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Barrett News Media Has Relaunched To Better Serve Our Readers

“Starting today, we have relaunched BarrettNewsMedia.com. ALL new content produced by the BNM writing team will now be available daily under this URL.”

Jason Barrett

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When I launched this company 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 Barrett Media, 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 the BSM 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 BSM 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 the 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 today, we have relaunched BarrettNewsMedia.com. ALL new content produced by the BNM writing team will now be available daily under this URL. For the first 70-days we will also display columns from our BNM writers on the BSM website and support them with promotion across both of our brands social channels. The goal is to have our two sites running independent of each other by February 6, 2023.

Also starting today, 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 distribute it 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.

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 has already begun and will continue for two weeks. I’ve already got a lot 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 me an email 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 now have BarrettSportsMedia.com for sports, and BarrettNewsMedia.com for news.

Keep in mind that today is the return of BNM as its own brand. Though we love the layout of the new site, the team we have writing here, and the daily distribution of our newsletter, we’re going to keep making improvements. We’re excited about a few of the things we have in store for 2023 but as is the case with most brands, you learn what works, what doesn’t, and keep on adjusting to best serve your audience. That’s our plan.

Our first two years in the news/talk space have been very productive but we’ve only scratched the surface. Today is a new chapter. News is now featured on BarrettNewsMedia.com and BarrettSportsMedia.com is less crowded. 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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Barrett Blogs

Barrett News Media To Gather The Industry in Nashville in September 2023

“I’ve been lucky enough to play a key role in bringing the sports media industry together on an annual basis, and in 2023 we’re going to attempt to do the same for news/talk media professionals.”

Jason Barrett

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One of the best parts about working in the media business is that you’re afforded an opportunity to use your creativity, take risks, and learn if an audience or advertisers will support your ideas. Sometimes you hit a homerun, other times you strike out, but regardless of the outcome, you keep on swinging.

I’ve tried to do that since launching a digital publishing and radio consulting company in 2015. Fortunately, we’ve delivered more hits than misses.

When I added news media industry coverage to our brand in September 2020, I knew it’d be a huge undertaking. The news/talk format is two and a half times larger than sports, many of its brands are powered by national shows, and the content itself is more personal and divisive. I wanted our focus and attention on news media stories, not politics and news, and though there have been times when the lines got blurred, we’ve tried to be consistent in serving industry professionals relevant content .

What made the move into news media even more challenging was that I’d spent less time in it. That meant it’d take longer to find the right writers, and it required putting more time into building relationships, trust, respect, and support. Though we still have more ground to cover, we’ve made nice strides. That was reflected by the participation we received when we rolled out the BNM Top 20 of 2022 the past two weeks. Hopefully you checked out the lists. Demetri Ravanos and I will be hosting a video chat today at 1pm ET on BNM’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, and through Barrett Media’s YouTube page discussing the series, as well as this article.

It’s because of that growing support, trust, and confidence in what we’re doing that I’m taking a risk yet again. I’ve been lucky enough to play a key role in bringing the sports media industry together on an annual basis, and in 2023 we’re going to attempt to do the same for news/talk media professionals.

I am excited to share the news that Barrett News Media will host its first ever BNM Summit on Thursday September 14, 2023 in Nashville, TN. Our one-day conference will take place at Vanderbilt University’s Student Life Center Ballroom. The venue we’ve selected is tremendous and I’m eager to spend a day with news/talk professionals to examine ways to further grow the format and industry.

If you’re wondering why we chose Nashville, here’s why.

First, the city itself is awesome. The access to great restaurants, bars, entertainment, hotels, and famous landmarks is unlimited, and when you’re traveling to a city for a business conference, those things matter. Being in a city that’s easy for folks across the country to get to also doesn’t hurt.

Secondly, a conference is harder to pull off if you can’t involve successful on-air people in it. If you look at Nashville’s growth in the talk media space over the past decade, it’s remarkable. Many notable talents now live and broadcast locally, major brands have created a local footprint in the area, and that opens the door to future possibilities. I have no idea who we’ll include in the show, and I haven’t sent out one request yet because I wanted to keep this quiet until we were sure it made sense. I’m sure we’ll have plenty of interest in participating and I can’t promise we’ll be able to accommodate all requests but if you have interest in being involved, send an email to Jason@BarrettNewsMedia.com.

