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Thoughts From The 2016 NAB Radio Show

Jason Barrett

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The 2016 NAB Radio Show is in the books and as usual, I’m feeling energized after a few days of learning. This year’s event took place in Nashville, Tennessee, a city with rich history, and a strong commitment to country music, which made it feel like the right place to spend a few days analyzing the state of the radio industry.

The music scene on Broadway was vibrant. You couldn’t walk thirty feet without reaching another bar or restaurant and hearing a local artist perform. The County Music Hall of Fame and Johnny Cash Museum were both within walking distance of the conference, as was the Bridgestone Arena, which featured concerts by Carrie Underwood, and Avenged Sevenfold, and left passionate music fans enjoying the Nashville nightlife all throughout the week.

As I’ve learned over the past few years, these conferences provide many positives, but there are always one or two areas where things can be better. It takes the effort of many to organize, speak, perform, and attend, and the reason people travel for this event is to get a deeper education on where our business is, and where it needs to go. That is very important and wouldn’t be made possible without the contributions of the NAB, our broadcasting industry, and the thousands of people who work in it.

This year more than 2,200 showed up, and there was a little bit of something for everyone to enjoy. The Marconi and Radio Wayne Awards were especially top notch, and included a classic line from New York radio icon Scott Shannon who said “I’m happier than a Kardashian walking into an NBA locker room”. It was a great few days of celebrating our industry and educating ourselves and for those who couldn’t make it, I’ve highlighted some of the positives I gained from this year’s event, along with a few areas where improvements can still be made. I enjoyed attending and speaking on a panel, and am looking forward to next year’s show in Austin, Texas.

What Was Good

Performers: The NAB did an excellent job of including some great musical acts into this year’s show. Whether they were performing live and talking about the way radio factored into the success of their songs, or just sitting on a panel and talking about the business of music and the challenge of growing a brand, there were a bunch of artists providing insight into their careers and how important radio has been to what they do.

In the span of three or four days, Big & Rich, Kellie Pickler, Danielle Bradberry, Jennifer Nettles, Kevin Griffin of Better Than Ezra, and Jesse James Dupree of Jackyl were all involved either speaking or performing, adding a nice energy to the event. In the case of Dupree, his candid opinions and insights on brand building during a conversation with Mike McVay and Michael Brandvold were especially interesting and helpful.

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Social Media: Few would disagree that social media plays a large role in our daily lives, and when Lori Lewis is involved in a session talking about the do’s and dont’s in the social space, few are more informative or enjoyable. Lori’s line “the essence of social media is reminding people that they matter” was perfectly stated, and a good reminder to brands to further engage with their audience on social media platforms.

She shared a few examples of why radio needs to abandon its ‘prize wheel’ approach and look at social from a fan’s point of view. Gaining a deeper understanding of the business we’re in and how it appears to be glamorous to the audience was another part of her focus. During the discussion she urged the room to let the listener capture their experience when they stop by a radio station event or studio because “it’ll be on Facebook before they leave the parking lot”. She was right on target.

Networking: As great as the NAB is for learning new information about the radio business, many in executive positions attend to further their relationships, speak on panels and keep the profiles of their companies strong. That helps open the doors to new business opportunities. The turnout this year from the majority of broadcasters was strong, and that’s important because for radio conferences to work it requires support and involvement from our industry’s leaders.

I saw high ranking members of CBS, iHeart, Entercom, Cumulus, Alpha, Emmis, Beasley, Townsquare, Hubbard and Cox in attendance, plus a few smaller groups had a presence too. While many of these broadcasters concentrated on business inside of each conference room, they allowed themselves to unwind and enjoy time together outside of them. We may compete against one another on a daily basis, but we all face the same challenges. Besides, competition is more fun when you’re battling people you like, respect, and enjoy spending time with.

If you’re in the radio business and trying to take larger steps in your career, or if you’re trying to break into the industry for the first time and this event is happening in your town, I recommend being present. Not only will you get a chance to learn from these folks, but you can get valuable face time with them in the lobby too. With radio being a business built on relationships, it never hurts to expand your friends list.

