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BSM Programming Summit Day 2

We’re live in Chicago for day 2 of the inaugural Barrett Sports Media programming summit hosted by Jason Barrett. This blog will be updated throughout the day so be sure to check back regularly for new information.

INTRODUCTION: Jason Barrett opens day 2 of the Barrett Sports Media programming summit welcoming back over 30 PD’s from around the country.  Jason explains the importance of telling your brand story and how it pays dividends with listeners, advertisers and the people inside your own hallways.  To illustrate the point, a video is played which shows how ESPN sells its impact across all platforms and why it benefits brands to associate with them.

SESSION 1 Day 2 – The State of National Sports Radio: 

  • Jason Dixon – SiriusXM
  • Adam Delevitt – ESPN 1000
  • Scott Shapiro – Fox Sports

Scott Shapiro – Our goal at the network is to bring in talent that local stations will find attractive.  We provide a service for local brands by offering great personalities and resources that they wouldn’t be able to afford.

We strive to service our affiliates because we’re only as good as they are.  Our most important stakeholders are our advertisers and affiliates.  Having an open line of communication helps facilitate our brand in your local market.

To judge how a show is doing we try to look at the bigger picture.  We look at every market every month but I try not to overreact.  Looking at each book in each market and even at a national level is important for measuring where you are and aren’t making a difference.

We had our biggest digital month ever, our digital numbers are growing, but my number one goal is to make sure our digital audience knows where to hear us live and terrestrially.  I wish we could do a better job of tracking and selling the digital audience numbers.

There’s a level of importance for national play-by-play, but viability is key.  Unless we get a deal that makes sense to be profitable for our affiliates, we’re not going to sign a play-by-play deal to take a loss.

We have a lot of solo shows, the goal is to get the best talent and a lot of time the show gets built around that personality, but we still regularly incorporate other voices into the show.

Adam Delevitt – Content is king.  Covering a big local story is harder to do with a national show, but a national show in a local market can work if it’s the right fit.  Mike and Mike had a lot of local ties to Chicago. Greeny worked at The Score, Golic played at Notre Dame, they were in Chicago a lot so it worked.

National hosts need to buy into wanting their show to work in all markets.  Hosts may not want to do 80 promos after hosting a four-hour show, but it’s something they need to do to work in other markets.  We try to send the network shows a lot of content.

National play-by-play is important.  A weekday national baseball game might not do great, but even if you’re only taking a little bit of the audience away from the local broadcast, it helps and having the playoffs and championship games are great.

Exclusivity of all ESPN personalities being on our station can be great and I’ll make a call if I hear an ESPN personality on a different station in the market, but sometimes I also think is it actually a bad thing?  If Jay Bilas goes on a non-ESPN station and promotes the brand for 10 minutes it might not be a bad thing.  It’s certainly not the end of the world.

Jason Dixon – Having Mike and Mike in Raleigh gave me a much better morning show than I could afford, but it was my job to recognize when we needed to go local.  If Duke played Carolina the next morning we’d decide if it made more sense to do a local morning show and skip Mike and Mike that day.  Local wins 99% of the time, but good content is still good content.

The relationships with the network producers, hosts, affiliate rep and programmers are important.  I could sometimes get the national guys to read something for our station, and we’d also send big local stories to the network shows which when it made sense, they’d talk about.

I try to use the ear test in determining our success at SiriusXM.  We track all data, but we can’t judge or track ratings the way terrestrial radio does.  We’re niche radio, and we try to identify which brands work and stay on our hosts, producers and PD’s to make sure their putting out a great product everyday.  On one hand there’s the freedom to live without these numbers, but on the other hand I don’t have this data to judge how a show is doing.

We have Mad Dog Sports Radio, and in my perfect world I’d love to see a west coast version, a southern version, a mid-west version and try to get sports stations covering different parts of the country.  It would be expensive, but it’s one thing I’d like to see in the future.

Any SiriusXM talent that another station wants to put on the air as a guest, let me know.  We love to have our talent promoting the brand and being heard on other stations.  You can’t have Howard, but any SiriusXM sports talent is welcome to be a guest on any terrestrial station.

