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Why Strong Branding and Imaging Is Needed In Sports Talk Radio

Jason Barrett




In today’s radio word there are brands with a heavy focus on branding and imaging and others which put a lesser importance on it. Many have different strategies on why they execute the way they do and I respect that tremendously. Since though I tell my hosts to always have an opinion and not ride the fence on the subjects they’re discussing, I can’t be a hypocrite and not offer my own personal point of view on this topic.

Take a listen around the country and you’re going to hear some stations overly produced and some with little to no imaging creativity. Those which don’t put a lot of focus into their promos, rejoins, on-air branding campaigns, etc. instead use production to air generic station liners and sales supported promotional messages. Is that wrong? Not necessarily but I always wonder why that’s acceptable. We’re in the entertainment business and expected to be creative thinkers with unique ideas yet for some stations they choose to steer clear of that approach.

whyA friend of mine in the industry told me a few months ago that one of the leaders in his company asked “Why do we need imaging and production? We put too much emphasis on it“! He responded by letting this person know that he was nuts to discount its importance. As I thought about their discussion I wondered why one would think its value in what we do wasn’t critical. One of the true strengths of sports radio is the ability to make our format entertaining so when one suggests making it less of a focus it surprises me. Not that it’s wrong because it’s just an opinion but I believe in making a product more entertaining not more homogenized.

As a programmer, one of the real joys for me is when I get to spend time with my Imaging Director and Assistant Program Director and talk through the various ways we want to message things or strengthen the focus of our brand. We’ll sometimes spend hours brainstorming things especially if it’s a specific event or campaign and once that position is identified and we roll it out, it becomes really cool when you can see it and hear it communicated back through the audience.

appleFor example, when we launched 95.7 The Game, we made a decision to be aggressive and utilize the Apple vs. Mac strategy with our promos opposite our local competitor. Similar to a political campaign, we knew there would be people who would rally behind the message and some who would dislike it but regardless, we knew it would get people talking. We utilized our current imaging voice Steve Stone as the voice of the FM radio station and we hired Sean King, the former voice of our competitor to play the old and out of touch AM station. The contrast between Steve and Sean was excellent and to this day I still have people ask me about the campaign.

The full credit for the campaign’s brilliance goes to Jeff Schmidt our Imaging Director who not only knew certain intricacies about the market and our competition but also had a vision for how to bring it to life. To this day it’s one of the most fun campaigns I’ve ever been associated with. Here’s one example for you to enjoy.


While on the air it sounded cool, it more importantly got people inside our own building to recognize that we would be fearless in establishing our position in the marketplace. It also fired up local fans who were hungry for a new choice. One of the funniest and best examples of seeing the branding come to life took place a few months later when we held a contest to reward a local fan with an opportunity to host their own show on the station. At our very first audition, one guy showed up 6 hours before the contest wearing a custom made “F KNBR” t-shirt. That my friends is when you know your message has connected.

notinterestedThis subject always gets my juices flowing and lately I’ve wondered, can you imagine how much less interested we might be in television if they took the same approach as some sports radio stations do? How much less would we watch if we weren’t drawn to shows through promos? How much less familiar would we be with brands and their slogan’s if they weren’t pounded into our heads?

Would you know ESPN stood for the “Entertainment and Sports Programming Network” if it wasn’t explained to you? Would you know TBS to be “Very Funny” if they didn’t say they were? How about MTV and their position as “Music Television“? Ok that one we can forget since they hardly offer music anymore but hey they can’t all be grand slams.

itworksLet’s take it beyond television stations for a second. Think about the most popular brands who advertise on many of our radio stations. Bud Light = Here We Go, McDonald’s = I’m Loving It, Geico = 15 minutes could save you 15% on car insurance and Papa Johns = Better Ingredients, Better Pizza, Papa Johns. Why do these companies invest so many dollars in advertising and their marketing message? It’s simple…because it works!

Watch the MLB Playoffs, an NFL pre-game show on Sunday or your favorite local channel and how they promote an upcoming program and I guarantee you’re going to receive a strong degree of hype with one main purpose – to peak your curiosity and get you to tune in. These networks understand how to build anticipation and get you interested and they do an excellent job using creative messaging with music that makes you remember what you’re witnessing.

