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Sitcoms Not Movies

Jason Barrett

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Anyone who has worked with me over the past 10 years has either heard me utter the term “Sitcoms Not Movies” or they’ve seen something like this displayed inside the air studio. There’s a big reason for that, it’s an approach I believe in. Simply put, it means your audience spends thirty to sixty minutes with you on their commute and it’s your job to provide the content that has the largest local appeal and present it in an entertain way during the two to four segments when they’re with you.trafficjam

If you’re really good as an air talent or you’re fortunate due to a traffic jam, maybe the listener sticks around for an extra 15-30 minutes. If everything though goes the way it normally does, you’ve got two to four segments to connect and entertain them and then they’re gone.

Sometimes broadcasters have an internal feeling that they’ve done something earlier in the show and don’t want to repeat it or they worry that someone listening is going to say “you already discussed that topic earlier” and what needs to be remembered here is that this is the ultimate compliment. If they’re listening that long, that’s not the norm. Those are the types of listeners who we label as P1’s and we want to hug them and take them out for a beer because they are loyal and invested in us.

The majority though aren’t doing that and they instead use your radio station in smaller doses. I can’t stress enough how important it is to resist the “we already covered that” mentality because the reality is that the majority of your audience doesn’t know you did it.man late looking to his watch

As years have passed by and we’ve seen the ratings system shift from a diary world to the game of PPM, we’ve learned that people listen more frequently to radio but they spend less time per occasion. We broadcast in a “what have you done for me lately” world and if your content isn’t crisp and on the right subject matter when the listener puts the dial on, good luck getting them to come back.

When I hear a producer or a host tell me “we’ll bury this smaller story in the back part of the hour, it’s only 5 minutes” it makes me crazy. First of all, is it really that important for the audience? Secondly, if it’s worth 5 minutes of talk time, then shouldn’t it be good enough to be placed anywhere in the show? Third, what are you telling the listener who’s only opportunity to listen is now and you’re displaying your C-D list material?

bullriderI once had a situation in St. Louis when a producer booked a bull rider for a show. I was driving and knew it had little value to the audience so I called up and asked “why did we book this?“. The producer said “bull riding is coming this weekend to the Scott Trade Center and they’re going to have twenty thousand people at the show so I figured it would be good to get in on it now while it’s hot“.

It would have been one thing if our personality was involved in the event riding the bull and we were going to include the audience in the bit, but that unfortunately wasn’t the way we approached it.

As a result my response was less than calm and went something like this “If we’re going to do this type of radio and base our content on what sells tickets at the Scott Trade Center, then I want the director for The Wiggles on Ice on Monday’s show since they’re coming to town and the tickets are selling out fast…..then on Tuesday I want the director for the Sponge Bob Square Pants show since that’s selling fast too, and then on Wednesday, we should find out if we can get a clown from the circus on the air because they’re in town for 3 days and all 3 shows are expected to be sold out”.

The point of that tirade wasn’t to show who was boss or to beat someone down for a mistake, instead it was to remind my host and producer that we can’t give away quarter hours of air time. Listeners don’t have to listen to us, they choose to listen to us. That stops though if we give them less than stellar content.carradio

This example is 7-8 years old and the competition for people’s time has only increased since then. Today we’re fighting tooth and nail as an industry to keep audience’s listening to what we do while every other outlet pops up with a new offering and less clutter so the response to competition can’t be to provide a less than outstanding listening experience on material that has little to no value.

While the content selection is subjective to PD, Host and Producer, we’ve seen enough data come in to get a better understanding of what works in our markets. The PPM system is far from perfect (I’ll save that for a future column) but it does allow PD’s to see what content is consumed best. All one has to do is track a show and look at the quarter hour performances for that material and you can see if it moves the needle or not. That’s one thing I like a lot about this system.encoclock

That said, the one thing that blows me away is how so many people in our industry still don’t understand the ratings system and what they have to do to receive ratings credit. This system has been in place for roughly eight years and if we’re in the business of generating ratings and revenue then I don’t understand how someone who’s livelihood is attached to the results of the game doesn’t know how it works.

Fair or unfair, this is our report card, and not delivering results can lead to unemployment. If my future was at risk or heck, if I was having great success, I’d certainly want to know what was going on. Since the details are fuzzy to many, let me lay out for you what the rules are:

  • #1 – Ratings measurement is captured each hour in 4 quarter-hours – :00-:15, :15-:30, :30-:45, :45-60
  • #2 – You must receive 5 minutes of listening inside one of those quarter hours in order to obtain ratings credit
  • #3 – The 5 minutes of listening does not have to be consecutive (EX: they can listen to you for 3 minutes, leave for 10 minutes and then come back for 2 and you still get credit)
  • #4 – If the listener listens for 4 minutes during the quarter hour, you receive zero credit – if they listen for 5 or more minutes, you get credit for the full quarter hour
  • #5 – If a listener listens to you from :12-:15 and :15-:17 which is a total of 5 minutes, you get ZERO credit for both quarter hours – remember you must get 5 minutes in the quarter hours listed above

If you work in the industry and you look at the way your station’s clocks lay out, you should see segments that play inside these windows and give you the most amount of talk time possible to allow you to gain credit. Keep in mind, some quarter hours in your market may have less audience or less listening time than others and we do still have to air commercials and take care of the bottom line so there’s always a strategic game being played in the background. Regardless, you always need to deliver 5 minutes of listening inside of those quarter hour windows.

stopSo if people listen for short periods of time and we know that the challenge to obtain credit comes down to capturing 5 minutes of listening in a quarter hour, then you should think about how that approach is implemented in your show.

