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Everyone Can Relate To The Scoreboard by Bob Richards

Jason Barrett

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For the past two decades, sports radio stations across the country have made a stronger commitment to pairing broadcasters and former athletes. It’s been labeled as the “winning combination” inside industry circles and when built properly and executed well, it can draw larger audiences to the dial.

mmThe idea is to put the broadcaster in charge of handling the formatics, topic building, audience engagement, and sponsor reads, while delivering the opinions that are representative of the local fan base. The athlete meanwhile provides the on the field insight and experience and utilizes their relationships inside the game to create content that is unique and unable to be duplicated.

On the surface that formula may make sense but there are also a few things that aren’t often taken into consideration.

First, an athlete certainly does provide great name value to draw in the common fan. That doesn’t mean though that they’re going to click with the broadcaster you pair them with. Some air talent are insecure, jealous, and agitated by the fact that the former player didn’t have to pay dues to earn their spot. Quite frankly, they don’t have the right mental makeup to be part of that type of program.

Secondly, the athlete doesn’t always respect the medium or care to put in the hard work that’s required to help a show succeed. Some players lose sight that their career may have helped them gain entry inside the building but that only lasts for so long. A number of them turn to this line of work because they’re not sure what to do when their playing days are done, and this seems like an easy transition. Once they recognize that their is a homework assignment every day and night, they get frustrated, mentally check out and eventually leave.

blankMost most athletes who break into this business usually do so between the ages of 35-50. That’s often when a personality’s career is just taking off. For a broadcaster who has paid dues and chased success and finally has it within their grasp, the last thing they desire is to be connected to an athlete who was given a shortcut to the same position and doesn’t care to invest themselves as much as they do in the opportunity. In many instances, they believe that the athlete is in foreign territory and doesn’t belong in it because they don’t understand the rules of the radio game nor care about them the same way.

But that’s where even the smartest broadcasters in this business can be wrong and make a major mistake.

The reason some of these pairings perform at a high level is because both men involved in the creation of the program understand their roles and how to present something of value to the audience. They realize their own strengths and weaknesses and how to use them to build a show that connects with everyone. They share a strong work ethic individually and collectively, and they place a high priority on developing a chemistry and relationship that carries onto the airwaves. There is no “ego” in worrying about who the star is or how much mic time they receive, only a focus on creating good content and lifting each other up.

flI’ve been lucky to work with some great former athletes, coaches and front office executives like Lorenzo Neal, Eric Davis, D’Marco Farr, Chris Duncan, Rick Venturi and Tony Softli who did their homework and cared about what they were presenting. I found them all to be excellent to work with because they had a number of things in common – they loved to compete and win, they believed in preparation, and they were willing to accept coaching and criticism when they weren’t taking care of their responsibilities. These guys made their living for years off of winning and losing, and they understood that when they made plays and put more W’s on the board, it led to more money in their pockets.

Because I understood their mentality and could relate it to the sports radio business, they were able to digest a lot of what we do, and have their own successes. I learned that what I was worried would appear foreign to them, actually became very simple for them to pick up because it all tied back to wins/losses, strategy, preparation, teamwork, and being accountable.

If you’re an on-air talent, producer or programmer and you have an athlete on your team, remember this. Just because a former player didn’t grow up on teases, re-sets and TSL and take the same road to radio stardom that you did, doesn’t mean they don’t have the same desire or an ability to understand how to execute. It sounds cliche but the best teams in sports often deliver the best results, and in radio it’s not much different.

One person who has had experience with this subject is Program Director Bob Richards. Bob has worked in Boulder and Denver, Colorado, Buffalo, New York and was most recently in charge of programming for 790 The Zone in Atlanta before the station flipped formats. Having managed a number of former athletes during his career, I thought he’d have some great insight to offer and I think you’ll really enjoy the way he lays out tackling this topic.

Everyone Can Relate To The Scoreboard

Here we are getting ready to celebrate the New Year, a time for resolutions to do things differently in an effort to create better results in various areas of our lives. For me, I’m praying to God that 2016 brings a FATTER bank account and a THINNER body. It’s the same prayer I had last year but I apparently I didn’t communicate it very well and he got the two mixed up!

bobrichardsI’m a big advocate of prayer but prayer isn’t a strategy, especially when it comes to your air staff and communicating with them to get the most out of them. If your staff is composed of air talent who come from a radio background and former players who have played for one of the major sports leagues, you’re sitting on a potential time bomb that you need to manage before it blows up.

Air talent working with former players creates an interesting dynamic. Think about it, the radio guys view the jobs they do as their career and they think former players view their job as a hobby they do to satisfy their egos! They question the player’s motivation and dedication. They take issue when players seem to operate under different rules. They think some players can be condescending, operating from the position that if you didn’t play the game you can’t possibly have an opinion, let alone a correct opinion.

