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Coaching Makes a Difference But How Much Does Radio Value & Support It?

“Most radio stations don’t arm programmers with a hitting coach or offensive coordinator. They expect one person to do it all.”

Jason Barrett

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I spent a lot of time watching baseball and football games this weekend. As I enjoyed some of the tension filled moments in these contests I thought a lot about the importance in coaching. One right or wrong decision makes all the difference in the final result, and prior to making the call, the head coach or manager leans on a lot of different people for professional advice.

You probably know this already but in case you don’t, the existing major league baseball playoff teams each employ between 9-12 coaches for their 25 main roster. In the NFL, the amount of coaching support doubles for teams due to having to manage 53 players. An NBA team which has a smaller roster still has support provided by 6-8 coaches.

Sports organizations invest a lot in coaching because they understand that it’s key to strategic decision making and for getting maximum performance out of players. If bad decisions are made and players don’t perform, the team doesn’t win. If the results aren’t good, neither are ticket sales, ratings or sponsorship dollars.

Now let’s take a look at how most sports radio stations support their on-air performers. In most top 50 markets, a station has a program director and a few capable producers. Rarely do you find stations with a PD and APD who doesn’t work on a show. If you have that type of arrangement in your building thank your lucky stars because you’re the exception. Things are even more challenging in smaller markets where many stations don’t even have a program director. If they do, they’re likely doubling as a host, sales person or the owner.

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In a number of these cases, producers in the building double up as the board op. In some situations, they deliver on-air updates too. Producer jobs are often filled by younger people working their way up in the business, not making a ton of money. Since they haven’t had the experience of leading an organization, they’re expected to support the host, not necessarily coach them. Ironically, the major market brands who utilize veteran producers, tend to generate better results and earn more buy in from talent.

But most radio companies don’t like to spend a lot on the producer position. If you compared the situation to professional sports, it’d be equal to a professional franchise employing a Head Coach and a few assistants, except most assistant coaches have experience, and many have previously led franchises. The coaching staff’s experience, intelligence, and strategic abilities help them earn immediate respect and trust from the players. They can also see things that less experienced professionals can’t, helping their players get an edge, which can sometimes affect the outcome of a game.

Step back for a minute and think about your talent. They are the equivalent of the Quarterback, Running Back, 1st Baseman or star Pitcher. They have natural skill and are vital to your brand’s ability to drive ratings and revenue, but no matter how gifted they are, even they need instruction, direction, and ideas to get the most out of their abilities.

When they don’t get it, what happens? They look for other opportunities. They develop a negative mindset and tell anyone who will listen how bad their place of employment is. Sometimes they’ll even confront management and speak their mind, creating tension with superiors. But shouldn’t they expect to be supported and pushed to be their best? If they are the engine in the car, shouldn’t you do everything possible to make sure the engine lasts awhile?

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If you’re a radio traditionalist you’ll probably say ‘but isn’t that the PD’s job?’ The answer of course is yes, but that’s due to lack of knowledge, poor job design, and an unwillingness to invest in support staff. Allow me to expand on that.

There are many in higher positions who haven’t worked in a programming department, and don’t know all that’s involved with managing a sports station. Due to that limited knowledge, they aren’t able to evaluate all aspects of how the brand leader runs the programming department. That leads to focusing on simpler things like ‘how the day to day issues were handled, was help provided to all departments, were costs kept under budget, are the station’s ratings good, and is he/she a good person.’ If all of those boxes are checked, they consider the programmer effective at his or her job.

But how can you place your faith in someone to lead one of your company’s most important departments if you don’t know how it runs, what they’re strong at, or how they operated at their prior place of employment? Shouldn’t you know if the PD can help talent improve at delivering on-air monologues, powerful storytelling or guiding interviews? If they have creative ideas and can keep a staff focused on talking about the things the audience values most? If they’re personnel recruiters? Staff Motivators? Ratings analysts? Event creators and organizers? Sales and Marketing leaders? Strong imaging writers and producers? Digital and social experts? Intern and PT staff trainers? Contract negotiators? Website writers and/or editors? Podcasting strategists? Audience researchers? Clock designers and schedulers?

