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A Millennial’s Open Letter To The Radio Industry

Jason Barrett

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For the past twenty to thirty years, sports radio has been led by many of the same personalities. And for good reason. They’ve built powerful brands all across the country, delivering big ratings and large revenues.

But soon the sports format is going to undergo changes and be tested to provide personalities that can lead us through the next twenty to thirty years. I’m often asked is “Who’s the next Mike Francesa? Where are tomorrow’s superstars? Will Millennials want to work in sports radio in 5 years?”

oneThe reason those questions can’t be answered are because it varies from market to market and programmer to programmer. Some believe it’s their responsibility to invest in the future and plan ahead, others are worried about winning today’s ratings battle and protecting their own position.

What gets lost in the shuffle is how disconnected from the future we are. There’s a limited focus placed on finding, developing, and promoting young talent. Maybe that’s not a grave concern at the moment, but when the format’s best personalities ride off into the sunset, and the day arrives when technology giants start exploring a move into the sports audio space, then what will radio do?

Radio may be well positioned as the in-car companion, and its transition to digital has drastically improved, but if exclusive sports content is offered on platforms like Facebook, Apple, Google, Twitter, etc. it’ll create a big challenge for the radio industry. In the current economic climate, these companies have more money, a larger reach, stronger stockholder support, and the full attention of the advertiser community.

socialI raise this point because younger people today are growing up interested in consuming content and working for platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and Facebook. The idea of working for a local newspaper or radio company is foreign to them. When I was young, options were limited, and the thought of being a radio personality or featured sports columnist seemed like the best job in the world. But today, media groups are launching everywhere on a daily basis, and as interest in the content increases in social and digital circles, so will the amount of career interest from younger candidates.

This is why radio can’t fall asleep at the wheel and needs to be committed to discovering new talent and making the industry cool and fun to younger people. Just the other day I was driving with my son, and when I turned on the radio, he said “Dad, do we have to listen to the radio?” I reminded him that this was my business, and one that he’s grown up around, and he said “I’m sorry Dad but my phone sounds better, doesn’t play all of those commercials, and more people interact on social media. Radio feels old to me.”

My son turns 14 this weekend so he’s not in the demo that sports radio courts to showcase its success, but if that view of radio continues over the next 10 years, it’s going to be harder to get people to listen, and even more difficult to lure them to work in the industry, especially when it pays considerably less.

That got me to thinking, what does a current radio professional who’s part of the millennial class think of the industry today? Is it fun? Is it a business that they see long-term growth and stability in? How do they feel about the coaching that’s provided and opportunities to develop?

craighoffman2Fortunately, Craig Hoffman was willing to share his point of view and I think it’s not only riveting, but it’s important for programmers, market managers, and corporate executives to pay attention to it. We can dismiss the way the youth perceive the industry and continue telling ourselves everything will stand the test of time like it always has, but eventually, the world does catch up. If we don’t make a more concerted effort on our part to bring young people to the party, it’ll only be a matter of time until the music stops playing and the lights go out.

Rather than take my word for it, here’s Craig’s column to give you something to think about.

A Millennial’s Open Letter To The Radio Industry by Craig Hoffman

The sports radio industry is in a very interesting place. It’s volatile. It’s rapidly changing. It’s very future seems up in the air.

At least that’s the way I see it.

craighoffmanMy name is Craig Hoffman, and I’m a 26 year-old free agent after I was laid off in Washington, DC. Before that, I spent nearly two and a half years in Dallas.

Despite my youth, I’ve seen a lot in my career.

I’ve had my station bought out, costing me a boss that believed in me, coached me and made me better, not to mention many qualified co-workers that created a quality operation. I’ve seen superiors stretched just as thin as those of us in the studio, as they too have been given more responsibility while the hours in a day and their wages stay the same. I’ve been told “we’d love to hire you, but we just don’t have the money” more times than I can count.

That’s obviously left me with some worries about where we are and where we’re going as an industry, so when Jason asked for people to write guest columns I jumped at the opportunity to write about those things from my point of view. I’m a millennial. I’ve been in top 10 markets. It’s an odd juxtaposition that gives me a different view than so many in our business, and certainly those running it.

I want to stress that I would have wanted to write this piece whether I had a job or not. I’m looking to make you think, and maybe get some responses that quell my concerns. I certainly know I don’t have all the answers. I probably have barely any of them, but I’m hoping some of you do.

I love sports media. I’ve studied the industry since I was 18 years old and decided to get into it. I want us, as an industry, to succeed. I want us to put out a product we’re proud of. I want that product to make us money.

microwaveHowever chief amongst my fears about both our present and our future is that we’re trying to shortcut too many things. I know that’s ironic coming from a member of the instant gratification, “microwave generation.”

Microwaves are great. They’re efficient. They have a purpose. That purpose is not to create anything worth eating from scratch. Shouldn’t our business be something prepared and served with care, not instant eggs?

If we want the very best quality, we need the best ingredients and to use them properly, to treat them well.

Jason wrote earlier this week about coaching, and I agree with many of the points he made. The de-emphasis of coaching is something that terrifies me as a young talent. I’ve gotten a lot of coaching from some of the best and brightest in our industry, but nearly all of it I’ve had to seek out. As programmers are asked to do more, talent development seems to be the one thing that gets pushed to the side.

qualityIt’s not just the quantity of coaching that’s important though; it’s the quality. How we communicate evolves and changes generationally. Societally, there are certain words that we just don’t say anymore because we’ve realized that they’re harmful and hurtful to people. Some people push back and say that’s PC and represents the wussification of America. If you’re ready to puff out your chest as one of those people, why?

