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Having a Great Product Isn’t Enough to Survive

“What Toys R Us, Blockbuster Video, and the NY Daily News have experienced is what could face the radio industry if it doesn’t evolve.”

Jason Barrett

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“I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

Remember that line? It was uttered in the movie “Network” by Howard Beale and went on to become a popular movie drop used on many radio stations in their imaging. It also describes the feeling many in our business have when they see reports surface of another mass layoff by a large media company.

Last week, the New York Daily News lost its heartbeat when it pulled the plug on forty five of its best and brightest people. One section which was especially hit hard was the sports section which had become part of the fabric of New York sports coverage for decades.

When I heard the news, I was irate. Seeing talented individuals lose their jobs due to the incompetence of ownership is frustrating. Frank Isola, John Harper, and Peter Botte, to name a few, showed up every day for decades, excelling at their craft. They were exceptional sports writers who provided superb content, and were one of the few reasons I still read my hometown newspaper. But now due to executive ignorance, and bad business decisions, their efforts and loyalty have been rewarded with a pink slip and a mention in a corporate press release thanking them for their years of service.

After the Daily News gutted their newsroom, many personalities took to Twitter to voice their displeasure with the situation. Everyone from Michael Kay to Tony Reali to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo fired shots at Tronc, the parent company of the News, demanding answers for the exodus. Though I share their hostility for the recent turn of events, and will no longer invest one single second reading the Daily News’ content, I can’t help but wonder if this is the new normal for the media business.

Think about it, the New York Daily News, a staple of consistency, has now been torn apart from the inside out. ESPN, a company which seemed safeguarded from any kind of bloodletting, endured mass layoffs twice in the past few years. Rogers Communications and Bell Media, two successful companies in Canada, both eliminated hundreds of jobs in the past few years. Vox Media, BuzzFeed, and Meredith Corp., the company which bought Time, Sports Illustrated, Fortune, and Money, also reduced their work forces.

It leaves you with a sour taste in your mouth, but also makes you realize that operating in today’s world is very different. If a company doesn’t stay ahead of the curve, and find ways to reinvent its business model, they soon pay the price for falling behind, regardless of how successful or important they’ve been to their customer’s lives.

As I began writing this piece, I started reflecting on brands that were once important to me but have since decreased in value. Coincidentally, a number of those companies have either gone out of business or been severely altered. In some ways, I and those of you reading this who think like me, share in the blame for their demise. If we don’t continue supporting businesses, they lose money. When they lose money, jobs are lost. If expenses continue to outweigh profitability, larger decisions about a company’s future are explored.

I grew up on Toys R Us. It was my favorite store in the world as a kid. After I became an adult, the store had less value. That connection was restored when I became a father, but even then, the amount of business I did with the store compared to what I and my father did when I was a kid was drastically less.

When I was younger, the option to order merchandise on my phone and have it arrive at my door the next day didn’t exist. Had it been a possibility, I might never have discovered the charm of going into a Toys R Us. I was disappointed when I heard the store was shutting its doors in late June, but I then recalled how many times I had ordered toys for my son online, and quickly understood why.

In my teenage and early adult years, I practically lived at Blockbuster Video. I loved going into that store, buying a bucket of popcorn, and finding the latest movie rentals. It was a great family experience. But once television began offering On-Demand video, and groups like Netflix launched with superior offerings, those trips to Blockbuster stopped. The video rental chain was even given a chance to survive when Netflix offered to sell to them for $50 million dollars, but they botched that too. Netflix is now worth nearly $150 billion dollars.

Throughout my life, music has been a big part of my enjoyment. I’ve consistently supported artists by purchasing hundreds of singles and albums, and because I did, stores like FYE, Tower Records, Sam Goody, and Strawberries earned a lot from my paychecks. Once Napster launched and made file sharing possible, many started buying less records. Then as Apple, Spotify and Amazon made larger investments in offering music, the need to go buy a CD became minimal.

If you drive to most towns in America today, most of these stores barely exist. WalMart, Target, and a handful of others still sell music, but the selections are thin. The majority of music purchasing now takes place online, and although I still like to buy a CD at the store every now and then, I do it far less than I used to.

Having things appear on our phones, television screens, and doorsteps, has changed the consumer experience for the better. We still have interest in many of the same products, but our needs are different. We want things quickly, conveniently, and affordably. The idea of driving to stores, standing in lines, and paying higher prices is a thing of the past. It may sadden us to see some places exit the retail world that were once important to us, but when brand’s fail to adapt to a rapidly changing business environment, that can happen.

