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What I Learned at The 2018 NAB Radio Show

Jason Barrett

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Each year I attend the NAB Radio Show, and after a few days of meetings, attending sessions, and celebrating individual and brand achievements, I’m re-energized. The amount of wisdom shared in each room to help fellow broadcasters, and the private conversations conducted throughout each hotel, serve as a reminder that we’re working in an incredible business, one which remains important and exciting to those earning a living in it.

There is this public perception often presented that radio is lagging behind, failing to adapt, and not built for the future. I’ve called out the industry myself a few times because it sometimes can be its own worst enemy, and stand in the way of progress. Though there are issues to be solved, and competitive challenges have increased, rapid innovation continues, and each time we set our feet it feels like we’re forced to pivot, it’s also an exciting time because the demand for our content and personalities is as high as its ever been.

The majority of people I’ve spent time with in 2018 continue to believe in the present and future of the radio business. They see fields of opportunities rather than landfills of misery. During my conversations in Orlando, I heard similar feedback. The difficulties facing brands aren’t ignored, but most are optimistic, open to new ideas, eager to find solutions, and recognize the limitless options that exist to reach audiences thru multiple platforms.

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A great example of this was last Thursday’s session on smart speakers featuring Fred Jacobs of Jacobs Media, Jeremy Sinon of Hubbard Radio, and Charles Steinhauer of Westwood One. All three gentlemen talked about the surge of smart speakers, the challenges they provide, and their importance to the radio industry’s future. Sinon in particular did an excellent job of playing some examples where Alexa created headaches for a few stations, and then showed how to develop skills to overcome those challenges. The message for the room was to understand the opportunity this new technology provides and not forget that it still requires investing time and resources to develop skills so your brand can perform its best.

As I sat there listening and processing the information Fred, Jeremy, and Charlie supplied, I thought about how it relates to the big picture of the radio business. Every brand, personality, and executive has problems to deal with, but solutions are available if you’re willing to invest the time to identify them, and take action.

Another session I attended that peaked my curiosity was on artificial intelligence. Traug Keller of ESPN, and Hartley Adkins of iHeartmedia were featured along with a few other broadcasters, and one of the best parts of the session was when an ESPN sample video was shown featuring Scott Van Pelt as a voice assistant. It gave the room a peak into the future. Keller delivered one of the best lines of the conference when he said “here we are talking about artificial intelligence and I don’t think any of us really know what it even means.”

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He was right. Too many times in radio we hear of the potential of new technology, and immediately rush into it because we’re hoping it’s the magic bullet. Maybe AI will be a powerful tool to assist our business. But what if it isn’t? I’ve been to a number of shows since launching my company in 2015 where VR was touted as the future of TV watching, Nielsen was in danger of being replaced by other forms of measurement, and radio was read its last rites, and here we are in 2018 and all seem to be doing fine.

Don’t get me wrong, I see the projections. Radio is viewed as a flat to down business, while mobile and social media are seen as golden tickets to greater fortunes. Not only are both a huge part of each person’s daily routine, but they also offer better metrics to judge audience interest and advertising results. Meanwhile, radio lingers with an antiquated measurement system that doesn’t capture the true impact of each brand.

There’s also the reality that smart speakers are now owned by nearly 25% of Americans, and that number is expected to increase in the next few years. Larry Rosin of Edison Research did a stellar job of highlighting this during his session. I especially agreed with his data to support why music and sports brands would be wise to eliminate traffic. I did that as PD of 101 ESPN and 95.7 The Game and both stations turned out fine. The most important message though is an obvious one that can’t be stressed enough. As voice-enabled technology takes over the inside of our vehicles, brands lacking strong recall, local content, and recognizable talent will be in for greater challenges.

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We also heard a bunch about the unstoppable force known as podcasting. That seemed to be a heavy focus of this year’s conference. Norm Pattiz, Darren Davis, and Suzanne Grimes offered their insights and optimistic views of the space during an action packed session which included Jewel, Mario Lopez, Elaina D. Smith, and Kaitlyn Bristoe, and I share their enthusiasm for it. It allows talent to showcase creativity, brands to introduce original content and new voices, and the biggest winners are the listeners since most content options are ad free or significantly lower than what they’re exposed to on terrestrial airwaves.

However, until radio operators share an equal confidence of earning income in the space similar to their terrestrial properties, I think it’s going to be an uphill climb. Should we be selling podcast subscriptions? Video shows? Will people continue to listen if we include more ads in our podcasts? There’s no shortage of content or promotion for podcasting, but monetizing it is the largest issue. Measuring it in a way that satisfies advertisers is another big challenge.

Last but not least, I attended the Snacks, Suds, and Stories session which included Mike McVay, Mike Golic Jr. and Chris Oliviero. McVay always does a great job hosting these sessions because his personality, humor, and passion grab your attention, but what really stood out this time was something Oliviero said.

When Chris was asked to describe the best moment of his broadcasting career, he said he’d answer by sharing his best and worst. The worst he said was the day he learned Howard Stern was leaving terrestrial radio, He said it felt like a piece of the industry died that day. His best moment, was his final day with Entercom.

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Now before you read into that last response, Chris’ explanation was that it meant he had written the final chapter on a successful 20+ year career. He was proud to represent CBS as an executive, and when the company sold, he stayed on to help Entercom navigate thru the merger. He felt he did what he set ought to do, the job was complete, and it was time to walk away.

I knew exactly what he meant. When I left San Francisco in 2015, I did so with zero regrets. I knew the station was built for future success, the same way I left 101 ESPN in St. Louis in 2011. I wasn’t interested in moving to NY and doing the same thing. I proved to myself and my bosses that I was a strong PD, and I was ready for a new challenge. I didn’t know it’d become BSM, but had I not left SF, I’d never have realized how much I love this.

After three days of meetings and attending sessions, I left Orlando with the understanding that not all is rosy in radioland. There are many mountains to climb, and it seems that just when we reach the top of one, another pops up. Challenges are to be expected though, which is why I don’t see the industry as laying in a hospital bed on life support as some others do. When I add it all up it comes down to this, some see challenges as problems, others as opportunities. The way you view it will determine how you respond, adapt, and ultimately perform.

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

Jason Barrett

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

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

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

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

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

Jason Barrett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jason Barrett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it worked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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