The first step to effective communication doesn’t change by generation. That is to realize that the correspondence is about the receiver, not the sender. It might be the sender’s message, but if the person or people receiving it don’t perceive it in the way the sender intended, the communication has failed. In radio terms, the message has to be tailored to the audience.

crucialThe goal in all communication is mutual understanding. I can’t recommend the book “Crucial Conversations: Talking When the Stakes Are High” enough, which discusses this in great detail.

Mutual understanding doesn’t allow for the messenger to dictate the terms because the goal is mutual. So if you’re a programmer reading this and you’re “old school,” my generation probably thinks you’re an asshole, and you probably don’t care. You should.

I’m inclined work harder for a boss that I respect than a boss that I fear could lash out at me for a mistake. The only time fear effectively enters the equation is fear of letting that person I respect down. Learning how to work for any boss is part of being a professional. In the end, we all have jobs to do. However, if all you care about is me doing the job, then communicating in a beneficial way should interest you too, whether that’s in the form of coaching or day-to-day communication.

Is that the wussification of America? Some might say yes, but if you are let me ask you a question. Do you like being told you’re good at something? Or, if you’re not, being told that you’ve got potential? I’m pretty sure the answers yes. Who doesn’t?!

worthlessBeing told you’re worthless, or, to not be as extreme, merely a pawn in the chess game might harbor resentment that results in a short term positive in the form of motivation. It’s also going to result in an “eff you” attitude that will prove you wrong and then leave you to be successful elsewhere. That isn’t generational. That’s human.

Part of this equation of effectiveness is also financial. When you hold an anchor position in a top 10 market and make the equivalent of what a board op in market 84 does, that can be frustrating. On one hand you’re grateful to hold a position and earn a living doing what you love, but on the other hand, you have bills to pay and a higher cost of living to contend with. When I arrived in DC and told people what my best year of income had been up to that point, they were appalled. Do you realize how hard it is to appall a radio person when it comes to salary? We’re all making less than we should be.

I may have been young, but my company determined I could do the job with the evidence being that they hired me. Should a company get to give the young guy the job and pay him an amount that someone his age “should” be earning?

sdOf course, because that’s how a free market economy works! It’s supply and demand and it’s exactly why, even though I was living paycheck to paycheck I never considered quitting. I decided it was worth it to make that sacrifice. However supply and demand when it comes to human resources completely ignores quality.

There may be an endless supply of people who want to be in this business, but that doesn’t mean they’re all capable of doing the job, especially at the highest levels.

There are so many people who want to talk about sports for a living for the obvious reason that it’s a pretty sweet gig. If I weren’t willing to do that job, someone else would have snatched it up in an instant.

It was my choice to determine that the job was far more important than the wage, just like it was the company’s job to determine that the risk of me going elsewhere was not worth paying me more. That’s part of growing up in any industry.

nomoneyHowever, what makes me nervous is seeing so many talented friends drop out of the industry because at some point reality kicks in and you have to pay your bills. People also would like to have some semblance of a social life in their 20’s and by the back half of them, many are ready to get married and family becomes a consideration.

As the industry continues to shrink, this problem is only going to get worse. As syndication and automation continue to expand, there are fewer and fewer jobs, specifically on the entry level.

Overnights are no longer a training ground because they don’t exist. Now the best places to get reps are in bigger cities because they might actually run an operation that isn’t completely skin and bones, but even those shops are dwindling their numbers.

There’s nothing wrong with sacrifice early in your career. In fact, it should be expected. You give up something (the wage to live the life you want) to get something (the invaluable experience you need to get the job that will provide you that life).

My concern is that we’re asking people to sacrifice to the point of committing industrial suicide. 

pushMy concern is that in ten years we’ll have pushed so many people away and not developed our people enough that our quality will have dipped to a point that no one will want to consume it. Even if we take all the romance of the job and acknowledge the goal is to maximize profit, we’re going the wrong way.

So many companies are bleeding money, yet they all follow the same path. They cut. How many has it worked for?

Isn’t the definition of insanity doing the same thing and expecting a different result?

Maybe I am just a young, dumb millennial. Actually, in this case, that’d be great!

Maybe our industry is in a much, much better place than it seems. I certainly haven’t been privy to the books. However, I have first hand experience with the consequences.

Maybe I’m just a kid with a warped sense of reality because of a somewhat unbelievable string of bad luck, but there seems to be more and more evidence every where I turn.

So why stick with it? Why, if all this stuff is so awful, do I want to go through another job-hunt and dive right back in as soon as I can?

solutionsBecause I believe we can do better. We do this thing in sports where if we don’t have a perfect solution, we’d rather just not deal with the problem.  “Why do we have instant replay if we can’t even get it right?!” That’s not the right question. The right question is “why can’t we get it right?”

There are so many smart people in key places that are capable of getting it right, and there are reinforcements with new ideas and new ways of thinking on the way.

In sports talk, we’re lucky to be in a format that can’t be 100% replaced by syndication and automation. Our product requires humans. We are our most valuable resources. I hope that in the very near future we return to treating them as such.

 

 

 

 

To connect with Craig Hoffman on Twitter, click here. You can also read his blog by clicking here.

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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