SESSION 2 Day 2 – Nielsen: 

  • Jon Miller – Nielsen

Overall radio listening is down.  Fragmentation in the industry, radio listeners have other platform options, and those platforms are experiencing an increase as terrestrial radio slowly decreases.

The daily cume is declining slowly.  More people are choosing to use other forms of media everyday, so the daily audience from terrestrial radio is decreasing.  Each month there is a little less AM/FM radio use than there was last year.  Overall audio listening is up, but radio use is declining.

It’s important to focus on the “vertical” model, to get as many tune-ins during the day as you can.  You need to get the morning listener to come back and listen in the afternoon, but you also need to use the “horizontal” model, making sure you get the listener to come back tomorrow and everyday in the week.  Starbucks doesn’t try to get you to buy a larger cup of coffee when you’re there, they try to get you to come back tomorrow.  Starbucks’ goal isn’t to have the current customer spend more while they’re in the store, it’s goal is to make sure they become a repeat customer.  They look to sell more cups of coffee, not larger cups.  The same applies to sports radio.

We spend 80 hours a week consuming content.  Why should people choose radio?  Why should they choose your brand?  There are niche’s carved in talk radio that the consumer can only get from your brand.

Nielsen is evolving, we’re figuring out the digital numbers.  Currently, you get the most credit for your terrestrial brand.  Nielsen has not caught up to measuring digital platforms.  We understand stations are promoting their digital brand and need to get credit for those numbers, but measuring that audience has been more challenging than we originally thought.

SESSION 3 Day 2 – Bringing Your Imaging to Life: 

  • Jim Cutler

It’s effective to learn by listening to bad examples.  Put content into your imaging, not “fluff.”  Replace fluff with topical content, don’t waste time on-air.

Avoid:
– “You just don’t know what you’re going to get with the —- Show.”
– “The —- Show is unpredictable, you never know what you’re going to hear next.”

Focus on highlighting good content and what’s happening right now.  News talk and sports talk is a gift because it provides content to promote and put into your imaging.

Imagine if breaking news alerts on your phone said “Things are happening out there,” rather than giving you an actual alert or update.

You can’t say you’re “cool” and relevant by using liners that say “we’re number 1.”  Your listeners and callers are a better way of promoting that success and relevancy.

Recognize how long thirty seconds to your audience is.  If the promo or on-air discussion is wandering it will make your audience leave fast.  Jim then played an audio sample where he muttered “blah, blah, blah blah, blah” for thirty seconds.  It felt like an eternity inside the room.  Programmers were reminded to maximize the time available to engage listeners.

Where do you get non-filler for your station?  Look at YouTube.  There are a lot of bad aspiring broadcasters posting things on YouTube, but there are a lot of great ones too.  You no longer need a radio station to create content, but radio station’s are still magical and if you invest the time you can find good undiscovered talent.

Working with a radio station is a great way to promote a podcast.  Anybody can launch a podcast, but a radio station pushing the podcast as “this is something we can’t say on-air,” rather than just saying, “listen to more in our podcast,” is a way to get listeners.

Jim also played a few video samples demonstrating how music artists use fans in their videos to show how they matter, and closed out by answering questions from the room.

SESSION 4 Day 2 – Developing Your Social Voice (moderated by Bill Adee, VSiN): 

  • Brad Boron – Chicago White Sox
  • Jen Tulicki – Chicago Bears
  • Dan Moriarty – Chicago Bulls

Brad Boron – We work a little with players on how to use social media.  We show them what previously worked and didn’t work.  We can’t go down the road of telling players you should post this and you shouldn’t post that because fans are savvy and can tell what is genuine and what is not.  When Twitter was in its infancy, we could probably tweet on behalf of a player but now fans can tell right away.

People get news from many avenues.  We look at our account as what happens if we could never break news again?  We try to enhance information, not be a breaking source of information.  If someone comes to us for breaking news, great, but for people that already saw the news, they can still get something extra from our account.