Programming Panel: I had the pleasure of being included in a panel discussing what makes sports radio powerful. The session included perspectives on what makes other passion formats such as Religious, Spanish, and Urban successful, and what stood out was how invested each person was in their respective format. It reminded me that regardless of the format we work in, everything about radio starts with love, passion and creativity.

I tried to educate the room on what lends itself to success from the on-air person’s position, and from the programmer’s office. It was great seeing a few familiar faces in the crowd, including my new cameraman Dennis Glasgow, PD of 99.9 The Fan. Thanks buddy! I utilized one audio clip during the session, a powerful two minutes from Mike Valenti of 97.1 The Ticket talking about the loss of the Detroit Lions play by play rights last November. To see the presentation and hear the clip click here.

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Podcasting: The smaller panels that I noticed drew the largest crowds were ones which focused on podcasting. This is a space that continues to surge and the NAB did a nice job of utilizing a variety of people with strong experience in the field including Seth Resler, Traug Keller, and Steve Goldstein. Goldstein’s session in particular was very insightful and focused on the growing audience in podcasting and how it’s a different experience compared to radio. I was surprised to learn that only 1% of podcasting comes from commercial radio. That speaks to a huge opportunity for the radio industry to increase its productivity. It also has the radio airwaves to promote it further. If done right, it could produce significant audience, revenue and loyalty.

One part that continues to baffle me is how many radio people continue looking at podcasting as a fad or niche business. They also fail to see that original programming is what’s become popular, not repeated 3-4 hour shows that were broadcast over the radio station’s airwaves earlier in the day. Offering the over the air content may be one part of your online strategy but it shouldn’t be the only representation of your brand’s podcasts. If it is you’ll be disappointed by the results.

It’s scary because one of radio’s biggest past problems has been waiting too long to react. This feels like another one of those times. During one session with FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, a woman stood up and said supporting AM radio was important because it gives people a chance to be on the radio, and if it isn’t saved, children won’t be able to dream of being on the radio. The only problem with her logic is that kids don’t dream of being on the radio now like they did 20-30 years ago, and there’s this thing called podcasting which has taken off and given them the ability to broadcast. It’s also a lot easier to put together. It’s no different than previously dreaming of writing for a newspaper and now having the ability to create your own website and launch your own brand. Times change, interests change, and radio traditionalists need to follow suit or risk being left out in the cold.

What Was Missing

On-Air Talent: I’m often perplexed when I attend a conference and don’t see many on-air talents in attendance. Is it not helpful to learn? To network? To speak about your craft and educate others who work in the same business or hope to in the future? I recognize that companies don’t often pay for their on-air people to attend these functions and I’m not advocating that they should, but I wonder if some groups should be developing a system to make sure some of their key on-air people do get a chance to be involved. I noticed that Hubbard is doing this and I think that’s smart. If you’re an on-air talent and a future radio conference takes place in your city, spend a day before or after your show picking up some knowledge. You’ll take something away from it.

Programmers and corporate executives can discuss subjects at length at conferences and many are very informative. Some of these folks may one day be your future bosses. But if the information they share doesn’t travel to an on-air host’s ears, it’ll never get passed through the speakers. Therein lies the issue.

Is there a perfect solution? Probably not. I’m hopeful that others who perform on the air will want to invest in their career and continue learning. Unfortunately during the past five years I’ve seen little involvement from on-air talent (specifically sports talk talent) at these events and it’s something that I believe can be much better.

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Programming Focus: Most conferences these days put an emphasis on digital growth, revenue generation, statistical analysis, and other parts of the business which matter to executives. I am fascinated by those topics myself. But you know what gets the least amount of attention? The on-air programming.

I’m a firm believer that you need both programming and sales hitting their marks to create a dominant business. The reason though that an audience tunes into a radio station or podcast is for the content experience. We need to be aware of trends and recognize that there’s more to a brand’s success story than what gets broadcast over the airwaves, but the reason we have fans and loyal supporters is because of our on-air product. When it gets less attention at conferences when the entire industry is present, I wonder if that’s a missed opportunity.