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That sounds like a lot right? Well, it is. And those are just a number of the things a programmer has to do. I didn’t mention listening to the actual content, meeting with the staff to help them grow, interacting with the audience, managing up to keep corporate bosses happy, and studying local competitors to make sure the brand doesn’t fall behind. They’re of course supposed to do all of this too while everyone in the building bursts thru their door or blows up their cell phone looking for instant answers to their daily issues.

If you look at everything I just laid out, it’s easy to see why PD’s can’t be effective at every area of their jobs. How could they be? They don’t have enough time or support to do it all. Some PD’s are even asked to run 2-3 stations at a time. I don’t care how good the programmer is, they’re going to miss things when put into these type of situations.

But the same thing could be said for the GM in each building. So many are tasked with overseeing 3-5 stations in a building, taking local business meetings, participating on corporate calls, meeting with employees, and growing revenue. How are they supposed to analyze the work being done by their programming leaders, and help them grow professionally when a mountain of tasks sit on their plate too?

Inside most radio stations PD’s are asked to handle a lot. If they need help, they’re supposed to rely on lesser experienced staff or find answers on a monthly programming call with others in the company who aren’t in tune with their daily challenges. If that doesn’t work, they tell you to call an industry friend for advice. But who’s helping the the PD improve? This is especially concerning for first time programmers who get handed the keys to an operation, and want to do the job well, but don’t know if what they’re doing is right or wrong.

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I wonder sometimes what would happen if radio groups ran professional sports teams. I can’t help but think that the first area they’d cut would be the coaching staff. Never mind that they’re responsible for the brand vision, in-game decision making, and leading the organization’s most important asset – the players. One person should be enough to handle everything right?

I read a lot in the trades and listen to industry leaders at conferences tout radio’s value versus television, print, and digital media, and how we should earn similar investments from advertisers, but when it comes to supporting our content people, we don’t offer the same help. Take a look at how many are involved in filming a movie. Or how many contribute to the New York Times’ newsroom. Or how many play a role in making SportsCenter a nightly success for ESPN. Do you think that success is created by a handful of people?

I talked last week to an industry friend who programs a sports station and was very frustrated. He felt his GM cared little about programming, only the sales department, and as a professional he felt stagnant. He wanted to attend the BSM Summit to gain a few things to take back to his building but thought his GM would reject it because it involved an expense. I told him if spending a few hundred dollars was going to cause internal strife then he shouldn’t ask. It’s not worth the headache. But if something that small was an issue, it’d make me wonder about the way they’d handle bigger issues.

Another industry programmer told me last month that he was thinking about leaving the business because the support he receives is nonexistent. His exact words were ‘my boss has no interest in my professional development’. That was followed up by watching another friend and smart industry programmer get left out of key decisions despite doing a great job leading a local brand to strong ratings and navigating some bumpy roads. As a result, his station made a few questionable moves which have raised further questions.

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I went thru two experiences like this myself as a programmer, and have seen and heard a lot more of it since moving into the consulting space. It’s what made me initially hesitant to get into this side of the business. If stations don’t care enough to support their programmers, and judge their value based on the station’s ratings or their salary number then that’s foolish in my opinion.

When employers take little interest in the personal and professional development of their employees, it’s what leads them to consider career changes or seek me out for insight on industry opportunities. Most talent and support staff want to feel valued and important, but the same is true with brand leaders. If you aren’t giving the PD the tools to work with to grow, and meeting with them and sharing specific examples of how they can get better, you’re risking complacency or worse, their future exit.

There are still some great company’s out there who support their sports radio people and take a long-term approach to business (Hubbard, Bonneville, SiriusXM, etc.) but we need more of them. Radio executives may be focused on the bigger picture and all the challenges that await, but taking care of their own and investing in their development is a step that can’t be missed. If you don’t spend a few hours and pennies now to help them, don’t be surprised when it costs you a lot more time and dollars later.

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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