Case in point, check out this promo for the MLB 2014 Playoffs. You’ve likely seen it air during most of the games you’ve watched and by now now you likely have the Fitz and the Tantrums hook permanently implanted inside your brain.

One of my favorite shows on television currently is “Sons of Anarchy” on FX. Each week the shows delivers strong storylines, drama and action that leaves its fans on the edge of their seat. When you look at the way that the show is promoted at the end of each program and throughout the week through promos, it’s no surprise that the show dominates in the ratings. A great show combined with outstanding promotional support and creativity will lead to strong viewership. Here’s a look at one of the show’s promos. See if you can quickly catch on to the events on the show and feel the connection to the drama that’s about to unfold.

Taking a look at a lighter approach, here’s the promo which ran on Tru TV to launch the comedy show “Impractical Jokers“. Watch the clip and see if you can quickly pick up on what the show is about and whether or not you find yourself laughing and curious about what happens. Even if it’s not your cup of tea, I think you’ll agree it’s easy to digest and if you’re into lighter comedy, it should peak your interest.

When you listen to sports radio stations around the country today, ask yourself when you listen if you feel hooked by the creativity and suspense on your favorite brands outside of the main talk show content. I’m not talking about whether or not you remember the name of the station and where it broadcasts from thanks to the top of the hour legal ID. I’m also not talking about liners which lead you back into a segment and remind you of who the host is and the station they’re on. I’m talking about creative production which revolves around big events/games, tune-in opportunities, originality and brand messaging that strikes a chord.

cbsrI notice that a number of CBS sports stations in local markets as well as on the national network, utilize a similar sound. CBS sports talkers will traditionally use jingle packages, older music beds and the same imaging voice (Paul Turner) and be very simple with their approach (not all of them, but most I’ve observed). Given their success in numerous markets, you can say their approach works well for them. They focus on less bells and whistles and more on the nuts and bolts.

On the other hand, ESPN local stations and the network itself do some very strong creative production and present more flair for the dramatic while also winning in numerous markets with a very different philosophy. They also tend to utilize the same imaging voice (Jim and Dawn Cutler) and ESPN branded jingles.

When I listen to those two brands, I can tell instantly how they’re different. As a listener I like it because it provides me with a choice which illustrates that there’s more than one way to run a sports radio station. You’re rarely going to hear a thirty second promo hyping up one of CBS’ local talk shows yet on an ESPN station you’ll hear promos highlighting personalities and regular big name guests. On CBS stations they use liners heading into breaks or off of their updates to reinforce their shows, play by play events or sponsorable items whereas ESPN uses liners to introduce shows, segments or more programming centric items.

hookBoth approaches have their pluses and minuses but I tend to lean more towards the ESPN approach because I look at promos as a tool to draw more occasions to a radio station. The goal of a promo is not to fill thirty seconds of air time and showcase how cool you can sound with fancy editing tools, it’s to make people curious and hook them with interesting examples of your programming, personalities and the radio station. When you highlight personalities, guest appointments, play by play and strong campaigns effectively, they can have an impact on people.

Sometimes when we’re working on promos we forget that a promo in the minds of the audience is another commercial. While we separate it internally, those on the outside see it as an interruption and something that is keeping them away from their favorite talk show host for an extra thirty seconds. If it’s fun, suspenseful, entertaining or powerful, it can draw people in. If not, it’s a time filler and one more roadblock for the listener to navigate past.

As an example, if you’re going to promote a game and all you do is have the voice guy mention the two teams, game time and the position of the station, it’s predictable, not very creative and doesn’t generate an emotional response with your fans. But, if you do it like this, I think you fire up your fan base and get them more excited to tune in.


Ultimately, audiences will have different tastes. Some will like brands with a stronger creative delivery and others will prefer the opposite. However I believe that as more stations migrate to FM and new personalities are introduced, the ability to entertain and stand out is going to be more important. Those who wish to stay the current course can certainly do so but as new products continue to emerge, the risk of sounding mundane and trapped in yesteryear could become more problematic.

differentwayToday people are using Spotify, iTunes, iHeart, Pandora and YouTube (just to name a few), when it comes to hearing new music. In the old days, you’d have to wait for a certain time of the day for your favorite music station to introduce new songs. If that same mentality was kept in music radio today, stations would die quickly. Audiences have adapted to a new way of consuming music and they have much less patience or tolerance for clutter so it’s important to connect with them instantly or you risk losing them to other outlets.