Closing

These conferences are valuable. Not every session will satisfy your desires but overall they’re worth your time. That said, we need to remind ourselves of what it was that drew us to the industry in the first place. It wasn’t a spreadsheet, sales training course, or radio commercial. When people hear others in this industry talk about their passion and creativity to make great radio and deliver success, it inspires them. It makes others want to do it, and it shows our business to be a fun and cool place to make a living in. We need more of that.

Or I guess we can choose the other path. We can just stand in a room, complain to the FCC, hope to be bailed out, and trust that our future will be in good hands because of it. You decide which path makes more sense.

Barrett Blogs

Jeff Catlin, John Mamola, Gordy Rush & Maggie Clifton Join The 2023 BSM Summit Lineup

Jason Barrett

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We’re less than two months away from the 2023 BSM Summit in Los Angeles. This year’s conference takes place on March 21-22, 2023 at the Founders Room inside of the Galen Center at USC. Many industry professionals are set to attend but sports media folks tend to be a last minute crowd whether it’s buying a ticket, reserving a room or committing to be a sponsor. Yes, tickets, rooms, and a select few sponsorships are still available, but the longer you wait, the more you risk not being in the room, featured as a partner, and paying higher prices for travel. To make sure you have a seat and a place to stay, log on to BSMSummit.com. For sponsorship inquiries, email Stephanie at Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com.

I am really excited about this year’s Summit. The venue is tremendous, the agenda is coming together nicely, and there’s no doubt we’ll have great weather when we gather in LA. Some have asked me why I don’t reveal the full schedule of sessions months in advance, and it’s because I believe in swinging for the fences and trying to do big things. To do that, you’ve got to be willing to invest time and explore every opportunity that can be impactful. It’d be much easier to fill the schedule and be done with everything but if it’s going to take a little longer to deliver the best speakers, discussions and experiences for all in the room, then that’s what I’m going to do.

Those involved in the creation of this conference know that I set a very high standard for it. We’ve run some great events over the years, and it’s because we put everything we have into making sure each session is valuable to a different segment of the industry. My goal each year is to present an action packed agenda that helps people learn, gain access to information to improve themselves and/or their brands, and create a few connections and memorable moments to justify it being worth a few days away out of the office or studio. If we can do that, it makes the sacrifices worthwhile. If we can’t execute at a high level, then I’d probably pass on doing it.

Before I tell you about the four people we’re adding to our speaker lineup, I do want to remind you that we recently announced a contest for California college students. We’re giving away ten (10) FREE tickets to the show courtesy of Steve Kamer Voiceovers. If you know a student in California please let them know about this. If they’re not in California but want to attend the event, we’ve created a special college rate to make it affordable for young people. Everything is listed on BSMSummit.com.

Now, for the new additions to the lineup.

I’m excited to welcome Jeff Catlin of The Ticket in Dallas to the Summit. This will be Jeff’s first Summit visit, and I appreciate him making time to share his programming wisdom with the rest of the room. Jeff will be part of a programming panel that kicks off day #2. That panel will include Jimmy Powers of 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit, Raj Sharan of Denver’s Sports Station 104.3 The Fan, and our next addition, John Mamola of WDAE. John has been at all of our events dating back to our first test event in Chicago. I’m looking forward to giving him an opportunity to offer his programming insights alongside this talented group.

Also joining the Summit lineup is Maggie Clifton, Blue Wire’s Senior Vice President of Business Development. Maggie has played a vital role in growing Blue Wire’s revenue, and I’m looking forward to having her join Barstool Sports’ SVP, Head of Sales Matt Berger, and Magellan AI’s Chief Revenue Officer John Goforth on a panel that focuses on digital monetization.

Guiding that conversation will be Guaranty Media’s Gordy Rush. The Baton Rouge Vice President and General Manager who doubles as LSU’s sideline reporter on football broadcasts is well versed in monetizing content, and understanding the opportunities and challenges broadcasters face. I’m confident those in the room charged with maximizing digital revenue for their brands will gain great value from these four professionals.