Their fear is that the players think show prep and guest acquisition is beneath them and they either won’t participate in remotes and client meetings or they don’t know how to act in those situations. Throughout my career I’ve heard it all. If it isn’t being verbalized between members of the air staff it’s being thought about. So what’s a manager to do?

Clearly there are significant benefits to having former players on your air staff. They bring a much higher profile to a new show both with the audience and with potential guests. It’s important that the staff understands those benefits and buys into them. Former players usually come with unique issues. The higher the profile, the more issues, especially with regards to scheduling. Helping the staff understand why it’s worth it is key.

winFor me, the answer to getting buy in from the staff is the same answer as getting more out of the former player, it’s a meeting I call the Scoreboard. The key to managing a former player is to appeal to the one thing they can relate to – COMPETITION! They have to know if they’re winning or losing and what’s working and what isn’t.

In this meeting I start with a picture of an NFL scoreboard. It shows the score is 21–17, it’s the 4th quarter with two minutes left, the visitors have the lead but the home team has the ball on their own 20. Both teams are out of time outs.

I then ask the former player(s) what they know from looking at the scoreboard and I get the obvious answers. Most will say the visitors scored three touchdowns and kicked three extra points and the home team scored two touchdowns and kicked a field goal. There are other ways to have achieved those point totals and we discuss what those unlikely but possible scenarios might have been.

strategyThen I ask, what is the strategy we can assume from looking at the Scoreboard? We spend time discussing that a field goal does the team no good, they need a touchdown and since they have no time outs and 80 yards to go, they most likely won’t be running the ball. The defense is going to counter by using extra defensive backs, defending the boundaries so the offense can’t get out of bounds to stop the clock, and likely dialing up different blitz packages.

After we go through all the scenarios based on nothing more than looking at the Scoreboard I then ask the most important question of the former player(s). Do you expect that your teammates can read the scoreboard and know everything we just discussed? How would you feel about a teammate who couldn’t read the scoreboard, didn’t know how many points a touchdown was, and had to be told what to do in every case, then didn’t follow what they were told because they thought they knew a better way?

After I hear all the macho answers about the different ways that teammate would no longer be a teammate, I put up the second slide. It says, under no circumstances should anyone in the room answer any of the questions I’m going to ask next.

Then I put up ratings, AQH, Cume, Shares, ATE, etc. and I inform them that this is a radio scoreboard. Can you read it? Do you know who’s winning? Can you figure out how they put up those points? Can you develop a strategy based on what you see? If your answer to any of these question was no, are you being the best teammate you can be?

detailThe reality is they don’t need to understand all of the ratings minutia, that’s my job. What they do need to understand is that in the PPM world attention to detail matters, proper execution matters, getting one person in their target demo to listen for 5 more minutes a day can mean the difference between winning and losing, and being paid a bonus or missing out.

The Scoreboard meeting is meant to put everyone on notice of what my expectation is of them, all of them. It’s meant to appeal to their sense of competition. It’s meant to get them to come in for individual coaching sessions tailored to their level of knowledge and to get everyone on the team to the same basic level of understanding about why we do what we do and what my expectations are of them.

In the follow up individual meetings we go into what we can learn from the ratings and how we can manipulate them. They learn the importance of cross promotion with other dayparts, how to create a Target User Profile that defines who their audience is and help focus content decisions. They see the first of a few weekly reports, an On Time Report detailing how often they go into break on time ranked against the stations other shows and their competition.

I publish a “Social Media” report monthly that looks at Twitter and various social media follower totals that ranks them against other air talent in the market. There is a weekly website report that details the number views of their show page vs. other shows. I also publish a podcast download report that details the number of downloads vs. the stations other shows. Everything is designed to educate them on how they’re doing, how they can get better and to promote competition, the very thing former athletes thrive on.

algeIn my career I’ve had the privilege of working with both the good and the bad when it comes to former players transitioning to air talent. It was easy to see why Alge Crumpler was a four time Pro Bowler. He was a tireless worker who couldn’t put in enough time to learn his new craft. Former Quarterbacks Dave Archer and DJ Shockley came with the same preparation for show they put into a game plan.

Rodney Harrison recorded his weekly show for Westwood One from our studios in Atlanta and every week he came in with pages of handwritten notes well before his recording was supposed to start. I’ve also had to fire two very well known players from the Falcons Super Bowl team who didn’t give their radio jobs the respect it deserved. Both were hired by the competition and subsequently fired by them!

The New Year is only a few days away, and people treat the holiday like it’s some sort of life changing event, but the truth is, if the ratings and work ethic sucked last year, they’re going to suck next year. The way you change that is by motivating your staff to work as a team, and be laser focused on proper PPM blocking and tackling by tapping into the one thing they all understand – COMPETITION!

Bob Richards has served as an On-Air Talent, Program Director, Operations Manager, Vice President and Market Manager. He has worked in many different markets and formats can be reached by email at BobRichardsRadio@gmail.com or on Twitter @radiorichards.

Barrett Blogs

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 Blogs

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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