We have a content calendar, but we don’t need to follow it too strictly.  We have a weekly content meeting where everyone brings in ideas.  The best thing that anyone can do to create content is step back and think about what’s something we can provide that no one else will.

I tell players, “Be crazy but with a purpose.”

Jen Tulicki – One of the great things about social media is it’s gray, there are no black and white rules for what will happen when you show up to work in the morning.  You never know what news can break that will change your content for a day.  Keep Twitter open and available to listen to your audience and fans.

A good social media post is authentic and we try to push the limits to create thumb-stopping videos and graphics.  When a follower is continuously scrolling, we want to make sure they stop on a Bears post.

Instagram is easy to delight our fans with graphics.  We put stories on Twitter and Facebook to try and drive people to our website.  Right now we’re prioritizing Instagram, creating those thumb-stopping graphics and engaging videos to attract people that tend to use Instagram as an escape from the news stories on Twitter, or posts from their friends and family on Facebook.

Quality over quantity is the smart way to approach social media.  Make sure you’re choosing relevant posts that offers something to fans.  We have a fan base of 75,000 on Snapchat and 700,000 on Instagram so prioritizing is something we have to do.  Although we want to be part of the fan experience in every social space, I’m OK with being less active on Snapchat and more focused on other platforms where we have higher interest.

As far as bombarding your fans with aggressive posts on Facebook are concerned, use common sense.  You don’t want your social media account to be seen as the friend that never shuts up.

Dan Moriarty – We try to talk to our entire fan-base, we have male and female fans of varying ages and backgrounds.  How do we differentiate ourselves from other social media accounts Bulls’ fans are following?

What’s happening in the real world is the biggest thing for us.  You need to “strike when the iron’s hot.”  If we’re losing by 20 points at halftime I’ll send half of our team home because we can put out great content, but if it’s coming after a loss, the interest isn’t there.  When Zach LaVine came back from his injury and had a good game in a win against his former team, we had the full social media team going until after midnight because fans were interested.

Buying followers is something that can quickly make you irrelevant.  An account might have 50,000 followers, but if their content is only getting one like, or less activity than an account with 1,000 followers, you quickly realize which accounts have legitimate followers.  The only way to gain followers is through good content.

At the Bulls we institute a six pillars strategy and for content to be posted it must check three of those six boxes. It also can’t be something that isn’t in line with our six pillars.

Your goal should be to create content that will lead to multiple posts across all platforms.  To do that you have to use different images, videos, shorter clips, behind the scenes stuff, etc.  By taking one piece of content and featuring in different ways, it allows you to get the most out of it and it doesn’t become boring or repetitive for the consumer.

If a radio company is suggesting to post nearly fifty times a day on Facebook that seems like a disaster waiting to happen to me.  However, I’ve seen the head of Facebook Sports show data about what works and high frequency can provide a big payoff, but most of the time it is driven by video.  If you’re not using video and just posting 50 times a day, that’s not going to help you serve your fans.  It’s only going to drive them away.

Social Media Tips:
– Get an iPhone Gimbal to stabilize and prevent shaky videos
– Use scheduling tools to continuously make social media posts
– Spend money on software
– Use Slack
– Use graphics

SESSION 5 Day 2 – Inside the Millennial Mind (moderated by Dave Zaslowsky):

  • Bernie Goin – I.M.S.
  • Julio Rasseuo – I.M.S.
  • Joey Alexander – I.M.S.

Julio Rasseuo – I still listen to regular radio, I use Tune-In to hear broadcasters throughout the country.  I’ve been a cord cutter for four years but I have a TV that was gifted to me except it’s never been plugged in.

Some of the personal talk and fluff is fine.  I’m investing my hours with a host on a daily basis so I don’t mind getting to know them, but you still want good sports content.

Content is key.  It doesn’t even need to be on the air.  If you’re a right’s holder give me as much team coverage as you can using podcasts.  In-terms of politics, unfortunately the line is blurred sometimes and you need to talk and listen to a political conversation.

I admire Dave Portnoy.  I’m not a Barstool reader or fan of the brand, but I admire what he built.  He took a risk with a digital platform and that’s an area where everyone in sports radio should be taking risks.

