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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

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 Blogs

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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Barrett Blogs

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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