Third, finding the right venue is always difficult. We looked at a bunch of great venues in Nashville during our vacation this past summer, and when we stepped on to the campus at Vanderbilt University and walked through the SLC Ballroom, we knew it was the right fit. It had the space we needed, the right tech support, access to private parking, a green room for guests, and it was within walking distance of a few hotels, restaurants, and the Parthenon.

As I went through the process of deciding if this event was right for BNM, a few folks I trust mentioned that by creating a Summit for news/media folks, it could create a competitive situation. I don’t see it that way. I view it as a responsibility. I think we need more people coming together to grow the industry rather than trying to tear each other down. I hear this far too often in radio. We worry about what one station is doing rather than strengthening our own brand and preparing to compete with all audio options.

For years I’ve attended conferences hosted by Radio Ink, NAB, Talkers, and Conclave. I’ve even spoken at a few and welcomed folks who operate in the consulting space to speak at my shows. I’ll continue to support those events, read various trade sites, and invite speakers who work in a similar field because they’re good people who care about helping the industry. I believe BNM and BSM add value to the media business through its websites and conferences, and though there may be a detractor or two, I’ll focus on why we’re doing it and who we’re doing it for, and let the chips fall where they may.

I know juggling two conferences in one year is likely going to make me crazy at times, but I welcome the challenge. In the months ahead I’ll start lining up speakers, sponsors, building the conference website, and analyzing every detail to make sure we hold up our end of the bargain and deliver an informative and professionally beneficial event. The news/talk media industry is massive and making sure it stays healthy is critically important. I think we can play a small role in helping the business grow, and I look forward to finding out on September 14th in Nashville at Vanderbilt University.

Hope to see you there!

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BNM Top 20 Madness Begins Next Week

“The BNM Top 20 will be released EXCLUSIVELY on this website.”

Jason Barrett

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It’s been easy to label me a sports radio guy because I spent most of my radio years working in the sports talk format. I’m proud of those years and still work with many sports brands across the country but make no mistake about it, I am not defined by a format. I am a strategist, publisher, influencer, analyst, content creator, marketer, brand builder, recruiter, and advocate for spoken word programming. My passion for those things trumps my love of sports, news and other forms of entertainment.

I make that point because in September 2020 we took a leap into the News/Talk space and during the past two years we’ve done a lot of work to cover the format and elevate brands and individuals involved in it. I believe that if you know and value the business, understand the subject matter, study the brands and people, build relationships, deliver accurate and timely information, and treat those involved in the space with respect, it’s not hard to earn trust and support even if you previously built your identity in another format.

Next week, Barrett News Media will take another big step in strengthening its position with News/Talk professionals. For seven years, our biggest traffic driver has been the BSM Top 20, a 7-day series highlighting sports radio’s best brands, talent, programmers, and podcasters. It’s a series many in sports radio enjoy and it receives great voting participation from decision makers all across the format. We’ve previously discussed doing the same series for News/Talk given that it’s two and a half times the size of sports/talk, but the timing just wasn’t right.

Well, now, it is.

On Monday, we will officially launch the very first Barrett News Media Top 20 series. The seven day series will recognize the best talent, shows, brands and programming leaders in the News/Talk industry. What makes this series unique is that the results are determined by format program directors and radio industry executives. Each voter is asked to take into account a variety of factors including the quality of show (ear test), originality, ability to entertain-inform-connect across multiple platforms, ratings success, clearance (national shows) and industry buzz.

Listed below is the schedule for each day. Be advised that we split all local categories into Major Markets (#1-#20) and Mid-Markets (#21 and Below) and our Digital category features shows that are created for the audio/video space, not radio shows repurposed and available on-demand. There are plenty of those success stories too, but those get placed in either local or national radio show categories.

As I tell each voter, this is an inexact science. Picking the best host, show, station or PD changes from individual to individual. It’s why I involve a large group of decision makers. I also do that to try and avoid regional and/or company bias. Fortunately, we had participation from fifteen different broadcast groups covering thirty six cities, which is excellent.

Having run a sports media version of this series for years, there are always programmers who are uncomfortable voting. We went through that with this project too. We also had to navigate an IT issue with one radio group. In the end, everything turned out great. I knew a few PD’s would take a wait and see approach since they’re still learning about BNM, but 44 were excited to be part of it, and I greatly appreciate them making time to be part of our inaugural series.

The BNM Top 20 will be released EXCLUSIVELY on this website. We will also promote it in the BNM Rundown newsletter as well as across our BSM and BNM social channels. I want to thank Steve Stone Voiceovers for being our exclusive partner of this series. Those of you who work with Steve know how good of a voice talent he is, and how easy he is to work with. For those of you who don’t, visit StoneVoiceovers.com.

