sports media universe.

So here’s two things we’re doing to make sure future broadcasters have an opportunity to learn with us.

First, I want to send a HUGE thank you to Steve Kamer Voiceovers. Thanks to Steve’s generosity, TEN (10) college students will be given FREE tickets to attend the 2023 BSM Summit in March. Steve is a USC graduate (Class of 1985) and he bought the ten tickets to help young people learn about the industry, save money and make valuable connections. When I first received his order, I thought he hit the wrong button. I reached out to tell him a mistake was made and I needed to refund him. That’s when he told me what he wanted to do for students who were pursuing their broadcasting dreams just as we both did years ago. A very classy gesture on his part.

As it pertains to the contest, here’s how it’s going to work.

To win tickets to attend the Summit, students must submit a 2-minute video by email to JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com explaining why they’d like to be in attendance and what they hope to learn at the event. Included in your email should be a list of steps that you’ve taken or are pursuing to explore opportunities in the media industry. If you want to pass along a resume and audio or video clips too to showcase your work and experience, that’s fine as well. BSM will accept submissions until February 17th. The winners will be announced on Friday February 24th.

Helping me select the winners will be an exceptional panel of media executives. Each of these folks below will choose one person to attend our L.A. event. The final two will be picked by Steve Kamer and myself.

  • Scott Shapiro – Senior Vice President, FOX Sports Radio
  • Justin Craig – Senior Program Director, ESPN Radio
  • Jeff Sottolano – Executive Vice President, Programming, Audacy
  • Bruce Gilbert – Senior Vice President of Sports, Cumulus Media & Westwood One
  • Amanda Gifford – Vice President, Content Strategy & Audio, ESPN
  • Jacob Ullman – Senior Vice President, Production and Talent Development, FOX Sports
  • Greg Strassell – Senior Vice President, Programming, Hubbard Radio
  • Scott Sutherland – Executive Vice President, Bonneville International

To qualify for the BSM Summit College Contest, students must be enrolled in college in the state of California, pursuing a degree that involves course work either in radio, television, print or the digital business. Those attending local trade schools with a focus on broadcasting are also welcome to participate. You must be able to take care of your own transportation and/or lodging.

This is a contest I enjoy running. We’ve had great participation during our prior two shows in New York City but haven’t done it before on the west coast. I’m hoping it’s helpful to California students and look forward to hearing from many of them during the next month.

For students who live out of state and wish to attend or those enrolled at local universities who enter the contest but aren’t lucky enough to win one of the ten free tickets from Steve Kamer Voiceovers, we are introducing a special two-day college ticket for just $124.99. You must provide proof that you’re currently in school to take advantage of the offer. This ticket gives you access to all of our sessions inside the Founders Club. College tickets will be limited to forty (40) seats so take advantage of the opportunity before it expires.

The 2023 BSM Summit will feature award ceremonies with Emmis Communication CEO Jeff Smulyan and legendary WFAN program director Mark Chernoff, sessions with influential on-air talent such as Colin Cowherd, Jim Rome, Joy Taylor, and Mina Kimes, big picture business conversations with executives from groups such as Audacy, iHeart, Bonneville, Good Karma Brands, Barstool, The Volume, Omaha Productions and more. For details on tickets and hotel rooms visit BSMsummit.com.

I look forward to seeing you in March in Los Angeles!

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Barrett News Media To Gather The Industry in Nashville in September 2023

“I’ve been lucky enough to play a key role in bringing the sports media industry together on an annual basis, and in 2023 we’re going to attempt to do the same for news/talk media professionals.”

Jason Barrett

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One of the best parts about working in the media business is that you’re afforded an opportunity to use your creativity, take risks, and learn if an audience or advertisers will support your ideas. Sometimes you hit a homerun, other times you strike out, but regardless of the outcome, you keep on swinging.

I’ve tried to do that since launching a digital publishing and radio consulting company in 2015. Fortunately, we’ve delivered more hits than misses.

When I added news media industry coverage to our brand in September 2020, I knew it’d be a huge undertaking. The news/talk format is two and a half times larger than sports, many of its brands are powered by national shows, and the content itself is more personal and divisive. I wanted our focus and attention on news media stories, not politics and news, and though there have been times when the lines got blurred, we’ve tried to be consistent in serving industry professionals relevant content .

What made the move into news media more challenging was that I’d spent less time in it. That meant it’d take longer to find the right writers, and it required putting more time into building relationships, trust, respect, and support. Though we still have more ground to cover, we’ve made nice strides. That was reflected by the participation we received when we rolled out the BNM Top 20 of 2022 the past two weeks. Hopefully you checked out the lists. Demetri Ravanos and I will be hosting a video chat today at 1pm ET on BNM’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, and through Barrett Media’s YouTube page discussing the series, as well as this article.

It’s because of that growing support, trust, and confidence in what we’re doing that I’m taking a risk yet again. I’ve been lucky enough to play a key role in bringing the sports media industry together on an annual basis, and in 2023 we’re going to attempt to do the same for news/talk media professionals.

I am excited to share the news that Barrett News Media will host its first ever BNM Summit on Thursday September 14, 2023 in Nashville, TN. Our one-day conference will take place at Vanderbilt University’s Student Life Center Ballroom. The venue we’ve selected is tremendous and I’m eager to spend a day with news/talk professionals to examine ways to further grow the format and industry.

If you’re wondering why we chose Nashville, here’s why.

First, the city itself is awesome. The access to great restaurants, bars, entertainment, hotels, and famous landmarks is unlimited, and when you’re traveling to a city for a business conference, those things matter. Being in a city that’s easy for folks across the country to get to also doesn’t hurt.