Think about this. If the newspaper industry had been at the forefront of where new media was headed, would they have suffered as badly as they have? Today people read Twitter and Facebook first thing in the morning, not the local paper. I’m sure many in the print industry previously thought “we’re a dynasty, irreplaceable, we can’t be caught” but when people operate that way and stop evolving, they leave a door open for others to walk through. The way we now consume written content is much different than we did 10-20 years ago and it was created by an entire industry refusing to change.

scAs it pertains to sports radio or television, the same rules apply. Do you remember what was popular 20-30 years ago? ABC’s Wide World of Sports and ESPN’s SportsCenter were two very strong brands that during their time were seen as acceptable when it came to the studio sets, camera shots, use of video and jingles. Each show was well received by sports audiences. If those same presentations were being delivered today, they’d be rejected quickly because they don’t suit the wants and needs of today’s audience. Clearly ESPN adjusted and continues to do so which is why it’s always among the most powerful brands in America. For all of it’s imperfections, you can’t say they’re not committed to trying new things.

In my view, that’s what sports radio has to do too. Face it, people today can stream stations all over the country and they can download a show via a Podcast and skip interruptions. The goal is to make them want to experience it LIVE and if you employ great talent and enhance your opportunities for tune-ins by reinforcing the cool, dramatic and worthwhile content pieces on your brand through quality imaging, branding and production, you have a puncher’s chance of winning the battle for space inside one’s head.

audienceleaningYou also have to write in a way that the audience relates to and make your messaging sound fun, witty and interesting. The days of “get ready for a steady dose of hardcore sports talk with Joe and Jim” are over. If that’s your level of creativity, prepare to be bypassed by those behind you. Whether you’re a PD, APD, Imaging Director, Promotions Director, Host or Producer, if you’ve got any involvement in the messaging on your radio station, put the time into it because it will stand out favorably or negatively with the audience.

Much like we do with the subjects we talk about, we’re trying to grab the most amount of people possible to consume our content, so if your hosts are being paid to talk about the key things which will grab the majority’s attention, the production and branding of a radio station needs to be focused on the most important things too. I believe it’s much better to beat the drum of 3-4 strong messages then to overload an audience with too many things. Rarely does the majority of your material get consumed that way. Trust me, I’ve learned the hard way.

shapingWhen I look around the country today I find myself impressed by the production work done by a number of stations. Arizona Sports 98.7FM in Phoenix, The Ticket in Dallas, 98.7 ESPN NY, WEEI in Boston, 710 ESPN in Seattle and 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia are some who I think do a really nice job. I also think my current station 95.7 The Game does a strong job but its always harder for me to highlight my own brand because I’m too close to it. That said, credit is easy to give when you’ve got good people doing good work.

To bring this to a close, as I look to the future I hope to see stations in this format put a stronger emphasis on production value and recognize its importance in connecting with people. Listeners = supporters of advertisers and the #1 promotional tool for our radio stations. Why that’s not seen in a bigger light by everyone inside every building is puzzling. Add to that the increased engagement and activity from people through social media and you’ve got thousands each day to help spread your message.

Some companies will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a TV marketing campaign to tell local people they exist and when the commercial production process happens, numerous people from the station will get together, analyze every key detail and make sure there is a clear message presented for the viewer to consume. While that’s smart planning if you’re going to do a TV spot to promote your station, I could easily question why the same focus, energy and commitment of time isn’t given to the messages that are being delivered on your own radio station. Chances are you’ll promote your brand more on your own radio station then you’re going to on a television buy.

Sometimes when we’re in our respective buildings, we become creatures of habit and fall victim to taking the easiest path to get something done. If we concentrated more on our own messaging and creative presentation, similar to how we act when a camera is in the room and a light goes on, imagine what we might be able to offer our listeners. Who knows, maybe we’d surprise ourselves and provide more drama and entertainment value than even television can. I’m allowed to think that’s possible right?

Barrett Blogs

Colin Cowherd, Jim Rome, Joy Taylor, Don Martin, Sam Pines and Amanda Brown to Speak at the 2023 BSM Summit

“All six of these media professionals have enjoyed success throughout their careers and bring different perspectives, styles, and experiences to the room.”