There’s much more in the works that I’m looking forward to announcing in the coming weeks. Whether you own a company, manage a cluster as a GM, lead a sales team, host or produce a podcast or radio/TV show, buy advertising, oversee a brand’s social media strategy or program a network or local outlet, there’s something for every sports media professional at the BSM Summit. I invite you to come see for yourself. To do so, visit BSMSummit.com.

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Jimmy Powers to Receive The Mark Chernoff Award at the 2023 BSM Summit

“Jimmy received the most votes from our industry panel to become our third recipient of the Mark Chernoff Award.”

Jason Barrett

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As a former programmer turned consultant, I pay more attention than most to those who lead brands, manage talent, and create consistent success. When you look across the country at the hundreds of stations delivering sports radio content, and analyze who operates at a high level, there’s maybe ten to twenty who are changing the game, and others who are rising and hoping to become a bigger part of the conversation.

What makes this annual award special in addition to having Mark Chernoff’s name on it, is that it’s voted on by eighteen industry heavyweights. These are folks tasked with overseeing radio companies, major networks, and having exceptional track records of broadcasting success. So when they vote and an individual earns an honor, it means a little more.

If you’re in the business and follow sports radio, then you’re aware of Mark Chernoff’s accomplishments as a program director. He was one of the true architects and consistent winners, and his ability to excel as a sports radio manager has influenced and shaped many careers. Mark graciously agreed to be part of our awards ceremony a few years ago when I approached him with the idea in New York City. I’m thrilled to share that although he doesn’t attend many industry conferences on the west coast, he will be with us at the 2023 BSM Summit in Los Angeles for the ceremony.

Which brings me to this year’s winner.

It is my honor to congratulate the leader of 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit, Jimmy Powers. Jimmy received the most votes from our industry panel to become our third recipient of the Mark Chernoff Award. He follows Rick Radzik of 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston, and Mitch Rosen of 670 The Score in Chicago. Jimmy will be in attendance at the Summit to pick up the award, and will take part in a program director panel at the show. Further details on that to be shared next week.

“It’s such a great honor not only to be mentioned in the same breath with Mark Chernoff, but to receive the ‘Mark Chernoff Award’ is really, really cool” shared 97.1 The Ticket Program Director Jimmy Powers. “With so many great program directors across the country who are deserving of this award, I truly appreciate the recognition.”

Since late 2009, Powers has led the Detroit sports radio station to unmatched local success. Brought in to build upon what was created by the late great Tom Bigby, he’s helped The Ticket become one of the format’s best examples of success. The station has consistently dominated the Male 25-54 demo, while also becoming a ratings force with Persons 12+ and Adults 25-54.

“Jimmy has done an amazing job over the years running 97.1 the Ticket,” said legendary sports radio programmer Mark Chernoff. “He knows how to work with talent, and maintain balance while managing relationships with the Lions, Tigers, Red Wings and Pistons, which is not an easy job. The ratings remain high, and the Ticket continues to be one of America’s top sports stations, which reflects the great work Jimmy has done as the station’s program director.”

In addition to delivering double digit shares, quarterly ratings wins, and presenting a star studded lineup and Michigan’s top sports franchises, The Ticket has taken home plenty of hardware too. The station has won the Marconi award for best sports station in 2016 and 2022. And now, they can add the 2023 Mark Chernoff Award to their trophy case.

“2022 was another big year for The Ticket, and many in Detroit deserve credit for the brand’s consistent success, but none more so than their exceptional brand leader, Jimmy Powers,” added BSM President Jason Barrett. “Jimmy has been a staple of consistency, guiding one of the crown jewels of sports radio, managing top personalities, important play by play partnerships, and helping the brand generate large revenues. I’m thrilled that our industry voters took notice of the fantastic work Jimmy has done and look forward to celebrating his career and accomplishments in Los Angeles this March.”

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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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