Secondly, a conference is harder to pull off if you can’t involve successful on-air people in it. If you look at Nashville’s growth in the talk media space over the past decade, it’s remarkable. Many notable talents now live and broadcast locally, major brands have created a local footprint in the area, and that opens the door to future possibilities. I have no idea who we’ll include in the show, and I haven’t sent out one request yet because I wanted to keep this quiet until we were sure it made sense. I’m sure we’ll have plenty of interest in participating and I can’t promise we’ll be able to accommodate all requests but if you have interest in being involved, send an email to Jason@BarrettNewsMedia.com.

Third, finding the right venue is always difficult. We looked at a bunch of great venues in Nashville during our vacation this past summer, and when we stepped on to the campus at Vanderbilt University and walked through the SLC Ballroom, we knew it was the right fit. It had the space we needed, the right tech support, access to private parking, a green room for guests, and it was within walking distance of a few hotels, restaurants, and the Parthenon.

As I went through the process of deciding if this event was right for BNM, a few folks I trust mentioned that by creating a Summit for news/media folks, it could create a competitive situation. I don’t see it that way. I view it as a responsibility. I think we need more people coming together to grow the industry rather than trying to tear each other down. I hear this far too often in radio. We worry about what one station is doing rather than strengthening our own brand and preparing to compete with all audio options.

For years I’ve attended conferences hosted by Radio Ink, NAB, Talkers, and Conclave. I’ve even spoken at a few and welcomed folks who operate in the consulting space to speak at my shows. I’ll continue to support those events, read various trade sites, and invite speakers who work in a similar field because they’re good people who care about helping the industry. I believe BNM and BSM add value to the media business through its websites and conferences, and though there may be a detractor or two, I’ll focus on why we’re doing this and who it’s for, and let the chips fall where they may.

I know juggling two conferences in one year is likely going to make me crazy at times, but I welcome the challenge. In the months ahead I’ll start lining up speakers, sponsors, building the conference website, and analyzing every detail to make sure we hold up our end of the bargain and deliver an informative and professionally beneficial event. The news/talk media industry is massive and making sure it stays healthy is critically important. I think we can play a small role in helping the business grow, and I look forward to finding out on September 14th in Nashville at Vanderbilt University.

Hope to see you there!

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Jimmy Powers, Raj Sharan, Matt Berger and John Goforth Added to 2023 BSM Summit Lineup

“BSM is having a special Holiday SALE this week. Individual tickets are reduced to $224.99 until Friday night December 23rd at 11:59pm ET.

Jason Barrett

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In less than a hundred days, the BSM Summit will return to Los Angeles for two-days of networking, learning, laughing, and celebrating. The conference hasn’t been held on the west coast since 2019, and we’re looking forward to returning to the city of angels on March 21-22, 2023, and bringing together sports media professionals at the Founders Club, located inside the Galen Center at the University of Southern California.

For those of you who haven’t purchased your ticket(s) yet, BSM is having a special Holiday SALE this week. From today (Monday) through Friday 11:59pm ET, individual tickets are reduced to $224.99. If you’re planning to come, and want to make sure you’re in the room, take advantage of the extra savings and secure your seat. To buy tickets, reserve your hotel room, and learn more about the Summit’s speakers, click here.

We’ve previously announced twenty one (21) participants who will join us on stage at the 2023 BSM Summit. Today, we’re excited to expand our lineup by welcoming four (4) more additions to March’s industry spectacular.

First, BSM is thrilled to have two accomplished sports radio programmers contributing to the event. Jimmy Powers of 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit will make his Summit debut in L.A.. Fresh off of a Marconi victory earlier this fall, The Ticket’s brand manager will share his insights on the present and future of sports radio on one of our programming panels. Also taking part in that panel will be the leader of 104.3 The Fan in Denver, Raj Sharan. Raj appeared on stage at the 2022 BSM Summit in NYC, and we look forward to having him return to lend his voice to an important sports radio programming discussion.

But programming won’t be the only thing we invest time in out west. Growing a business, more specifically, a digital business will be part of our conference agenda as well.

When it comes to maximizing digital revenue, few brands understand the space better than Barstool Sports. Charged with growing the brand’s revenue is Senior Vice President and Head of Sales Matt Berger, and we’re looking forward to having Matt join us for a conversation that will focus on monetizing digital opportunities. Before joining Barstool, Matt sold for Bleacher Report/House of Highlights. He’s also worked for Warner Brothers and the Walt Disney Company. We’re excited to have him share his wisdom with the room.

Also taking part in our digital sales panel will be John Goforth of Magellan AI. John knows the radio business well from having served previously as a sales manager and salesperson. Since leaving traditional media and joining Magellan AI, John has studied the podcasting advertising space and learned who the top spenders are, who’s making big moves with their podcast advertising budgets, and which publishers are best positioned to benefit. Having his expertise on stage will help many in the room with trying to better understand the digital sales space.

There are other speaker announcements still to come. We have some big things planned, which I’m hoping to reveal in January and February. I want to thank ESPN Radio, FOX Sports, Showtime, and Point to Point Marketing for coming on board as partners of the 2023 BSM Summit. The support we’ve received heading into Los Angeles has been tremendous, and we greatly appreciate it. If you’re looking to be associated with the Summit as an event partner, email Stephanie Eads at Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com.

That’s all for now, but be sure to take advantage of the Summit Holiday Sale. You have until Friday night December 23rd at 11:59pm ET to take advantage of discounted tickets. Happy Holidays!

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