Joey Alexander – I had a teacher suggest reading a newspaper, but I didn’t even know where to get one.  It was foreign to me.  I get my news on Bleacher Report.  I never needed the paper.

Sometimes I’ll hear a station talking about something outside of sports, and it might be funny for a minute or two, but I want them to quickly get back into sports.  Too much time gets wasted on the air and as a younger guy I just don’t have time for it.

One topic which quickly turns me off is politics.  I don’t care about a host’s political opinions.  I hate hearing anything about politics on a sports talk show.  It’s caused me to venture away from ESPN’s TV shows.  “I go to sports to get away from the world, not hear about the world.”

Bernie Goin – I still like reading an actual newspaper, and like the variety that it provides.

Listening to sports talk radio, I find I don’t get enough sports.  After listening to a show I still need to search to get more sports because they talk too much about their personal life, especially on a local level.

A better way to humanize yourself is to tell me about your experiences as a fan, rather than your experiences outside of sports.

If I get a breaking news alert on my phone, I’m not going to the radio or TV to tell me what’s going on, I do my own research to find more information on a story.

Radio hosts need to portray that they care about what’s going on.  If you need to be angry about a team then do that.  As a fan, I don’t want to hear a host making excuses for a team or player.

SESSION 6 Day 2 – The BSM Blitz: 

  • Jason Barrett – BSM

Using social media in a creative way helps you drive tune-ins and extend your brand’s connection to the audience.  Look at the way Joe Fortenbaugh promotes his guests each morning on 95.7 The Game in the Bay Area.  It’s smart, creative, local and much more likely to grab a listener’s attention than the useless tweets some hosts send out with  few lines of text and no real call to action.

JB showed some additional samples of stations using social well, and others filling space rather than using it to their benefit.  One example that stood out was how WIP in Philadelphia captured video of their broadcast team during the final call of the Super Bowl and shared it with their fans.  The views and responses were tremendous.

For a PD, doing a Twitter takeover or Facebook Live is a smart way to build a connection to the audience.  It’s free research and it shows you value your listeners.  Even more importantly, it becomes on-air content because your on-air talent can have fun with.

Branded content has become a must for advertisers.  You’re going to need ideas to generate larger dollars in the future.  Relying on spots and added value features is a recipe for disaster.  Too often programmers are conditioned to say NO to advertising requests but if you’re the brains of the operation and trusted to know talent and creative content then you should also be able to help your sellers find ways of weaving business into content.

If you think branded content is posting an ad on Facebook or Twitter or doing a video endorsement for a client, then you’re asleep at the wheel.  It’s about making the client look cool and feel naturally connected to your programming.  A video sample was then shown which highlighted a 101 ESPN video spot, Bad Joke Telling by Whistle Sports and the Tourism Australia ad.  Barstool is another brand which is brilliant at connecting clients to content in a smart way.

JB asked the room to raise their hand if their brand currently sold merchandise.  Not one PD said they were selling brand related merchandise.  JB pointed out “the narrative on the industry is that revenues are flat to down, your brands pump out content 24-hours a day, so why on earth are you not using your megaphone and social platforms to sell product?”

Craig Carton sells merchandise on his website.  Crossing Broad in Philadelphia did a great job of selling Eagles shirts right after the Eagles won the Super Bowl.  Clay Travis has become a brilliant marketer using Outkick The Coverage to move t-shirts.  Perhaps the most perplexing example though is Barstool Sports who sold Mike Francesa t-shirts promoting great slogans such as “Can’t spell Francesa without FAN” and “Numbah One” while WFAN didn’t.

You have to recognize the connection your talent have in the marketplace and pick up on the catchy things they say and do and turn them around quickly because you’re leaving money on the table.  Barstool says merchandising represents a third of their business.  At this point, sports radio should be more than motivated to add NTR dollars.