The industry’s collective snapshot of its best and brightest gets announced starting Monday December 12th and it ontinues through Tuesday December 20th. We’ll then make a big announcement on Wednesday December 21st just in time for the holidays. Get ready for the madness!

BNM TOP 20 OF 2022 SCHEDULE:

  • MONDAY DECEMBER 12: Top 20 National News/Talk Radio Shows
  • TUESDAY DECEMBER 13: Top 20 News/Talk Local Major/Mid Market Morning Shows
  • WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 14: Top 20 News/Talk Local Major/Mid Market Midday Shows
  • THURSDAY DECEMBER 15: Top 20 News/Talk Local Major/Mid Market Afternoon Shows
  • FRIDAY DECEMBER 16: Top 20 News/Talk Local Major/Mid Market Program Directors 
  • MONDAY DECEMBER 19: Top 20 News/Talk Local Major/Mid Market Radio Stations 
  • TUESDAY DECEMBER 20: Top 20 News/Talk Original Digital Shows 

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Barrett Blogs

Programmer Perspectives: News and Sports Talk Radio Aren’t Much Different

“A sports radio station needs be fun to hang around with. A news talk station has to be trustworthy.”

Jason Barrett

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Kevin Graham, Brian Long, John Hanson and Scott Masteller discuss the similarities and differences between programming news and sports radio.

A great program director can adapt to any format. They study the needs of the audience, adjust to the content, and take the experiences they’ve gained coaching talent, analyzing ratings, developing a social strategy, reacting to breaking news, writing imaging, and creating unique promotions and programming to energize the radio station’s they’re tasked with managing.

But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

If you look at the News/Talk format today, you’ll find a number of talented brand managers are now guiding powerful brands after previously making an impact in sports radio. John Hanson, Kevin Graham, Scott Masteller, and Brian Long are just a few who have made that jump, and been thrust into the fire whether ready for it or not. To their credit, they’ve each made smooth transitions and have led their brands thru a few challenging situations, proving one doesn’t need to spend a lifetime in a particular format to be an effective leader in it.

Though sports and news may differ in content, the fundamentals to executing successful talk radio apply to both formats. I was curious to learn what differences and similarities they’ve noticed between the two formats, how they’ve altered their imaging approach to connect with a different demographic, what their daily content process includes when deciding which issues to focus on, and whether or not the controversies surrounding President Trump are good or bad for their hosts and their radio station’s ratings. Below is my conversation with Brian, John, Scott, and Kevin. Enjoy!

Jason Barrett: What are the biggest similarities and differences in programming a News/Talk station vs. a Sports talk brand? 

Brian Long, PD at KOGO: Sports stations by nature have seasonal themes. The content is normally following the local teams ups and downs, trades etc.. This is similar to how N/T has election cycles, kids back to school, tax day, etc.. The biggest difference I see is that N/T frequently is forced to shift on a dime. You might have a great show planned with some high profile guests that must be scrapped due to an unplanned news event like an out of control wild fire. N/T forces you to operate with much more urgency with decisions on programming to effectively cover breaking news as it happens. Unfortunately, this typically seems to happen at off hours of the day and night. That’s not to say big breaking stories don’t happen in sports talk that require a pivot, it’s just less frequent.

John Hanson, PD at WCCO: Fundamentally, I consider them to be just about the same on the talk side, but with different starting points. So often now a sports story will bleed into the news cycle, and a news story will become part of sports. The ideas of being interesting, having a point, having a takeaway, and having pacing and good teases are all the same though. And personalities win. What’s different is often what the audience expects. A sports audience primarily expects to be entertained. A news talk audience wants more information and more to think about, albeit, often times, as long as the line of thinking aligns with their own.

Kevin Graham, PD at WBAP/KLIF: The only difference in my opinion is the content. Otherwise, it’s similar from the standpoint of servicing your local community/listeners (in sports talk your local sports listeners) in providing information, opinions, analysis and entertainment. You still have to manage your talent to best maximize PPM principals as well as provide content that interests your target listener. From a news staff standpoint, it’s providing fair and balanced coverage of the big stories that have the greatest impact with your audience. In the end the best personalities and content usually win.