Which brings me to the radio business.

What Toys R Us, Blockbuster Video, and the NY Daily News have experienced is what could also face the radio industry in the future if it doesn’t evolve. The content will of course remain vital regardless of which era it’s offered in, but what about the way radio features advertising? Do you honestly think businesses are going to occupy fifteen minutes per hour on radio stations in between songs or talk content down the line?

Take a look around the world. TV networks have begun reducing their inventory. Why? They know people won’t sit thru long stretches of commercials. Advertisers know it too and don’t want to spend money just to be tuned out. That’s especially the case when viewers watch on-demand programming. They take their DVR, and immediately fast forward past the commercials to continue watching their favorite shows thus making it extremely difficult for the advertiser to reach them.

Check out YouTube. Their audience sizes are huge, and they realize that ads running 15 seconds or less are their only chance to keep people on the platform. Once longer commercials are pushed towards the viewer, they vanish. If offered in small doses though, fans of the content will sit thru it. The company has especially seen great results pushing six second ads.

Since I became a YouTube TV and Roku subscriber, I’ve learned how their approach works. The programming options are endless, and the video quality is exceptional, but if there’s a downside, it’s that when recorded shows air, the viewer is forced to sit thru a commercial break. The breaks are still shorter than what you receive on normal television, but even a one-minute spot break feels like an eternity when you’re watching a recorded show and trying to skip ahead to the next part of the content. At some point I’d expect that to change, but even if the breaks remained :30-:60 seconds, I think most people would accept it if it meant keeping costs low and content quality high.

So where does that leave radio? How exactly do you replace 15-20 minutes of spots per hour, and various inclusions in content (sports updates, traffic reports, weather updates, stock reports, etc.), and still remain profitable?

You could try to charge the audience to listen, but that’s a tall order. You could raise your rates for the limited amount of ad time inside your programming, and that’ll work with some clients, but not with all. It’s easy to suggest reducing ad times on stations because of audience demand, but how exactly do you replenish all that lost income?

We could investigate the possibility of further monetizing social media, podcasts, apps, and smart speakers, and although they’re all important to our business growth, if we’re not excelling in these spaces now, why would you expect them to be areas we’d dominate in down the line? Other opportunities will revolve around some of the things we do now such as creating events, and producing branded content. We’ll also have to become retailers, using our platforms to sell custom merchandise and products created by partners who we share revenue with.

Remember, most of the areas that we play in, belong to someone else. Facebook, Twitter, Apple, and Google own the property, we just rent it. 5 years ago Facebook began limiting the ability of a brand to reach its entire audience. Think they won’t do that again? As soon as they see you reaping the rewards from utilizing their platform, they’re going to put up more roadblocks to take more money out of your pocket.

Keep that in mind as you’re falling deeper in love with the Amazon Alexa and Google Home. Those devices are great, and give our fans a chance to hear our content without interruptions. But do you think Amazon and Google won’t eliminate your ads in the future and serve their own up to your audience? Do you honestly believe they wouldn’t do to your brand what Facebook did, and force you to spend money to reach your listeners? As they gain more momentum, do you think they’re going to make it easy on you to access and use your data however you see fit?

A few other things you need to ask yourself, if the business model is going to change that drastically, how will that help with attracting future sellers? Is a new seller going to want to sell audio instead of Facebook, Google, Twitter or Amazon? Will a new salesperson see a better financial path to success selling audio or video? What about our current sellers who rely on selling radio ad time to make a living? If they see limited potential right now earning a living selling apps, podcasts, social media, and your brand’s website, why would they put their focus in that space when it doesn’t pay the bills?

What’s really going to be important is the measurement of our performance in these other locations, and our ability to educate advertisers on the way our programming can help them generate results. If our brands are well established, and the talent we employ possess the skill to mentally own space inside the listener’s mind, then we’ll still have a chance to gain support and trust from local and national business partners.

Perhaps the bigger challenge is going to be for programmers and content creators, because there might come a time when shows aren’t taking commercial breaks. Picture HBO programming where the movie never ends. Your breaks would come in the form of vignettes, liners, airing of soundbites, taped interviews, etc. In other words, following the content model of podcasts, and SiriusXM which reward the user and limit the interruptions.

That could also lead to shows being shorter in length too. If the average metered listener consumes your programming for 30-45 minutes per occasion, are you better served with one 4-hour show or two 2-hour shows? Some could even make a case for four 1-hour shows.