In sports radio circles, KFAN in Minneapolis created cool t-shirts for the Minneapolis State Fair and by all indications they were a hit yet after the fair they’re not available on their website.  Why not?  What if ESPN New York had created a Don LaGreca t-shirt that read “FIX THAT” after he had his meltdown on the air a few weeks ago?  How much product would either of the Houston sports stations moved if they had pounced and created merchandise after the Josh Innes-Seth Payne situation on radio row?

The bottom line, you have to recognize what catches fire, react, and understand how merchandise can drive extra revenue for your brands.  There’s no downside to it either.  If customer demand isn’t there, you don’t print.  If there is, you do and it becomes additional revenue.  This should be a no-brainer.

If your airwaves are valuable enough to advertisers to purchase time on to sell products and important enough to audiences to listen to your content, then why aren’t you using the same space to grow your business?  If it means eliminating a few programming promos to run merchandising promos it’ll be worth the adjustment.

Shows need to be less predictable and programmers have to study the content, not just the ratings.  Look at the times when you take calls, bring guests on or even talk about specific teams.  Does a feature still have legs or has it run its course?  If you don’t surprise your audience, don’t be surprised when they’re tuning out due to fatigue.

Events such as a celebrity roast, or awesome events like Wing Bowl in Philly or Ticket Stock in Dallas are so important, especially during the dead zones of the sports calendar.  They allow you to make money plus create content and drive ratings during otherwise slower times.  Too often we live day to day and trust that the topics of the day will be enough but what good are they if the audience sees no reason to out on the radio?  Case in point, the week of the All-Star game in MLB.

SESSION 7 Day 2 – The Talent Perspective (moderated by Jeff Rickard): 

  • David Kaplan – ESPN 1000
  • Laurence Holmes – 670 The Score

David Kaplan – I appreciate the honest feedback from my program director.  After a show, he lets me know what segments he felt worked or didn’t.  The PD should be giving feedback, partaking in meetings and communicating with me, “Good, bad or indifferent, but let’s talk.”

I don’t want to hear from the PD during the show.  I know there’s a line.  I’m going to be opinionated and try different things, but it’s important to know the PD has my back.  You also need to have a boss that’s able to let you make fun of them on air because it’s entertaining and relatable.

My producer isn’t afraid to say to me “No, you’re out of your mind,” and I value that.  It takes time to build trust with a producer to have that conversation, but that back and forth and trust between host and producer is what creates good content.  I want my producers to get involved on-air.  I want the show to sound like three people having a good time, not just one person preaching.

Too many times people use guests as a time filler.  We’ve gotten away from jamming eight guests into a show and having guests for guests sake.  Fans tune into the show to hear my opinion, not a show packed with guests.

I despise people that tweet “Touchdown Bears.”  I love engaging on social media.  You can blast at me, I’ll come back at you.  If someone’s really over the top I’ll mute them because I don’t want them to get the satisfaction of being blocked.

Don’t say “good morning everybody,” say “good morning to you.”  I’m not talking to everybody, I’m talking to you and engaging on social media is a way to develop that personal connection.  One way I do that beyond the show, I’ll record videos of myself talking about stuff, tweet them out and use them to drive a reason to tune in at 9am.

Laurence Holmes – I want my PD to know that I understand what the current topics are, but if I’m trying something else, I’m doing it for a reason.  I’m trying to bring in a new audience.  If it fails, I’m okay with my PD saying don’t do that again.

If I get to the end of a show and we’ve used all the content I spoke to my producer about prior to the show, I feel the show was a failure because it means something didn’t take off or we had just enough content and sputtered towards the end.  I want a show to end with me saying we didn’t get to everything we planned.

Sometimes I get feedback from my PD during a segment, but usually it’s a funny text.  If there’s something he didn’t think worked, it will wait until after the show.  I want there to be two-way communication.  It can be great to have a PD offer a clear set of eyes to give a small suggestion, change things around a bit to make it better.

I realized over the last few years that I needed to get younger producers.  I need to make sure I’m updating my references because the 25 year old in the car might not understand them.  As a host, we think we know everything that’s going on, but I need a younger producer to tell me “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

If you’re filling time on your radio station than your wasting my time.  I don’t want you thinking about a segment that will just get us from point A to point B, anyone can fill time, not everyone can program time.