Most hosts and producers go into a planning session feeling like they have to create 10-12 topics and have something brand new all the time to keep themselves and the audience entertained and that’s not true. The only people in the market who know the show plan each day are the producer and host and sometimes the PD and Board Operator.

Your audience comes to you looking to hear your opinion on the content items that appeal most in your market. They want to be updated on what took place today and they want to know what you think of the information. They don’t care about history lessons, they don’t care about what you did during the first hour of the show and they don’t care about what you’re going to do next hour – they care about what you’re doing right now and whether or not it’s important to them!

lbj623Let’s take a look for example at one of the most popular stories in our format over the past 2 weeks – LeBron James’ decision to leave the Miami Heat and return home to Cleveland. If I stopped by your radio station on Monday after the news came out, I’d expect to know what you thought about the story. If you weren’t serving me your opinion on this story, good luck getting me to stick around for 5 minutes.

You can tell me you’re in a non-NBA market, you can tell me you talked about it earlier and you can tell me the story doesn’t interest you and I’d tell you the majority of your audience cares about larger than life personalities, greatness, drama, conflict, egos and compelling stories and if you can’t make something work with those opportunities in front of you than maybe you should take the day off.

In order to play the “Sitcoms Not Movies” game and keep yourself and an audience engaged on a day like this, let’s look at some creative ways to make the angles work for 4 straight hours.

  • LeBron’s letter in SI – how do you feel about the way he broke the news? How does it compare to the approach of “The Decision”? What does it say about everyone reporting on the NBA that they got beat out by SI? What in the letter did you like most and least? How would you feel if you were in Dan Gilbert or Pat Riley’s shoes reading this? How much did Nike know since they had billboards ready right after the news came out?
  • LeBron’s departure – What does it mean for Miami’s future? Has Pat Riley lost his magic touch? If you’re Dwayne Wade do you feel betrayed? How does this impact Chris Bosh’s future? How does this impact Miami’s standing in the Eastern Conference?
  • LeBron’s return home to Cleveland – what does it mean for the Cavs future? If you’re a Cavs fan do you now feel bad for how you responded to him leaving? With LeBron not mentioning Andrew Wiggins in the letter does this mean he’s on his way out? Did Kyrie Irving know this was coming? What other pieces do the Cavs need in order to win a title? How does this impact Cleveland’s position in the East?
  • LeBron’s Legacy – does the Miami stint help or hurt his overall legacy? What if he never wins in Cleveland? How is the Miami 4-year run viewed historically (2 titles/4 NBA Finals visits or didn’t deliver what they said they would)

patrileyIf you had been on the air on this Monday, I’ve just laid out an angle for each hour that you should have no problem spending 10-15 minutes speaking passionately about. This isn’t taking into account the addition of audience participation, guests who can add additional insight, opinion and new information to the story and using audio to further enhance the presentation. Case in point, that Pat Riley soundbyte where he challenged LeBron to stay should absolutely be on your cut sheet.

If I am driving into work in my car on this day and I put on my favorite station, I expect the morning show will tell me what they think about this story. Remember that my drive is going to be somewhere between 30-60 minutes and during the next hour you’re going to have an entirely different audience and they are going to seek out your thoughts on the day’s biggest stories with the same enthusiasm that I just did.

Your job as a personality is to keep the A+ topic fresh, relevant and entertaining because the audience is going to seek it out each hour and if you don’t have it, the audience will go elsewhere to get it.

starbucks_coffee_Look at what a company like Starbucks does. They make sure the inside of their location is always clean. The people who work there are usually very friendly, courteous and focused on taking care of your needs despite having to endure long lines. And while they have plenty of pastries and breakfast options you can choose from, they nearly start every conversation by asking you “what kind of coffee can we get for you this morning“. They know what they do best and why you came to them and they make sure every day to be great at it.  The same thing applies to sports talk radio and quarter hour presentations and connecting with listeners.

Whether you like it or not, your audience has two powerful weapons to work with – time and choice. They don’t have to use us, they choose to use us. If we fail to appreciate that commitment by providing them with content that matters to ourselves and no one else, they’ll spend their time with another media source.

In every market there is a team and player that has mass appeal to the audience plus sports news happens every day and we can see which items register better than others so it’s our job to feature those hot button subjects and deliver them with regularity. It may be tiresome to those of us on the inside of the building but to those on the outside, every segment is new, fresh and full of promise.

rhcpIf you want to put yourself in position to win, remember that we’re in the business of selling out arenas and stadiums. The people in attendance expect to see a headline act deliver the material they’re familiar with. If we give the audience the hit songs they seek, they’ll be fans of ours for life. If we fail to do so, eventually we could be sitting with them!

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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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Barrett Blogs

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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