Jason Barrett’s Observations on the Sports Radio Industry

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The World of Men 25-54
Posted on September 16, 2014 by  in The Barrett Blogs
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Defining success for a sports radio station can be measured in many different ways. There’s laying out guidelines and goals for what you expect from each individual. There’s bottom line revenue. There’s digital and mobile growth, social media engagement, connection in the community, content strategy and execution and of course the almighty ratings book.

PPM2Yes it’s true, the ratings game isn’t an exact science and of course most programmers complain about the lack of meters in each individual market but whether it’s fair or unfair, every single station in every market deals with the same system and your job is to deliver numbers that your sales team can use to generate more revenue for your company. Nobody complains when the numbers are good but we all piss and moan when they’re lower than expected.

I’ve had my share of ups and downs with numbers but I do believe they matter. As long as advertisers seek them and decide future ad buys on the station I operate based on them, they’ll remain a heavy focus for me. While it’s easy to make excuses and complain about the systems flaws (trust me they have plenty), everyone is playing the same game.

How many times have you seen the following “My station doesn’t subscribe to Arbitron/Nielsen because they don’t show our brand’s true audience. We remain focused on super serving our audience and advertisers“. When I hear that I start to chuckle because the real translation is“our numbers suck and we can’t convince anyone we have an audience so we’ll go on the offensive to defend our position so advertisers don’t pull their business from us”.

PPMThen there’s the talent side of things “I don’t believe in ratings. I’ve never seen a meter. I know when the show is good and we have a big audience because people see me and tell me they listen“. I’ve run 4 different radio stations in 3 different markets over the past 8 years and there’s always someone taking that position. What they mean to say is “I need an excuse to fall back on in case my numbers aren’t good because otherwise I’ll have a hard time asking for a raise in the future. Besides, I have a strong following on social media and that shows that I have a huge audience”.

In both cases I understand the skepticism due to what’s been created by Nielsen as a result of weak measurement but what I’ve yet to see is a radio station not reward an on-air talent or PD who was delivering strong ratings. Excuses come up when audience numbers are low but when they’re high, everyone brags and wants a pat on the back and companies usually reward you for it. Ratings are needed to justify the companies ability to command higher ad rates and your ability to deliver them is a critical part of your job. Without them as a host or programmer, your position could be in jeopardy.

Ask yourself this, how can we make money in this business if it’s based on subjective opinion of what we think of our own shows? Is a talent really going to walk into an office and say to a PD “My show isn’t as good as I thought it would be or what you hoped it would be and I sense the audience has checked out, maybe you should pull the plug on it“? Of course not.

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