It’s important to understand where you can stretch segments and when you need to pay attention the clock.  PD’s know when we need to break and when we need to tease a segment, and hosts can all do a better job of paying better attention to the formatics of a show.

The most difficult thing for me is understanding the matrix of how many calls to take.  There are days you have to take calls the whole show, but nothing can derail a show faster than a terrible call.  I’ve done four hour shows with zero phone calls and walked away saying that was a great show.  I’ve done a show filled with calls that I thought was a great show.  I struggle with the daily balance of “should I be creating segments that generate calls or not?”

I remind people on social media that we’re watching a show together.  The social connection is similar to the one you build on air.  They’re both intimate mediums.  People follow you because they want your opinion and think your funny, so reach out to them, make them feel good about interacting with you and in turn they’ll listen to you.

SESSION 8 Day 2 – Winning With and Without Play-by-Play (moderated by John Hanson):

  • Mitch Rosen – 670 The Score
  • Ryan Maguire – KIRO-FM
  • Hoss Neupert – 101 ESPN

Mitch Rosen – The Bulls was a future buy.  We helped out this year since they were in need of a new partner, and we’re hopeful of them being a playoff team next year.  We push the Cubs a lot because being known as “The home of the Cubs” is priceless.  Nielsen told us the Cubs winning the world series was the highest rated event ever on Chicago radio.

If the team is winning, people are going to listen regardless of who is in your broadcast booth.  There are certain exceptions but the team brands will always draw an audience if they’re performing.

The Cubs are great content and better than any local show when they’re winning.  Some ratings success is attributed to having the Cubs, and some will say “they won because of the Cubs,” and I say “So what.”  We pay a lot of money to be “the home of the Cubs,” so I’m not going to apologize for it helping us bring in a massive audience.

We’re not the flagship for the Bears, but we use “Bears Monday” and “Bears Friday” where we fill the shows with Bears content.  We’re not the flagship, but we have days where we can legally use the “Bears” name and brand.

Ryan Maguire – The trick, besides monetizing being a flagship, is finding a way to take the broadcast cume and turn it into listening during primetime, M-F 6a-7p.

There is no replacement for live sports.  We live in an era of “on-demand,” and you don’t need to listen to your favorite radio show or watch you favorite television show live because you can access it later on-demand.  There’s no replacement though for live sports.

Experiential things from a rights deal is important.  Getting tickets to give to sponsors, not only to games, but other events going on at the stadium.

If a competing station is the flagship, you can do a longer pre and post-game show, build better shows, offer better coverage.  Encroach on the flagship space until you get pushed back.  It’s always better to ask for forgiveness, not permission.

Chris “Hoss” Neupert – We can get so deep in the rabbit hole of being controlled by a right’s deal and needing to provide them with so much programming.  We were the flagship station of the Rams, but since they’ve moved to Los Angeles our ratings have stayed strong and even increased.  We cover the team, but we don’t try to alienate the audience.

Use your rights deals to help you gain better access to coaches and players to help drive more listening to your weekday shows.  Tickets are always important too for listening and sales purposes.

Showcase the games even if you don’t have them on your station.  It’s OK to talk about games broadcast on other stations, both on-air and through social media.  It tells fans where to find them and they’re not dumb.  They’ll appreciate you more for your approach.  They’ll also come back to listen and react on your airwaves.

When you’re not the flagship you can be more honest and you can market yourself that way.  Most flagship pre and post-game shows are based around ads and crappy features, so be better than that.  Talent matters and you can build a better show with honest coverage.

CLOSING:  JB then went around the room with each programmer asking for their takeaways from the two-day event.  Many applauded BSM for putting on an action packed show but JB reminded them that it only works when programmers take the initiative to get out of the office and invest in their own development.  Even if someone isn’t able to attend a BSM programming summit, getting to a different event and picking up a few new tricks is critical to a brand leader’s professional development.

Brandon Contes is a freelance writer for BSM. He can be found on Twitter @BrandonContes. To reach him by email click here.

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