Jason Barrett




I announced last week that the 2023 BSM Summit will be returning to Los Angeles. We had a fantastic experience in LA in 2019, and I expect our next conference on March 21-22, 2023 to be even bigger and better. But to do that, we need the right people on stage, and I’m excited today to reveal the first six additions to the show.

The 2023 BSM Summit in Los Angeles is proud to welcome FOX Sports Radio and FOX Sports 1 host Colin Cowherd, FOX Sports 1 co-host of the new weekday program SPEAK, Joy Taylor, CBS Sports Radio and CBS Sports Network superstar Jim Rome, FOX Sports Radio and iHeart Sports SVP of Programming, Don Martin, and the brain trust of ESPN LA 710, Senior Vice President Sam Pines and program director Amanda Brown.

All six of these media professionals have enjoyed success throughout their careers. They bring different perspectives, styles, and experiences to the room, and I’m sure those in attendance at The Founders Club at the Galen Center at USC will enjoy and appreciate learning from them.

We will have more announcements in the future about additional speakers to the 2023 BSM Summit. A reminder that if you work in the media industry and would like to attend the conference, you can purchase tickets and secure your hotel room by visiting

I’d also like to thank last year’s sponsors who have already confirmed participation in our 2023 event. The Summit isn’t possible without their support. For folks interested in sponsorship details for the conference, please email Stephanie at

Now here’s some press information about each of our six participants.

Colin Cowherd: He is one of the most thought-provoking and successful sports talk show hosts in the country, and has been a key part of FOX Sports Radio and FOX Sports 1 since September 2015. He is also the founder of The Volume, a digital-first sports media brand which has created an immediate impact in podcasting and on YouTube.

Cowherd’s three-hour sports talk program, THE HERD WITH COLIN COWHERD, airs simultaneously on FS1 and the FOX Sports Radio Network weekdays from Noon to 3pm ET. It is also available on and has a dedicated iHeartRadio station, available live and throughout the day. The Herd has been chosen by industry programmers and executives as the top national sports talk radio show an unprecedented six times in seven years as part of BSM’s annual Top 20 series.

Jim Rome: Jim Rome is heard nationwide hosting ‘The Jim Rome Show‘ weekdays from Noon to 3pm ET on CBS Sports Radio. The program can also be watched on the CBS Sports Network. The show delivers three hours of aggressive, informed sports opinions, rapid-fire dialogue, tons of sports smack, and is consistently supported by Rome’s legions of fans otherwise known as the clones.

Rome also delivers his unique take on the day’s sports headlines via the CBS Sports Minute, 60-second commentaries which can be heard hourly on CBS Sports Radio affiliate stations. He also hosts his own podcast, The Reinvention Project, contributes to CBS Sports television, and has previously been seen on ESPN, FOX Sports, and in numerous movies and TV shows.

Joy Taylor: Joy Taylor co-hosts FS1’s new weekday program SPEAK alongside Emmanuel Acho and former NFL running back LeSean McCoy. She has previously worked as a co-host on THE HERD, as the moderator of SKIP AND SHANNON: UNDISPUTED, and as the host of her own podcast, “Maybe I’m Crazy”. She has also hosted programs for FOX Sports Radio.

Prior to joining FOX Sports, Taylor spent five years in Miami radio, including a successful three-year stint at 790 AM The Ticket, where she was co-host for the station’s top-rated morning-drive program, “Zaslow and Joy Show,” after starting with the station as the show’s executive producer. Taylor also served as the host of “Thursday Night Live” and “Fantasy Football Today” on She is a Pittsburgh native and the younger sister of former Miami Dolphins star Jason Taylor.

Don Martin: A 27-year veteran of iHeartMedia, Don is currently the SVP of Programming for FOX Sports Radio, the EVP for iHeartMedia Sports, and the SVP of KLAC-AM 570 LA Sports. Additionally, he provides oversight of the iHeartPodcast Network, which includes more than 40 national and 100 local sports podcasts and exclusive podcast agreements with the NFL and NBA. Don has been a featured speaker at prior BSM Summit’s and was recently a guest on The Jason Barrett Podcast. To hear it, click here.

Sam Pines: A fixture with Good Karma Brands since 2000, Pines is now charged with leading ESPN LA 710 since GKB assumed control of local operations. Prior to taking over the Los Angeles sports brand, Pines served as the GM and Sales Manager of ESPN Cleveland from 2006-2022. He has written a sales and leadership series, “Time to Win”, which focuses on coaching relationship-based selling and marketing, and is also involved with numerous boards and nonprofits.