If breaks were someday to be done away with, advertisers would have to be further woven into the content without it seeming forced. If we hope to compete with other media for dollars and listeners, we’re going to need a less is more mindset, and give clients an opportunity to be more intertwined into specific programming. Movies and TV shows have done a great job of including brands into their content, and it’s a space where radio can step its game up. Barstool Sports and Bleacher Report, two relatively newer brands (under 20 years in operation), have figured out how to excel at it. Radio with its rich history should be able to do the same.

Change is inevitable in every business. Whether it’s complicated or not, technology creates it, audiences demand it, and dollars follow it. If we want to avoid future dark days where our best people lose opportunities and serve as reminders of our failure to read the signs and modify the way we approach our business, then we’ve got to get out in front of these issues rather than waiting them to arrive on our doorstep. When habits change, you either adapt, or get rendered obsolete. The winds of change wait for no one.

Barrett Blogs

Barrett Sports Media’s Top 20 National Sports Radio Shows of 2022

“A total of 101 shows were eligible for voting consideration in the National Sports Radio Shows category.”

Jason Barrett

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The 8th annual BSM Top 20 series kicks off with a look at the Top 20 National Sports Radio Shows of 2022. These shows have the largest reach in America, and are distributed by the largest networks in the industry, airing across hundreds of radio stations, as well as on various digital and television outlets.

As you review this year’s selections, please remember that the results represent the collective opinions of forty six (46) industry executives. I’d like to thank Alex Reynolds, Stephanie Eads, and Dylan Barrett for helping with the Top 20 process, and Steve Kamer Voiceovers for being our exclusive sponsor for this year’s Top 20 series. Steve’s voice is heard across the nation on many top shows, stations, and networks, and if you’re not familiar with his work, take a second to learn what makes him stellar at his craft by clicking here.

As it pertains to the voting, here are a few key things to be aware of.

– These results are based on 2022’s performance. 2023 changes have no effect on the voting.

– Our executive panel consists of forty six (46) program directors and corporate executives from a number of top broadcasting companies including Audacy, iHeart, Cumulus, Beasley, Hubbard, Good Karma Brands, ESPN Radio, FOX Sports Radio, SiriusXM, Spotify, and independently owned and operated radio stations. We involve a large number of people in this process in order to include feedback from all parts of the country, as well as to prevent the results from heavily favoring one company.

 A total of 101 shows were eligible for voting consideration in the National Sports Radio Shows category.

– Voters choose their Top 20 based on a myriad of factors including the ear test, originality, ability to entertain, multi-platform impact, on-air chemistry, and ratings success. Keep in mind that voters live in different cities, have different tastes, and value certain factors higher than others. This isn’t a perfect science, but it’s the best system we’ve been able to come up with to showcase how sports radio’s brain trust view the best in the format.

And that brings us to the rankings for this year’s National Sports Radio Shows. For only the 2nd time in 8 years, we have someone at the top other than Colin Cowherd. The winner this year for best National Sports Talk Show of 2022 is The Pat McAfee Show. It was a close race, which saw Cowherd earn more first place votes, eighteen (18) to McAfee’s twelve (12), but Pat scored more total votes including seven more votes in the 2-5 range, allowing him to prevail by seventeen points. McAfee’s show is now consumed through podcasts, YouTube, and social media but 2022 did include eight months of distribution on SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Sports Radio. We congratulate Pat, AJ, and the entire crew on earning this year’s top honor, as well as every other show which appeared on this year’s list.

Now, here are the full results of “BSM’s Top 20 National Sports Radio Shows of 2022!”

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Additional Notes:

  • The Herd w/ Colin Cowherd earned a category best eighteen (18) first place votes. The Pat McAfee Show was second with twelve (12).
  • 21-25 was occupied by Outkick 3602 Pros & a Cup of Joe, The Zach Gelb Show, Spain & Fitz, and Bart & Hahn.
  • The closest contest saw You Better You Bet edge Ben Maller by 4 points.
  • Of the 101 shows eligible for consideration this year, 9 received at least one 1st place vote.

Here is the remaining schedule for the BSM Top 20 of 2022.

  • Tuesday February 7 = The Top 20 Major/Mid Market Sports Radio Morning Shows of 2022
  • Wednesday February 8 = The Top 20 Major/Mid Market Sports Radio Midday Shows of 2022
  • Thursday February 9 = The Top 20 Major/Mid Market Sports Radio Afternoon Shows of 2022
  • Friday February 10 = The Top 20 Major/Mid Market Sports Radio Program Directors of 2022
  • Monday February 13 = The Top 20 Major/Mid Market Sports Radio Stations of 2022

To view prior years of BSM’s Top 20 results, click here.

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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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