Scott Masteller, PD at WBAL: Regardless of the format it’s all about the topics that you present on the air, and playing to the broadest set of the audience. Whether it’s a local station or national network, it’s important to have a perspective on what the audience wants to hear about when they decide to listen to your product. We know attention spans are so limited and if you waste time you lose quarter-hours. Understanding the interests of the audience you are playing to has never been more critical as the consumer has so many choices as to where they can go for content.

The other big difference I see is the volume of breaking news. News is the foundation of our radio station and in one day we can have multiple press events that we carry live from either Washington or in our own region. We have to be prepared for news elements at a moments notice, and then when it makes sense be able to pivot and offer the audience reaction and analysis.

Barrett: How does your approach change when it comes to the way you image and position a News/Talk brand?

Long: My team tends to look to find ways to make the station continue to sound credible and local. You want to create the sound that reflects the breath of the city & region in which you are operating. The main goal for us is to always evolve our listening environment and strengthen our position as the go to place when news events happen.

Hanson: A sports radio station has that sports bar approach to branding. It needs be fun to hang around with. A news talk station has to be trustworthy. There CAN and should be a fun approach to branding with news talk, in relationship to the talk part of the brand, but it needs to be done appropriately.

Graham: I’ve used the experience and knowledge I’ve gained over the years of managing sports radio imaging and have applied it to the News/Talk format. Being topical and in the moment as much as possible is key. In this world that’s a huge challenge with the constant churn of the news cycle.  Otherwise it’s the same from the standpoint of keeping your branding simple, to the point and targeted to your core listenership. And when it comes to big events for instance like the upcoming election, it’s just like covering a Super Bowl. Tell the story to the listeners of what you’re doing and when. Planning and producing pre-election, during the election and post election imaging pieces etc..

Masteller: I actually took much of what has been part of sports and shifted it over to news when  I made the transition. The words “urgency and anticipation” have always been part of the vocabulary for me when it comes to production and imaging. News changes so frequently and with that so does production. Many times we will put an element on the air and it may only run for six hours. We write new production every day as the news cycle is moving faster than ever before. There’s nothing worse to me then hearing outdated production on the air. Having a voice talent that understands the news cycle is critical to the overall sound of the station.

Barrett: In sports radio, the hits are easy to identify because they’re most often of local relevance. In News, it can be harder because global, national, and local issues all have significant value to local listeners. How do your talk shows decide which content warrants a deep dive, and which material only deserves a few minutes or a quick mention?

Long: Many stations have built their lineup with a mix of national and local talent. When this happens you can tend to lean deeper into the local/regional topics on your local shows given the national perspective is covered at other times. On a station like KOGO, we attempt to always cover what people are discussing. If a national story is making headlines, we won’t shelve it in favor of a local story that is of less interest. Like sports radio, we always try to play the hits.

Hanson: There is a lot of information out there. But only a percentage truly affects the day to day lives of our listeners. The successful shows are the ones that will talk about local issues and take information on a large scale, and explain how it matters to their audience. 

Graham: I keep it simple with my staff. We have a targeted listener and I remind them constantly to ask themselves of what he wants to hear, and what interests and impacts him the most. That’s what we should be talking about. On any given day that can range from something that is directly affecting the local community, to something that is happening statewide or nationally that has an impact, directly or indirectly, on our Dallas-Fort Worth listenership.  The upside of this format is there is never a crazy slow day because in the end there is always something happening that resonates with our audience.  

Masteller: It is a balancing act, yet it depends on the mission of the station you are programming. WBAL NewsRadio is live and local 18 hours a day.  What is happening in Baltimore and the region drives a lot of what we present. Our hosts must be knowledgeable on both local and national issues. We are in an Election year and the push to November will dominate much of the conversation. The key for us is to be able to localize the content whenever possible but always remember to play the hits. One day the biggest story may be in Baltimore and the next day it may be somewhere in the country. It’s also very important for talent to understand how consumers listen. When you have a big story the talent must understand you are presenting to different people every quarter-hour.

Barrett: President Trump is notorious for offering strong opinions on sensitive issues. Those remarks often fuel his fan base while igniting his critics. Are Trump’s controversies good or bad for News/Talk radio and ratings?

Long: It really depends on the type of station you have and how you’re positioned. When he was on the campaign trail prior to becoming president, the headlines he generated were unlike anything the media has ever seen. However, it seems people are now somewhat predisposed to the fact the he is likely to send out a tweet or make a comment on a given story so I feel like the initial shock value that was generated has worn off a bit.