Amanda Brown: Amanda has spent her entire twenty year career in sports radio working for the worldwide leader in sports. Currently responsible for creating and implementing the programming strategy for ESPN LA 710, Amanda has enjoyed nearly twelve years with the LA based brand after spending nearly six years in Bristol, CT producing national shows for the ESPN Radio network. Her career started behind the scenes in Dallas, TX where she worked as a producer at ESPN 103.3.

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Barrett Blogs

7 Years of BSM and The Official Announcement For The 2023 BSM Summit

“Fast forward to now, and where this thing has advanced to is far beyond my expectations.”

Jason Barrett




Apologies in advance if some of this column feels like I’m giving myself and our brand a pat on the back. I am. When this company launched, many assumed I was just writing a few articles and biding my time until another programming job popped up. I had a number of friends say ‘there’s no future in sports radio consulting‘ and after putting my programming career in the rear view mirror to go home to NY, I wasn’t sure what was in store for me.

What I did know is that my interest in doing the same thing that I just did for the past decade in three different cities was gone, but my interest in working with brands and individuals was still very much alive. I loved creating and programming 95.7 The Game but my choice to come home was driven by personal reasons, not professional. I wrote in great detail about it back in February 2015 so if you’re not aware of my story and want to know more, click the link.

Some of you do know these details already so I’m not going to repeat myself. I also don’t like talking on this website about personal issues because that’s not what brings us together each day. Media news, insight, and opinion does. But when this day rolls around each year, I hope you can understand why I take a moment to celebrate it. I moved home with no job, no plan, and no business but 7 years later, here we are are still ticking.

Launching this company has been the best professional decision I’ve ever made. Erika Nardini just had this conversation recently with Mark Cuban and he said taking a leap when you have nothing is the best time to do so. As crazy as that sounds, he couldn’t have been more right. That said, it’s pretty humbling going from successfully managing a top 4 market brand and earning six figures to being unemployed with no income and not being sure what you want to do. There were many days where I wondered ‘what was this all for?’. I hadn’t been without a job for a long time but I didn’t want to rush into something I wasn’t excited about especially since I knew I had to take care of my son and wanted to set a good example for him.

When I announced I was leaving San Francisco, I said I’d consider staying with the company if a position could be created that would allow me to work from NY and travel to help brands. Entercom back then wasn’t as big as Audacy is now, so that wasn’t an option. That led to small talk about consulting but quite frankly, I had no interest in doing that. I thought consulting was something folks did at the end of their careers or others used as a temporary excuse to explain what they were up to after leaving a job. I was 41 at the time and felt I had two decades left to give to the business, and if I was going to go down that road, I’d do it differently.

As I began to clear my head and think about what was next, I decided I was going to create the position that Entercom didn’t have available except rather than being exclusive to one group, I’d be accessible to all of them. I wanted to make a difference in multiple cities and expand my reach beyond radio. Now I work with brands involved in radio, TV, podcasting, social media, sales, sports betting, etc..

I’m also very entrepreneurial, so the idea of building a digital company that focused on covering the sports media business had great appeal to me. I built my radio career by doing everything early on and saw that as an advantage. Back in 2015, there were outlets covering the radio business, but none dedicated to sports radio. Even the newspapers that wrote about sports TV and other media issues, often examined them with folks who hadn’t been on the inside for quite some time. I had recent experiences programming brands in three different parts of the country, I learned how to build a website, I didn’t mind selling myself, and I wasn’t restricted from writing and sharing my honest and candid opinions. That helped me give BSM life and a voice. I also had one other advantage. I was talking weekly with industry people, going to different cities to work with multiple groups and seeing up close why certain things worked and others didn’t. That helped me tell better stories, build deeper relationships, and assist clients with greater knowledge.

Fast forward to now, and where this thing has advanced to is far beyond my expectations. I’ve been presented with opportunities to work with groups I never expected. I’ve had people reach out to present opportunities, including purchasing the company, that others would be shocked were considered (Btw I’m not looking to sell). Our brand now generates hundreds of thousands in traffic per month thanks to an exceptional team of 20 writers which produces 35-40 pieces of content per day on the sports and news media industry. In fact, August was our best month of traffic this year. We were up 30% year over year. We create 5 podcasts per week, distribute multiple newsletters, consult a strong amount of media brands, sell and work with advertising partners to help grow their businesses, deliver content through social media channels that are followed by thousands of people, and host an annual conference, which is well attended and supported by industry professionals and broadcast companies.