Hanson: Some may disagree, but I’ve had many conversations with those I respect in the business and my own experience that both tell me, the more you stay away from getting into the daily tweets of President Trump, the better off you’ll be. When listeners complain about something that was either said for, or against him, I think it’s the first time I’ve ever believed a listener when they’ve said, they’ll change the station.

Graham: I think this varies from market to market and what your brand is.  In our case with our two News/Talk brands reflecting the conservative community that is the Dallas-Fort Worth metro it definitely doesn’t hurt.  Love or hate him, the President always has something to say that drives conversation. It’s much like having an outspoken star or coach in a particular sports market. It drives controversial content which in turn usually drives ratings.

Masteller: What the President says always draws reaction and what is most important is how talent react. To me one of the aspects I always talk to hosts about is ‘tone”. It’s’ not always what you say, it’s how you say it. I’ve always felt it is important to never be mean spirited in how you discuss any issue or any person. It’s more than ok to disagree, but you should do so from a foundation of fact. Everyone has an opinion about the President and what he says and that hopefully leads to more quarter-hours.

Barrett: Talk radio shows often feature a mix of strong opinions, storytelling, breaking news, features, calls/texts, guests, bits, etc.. What do News/Talk listeners value most and least from that menu of options?

Long: This is a mixed bag. It really depends on the show and the hosts. I find N/T listeners still want the engagement of calls, texts, guests etc.. By contrast, I don’t find them being all that interested in produced bits or comedy. However, it all depends on the show and the time it’s on. In the end, the audience is looking for a host to have unique opinions and perspectives. 

Hanson: I’m a fan of relying on what you can control every day. So strong opinions, storytelling, features, bits…these are all elements that can be controlled daily by the professionals that were hired to do the job. Calls, texts and guests, those are putting your show in the hands of the unknowns, so I see them as valued, but less important. Or more appropriately, less reliable. The audience tunes in every day KNOWING one thing they’ll be hearing, which is the host or hosts. Breaking news is interesting, because radio isn’t great at the actual breaking of news, but we can still reap the benefits because it’s often the first place people hear the news, and/or the first place they turn to for more information or reaction to the news. So that too is important

Graham: It’s a combination of all the above. Ultimately, like the sports radio format, our ratings are driven more on time spent listening than cume. So that means it’s incumbent on the entire team–hosts, producers, news etc. to be on the same page driving the content that our target listeners crave. If it’s a slower news day, the hosts/producers have to be more creative in coming up with content that their passionate about that connects/illicits an emotion from the listeners. If it’s breaking news or huge events/stories that are happening then everyone has to pivot to report, give opinions, get listeners to respond, and own that story which includes up to the minute imaging to capitalize on it as well.

Masteller: There is no answer that fits all as there are some talk stations that have a large commitment to news as well as talk content. Other stations are more talk-focused. You may also have more than one news-talk station in a market. Having a strong commitment to the audience you serve is what makes the difference. WBAL is based on a foundation of news with an intersection of personality driven content hosted by talent that have a pulse for the local community that they serve. The biggest thing for listeners is to not waste their time. The best talent are the ones that deliver payoffs to the consumer for every quarter-hour so they feel like their investment of time in listening is a good one. Personalities that develop a relationship with the audience and are not necessarily depending upon external events are very valuable because they become the main reason to listen on a consistent basis.

Barrett: If there’s one thing that concerns you about the future of the N/T format and keeps you up at night, what would it be?

Long: The format lacks enough gender and race diversity. In terms of conservative radio, the big change on the horizon is what happens when Rush Limbaugh decides he’s no longer going to do his show. This pending retirement is going to take out a huge tent pole that has been a mainstay for years on many stations. In addition, I don’t think the format is doing enough to focus on attracting a younger audience.

Hanson: The format needing to be more inclusive of all perspectives.

Graham: As a programmer of two news/talkers that are on the AM dial obviously the continued aging of the format is an ongoing issue. We’ve put a lot of emphasis and time in our building into our digital brands and distribution points for content and streaming whether that’s our app, smart speakers or something else. Unfortunately we haven’t seen the benefits from Nielsen just our own data, which is actual accurate listenership, and has shown that we have continued to build and post all time levels of consumption. Which then leads me to the other thing keeping me up at night…Nielsen but then again that applies to all PD’s regardless of format! 

Masteller: Finding new and different voices that are the talk-stars of the future. Giving them the teaching, coaching and feedback that will help them grow to the next level and be able to succeed as an on-air host.

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