Which brings me to the next part of this column – the 2023 BSM Summit.

After hosting our last two shows in New York City, I told all in attendance that our next event would return to the west coast. Finding the right city and venue takes time, and this one was tough because there were great options in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, but after reviewing the possibilities, I’m thrilled to share that the 2023 BSM Summit will take place in Los Angeles, California at The Founders Club at the Galen Center at the University of Southern California. The dates will be Tuesday March 21st and Wednesday March 22nd (we didn’t want to do dates that conflicted with the NCAA Tournament). Show time both days will once again be 9a-5p PT.

I couldn’t be happier with this location. The space we have to work with is fantastic, the people involved with USC have been great, and to bring a room full of sports media professionals to the USC campus will be awesome. We’ve also partnered with the USC Hotel which is within walking distance of our venue. Room rates and ticket prices for the Summit can now be found on

I know everyone will start texting, emailing, calling, and DM’ing to ask about tickets, speakers, sponsorships, the after-party and awards show, etc.. I’ll have follow up announcements coming soon about the first few speakers we’ve lined up. Most people attended the 2022 show live, but some checked out the show virtually too. I’m not sure yet if we’re going to make this one available virtually. If we do, we’ll announce it on the site at a later time. Like anything, if enough people want it we’ll find a way to get it done. In the meantime, Stephanie Eads is setting up conversations with former and future conference partners so if you have a sponsorship question, hit her up by email at

One thing I do want to ask of those who are planning to attend the Summit, email me to let me know what you’re interested in learning about at the show. We’ve been blessed to have some incredibly smart, successful people in the room, but as cool as that may be, I want to make sure folks return to their buildings afterwards with information to improve their operations. This only works if you take the knowledge and use it to help your brands and people. If anything in particular is of interest, please let me know by email at


As I look ahead to year 8, I’m extremely bullish on continuing our momentum on the sports media side. We’ve just added Eddie Moran as a new features writer, and if it makes business sense to add more writers or create additional podcasts down the line, we’ll examine those opportunities as they arise. A few years ago it was just Demetri and I running the day to day business. Now we have Stephanie, Andy, Garrett Searight, Arky Shea, Alex Reynolds, and Eduardo Razo involved, and though having a larger staff doesn’t guarantee success, I like how we’re positioned. If anything, our focus now is on doing impactful work not busy work. As much as I’d love to keep everyone and never stop adding, running a business effectively requires regularly examining what is and isn’t working. Having people involved who are passionate and consistently reliable is vital. If they can’t be then it means the fit isn’t right.

Having said that, I believe we can always get better. As we move ahead, I’m counting on my team to find and create more original content, strengthen and increase relationships, gain a stronger grasp of SEO, and collectively, we’ll work on improving our digital marketing to promote our content and develop better affiliate partnerships. One way the industry can help us in return, let us know when you create something on-air that might fit the site. Most of what we gather comes from finding it ourselves yet content gets created daily on sports TV and radio. We’re not going to write stories about sports opinions but if it’s media-centric, a heads up helps. So too does sharing our content on social media.

Though BSM is an integral part of our company’s future growth, I am equally as bullish on building Barrett News Media. We started BNM on September 14, 2020 and our first year was slow. We needed to dip our toe in rather than dive in head first, but over the past 9 months we’ve increased our relationships and our readers are now starting to see what we’re capable of. We’ve assembled a strong cast of news writers, reporters, and columnists, and just added to our team last week with the addition of Joe Salzone. Adding writers and consulting clients remains an ongoing process, and make no mistake about this, I want to help news/talk stations just as I have helped sports brands. Maybe down the line we’ll add a few news media podcasts too, but we have other things to focus on first.

For starters, if you’ve read this website over the years then you’re likely familiar with the BSM Top 20. It’s a series we produce recognizing the best in the sports media industry. It’s voted on by a large number of sports radio programmers and executives, and for 6 years in a row it has been our website’s largest traffic driver. I thought previously about doing a series for the news media industry, but because we had less help, little time, and an unfamiliar brand, I held off.

But that’s about to change.

Later this year, we will introduce the very first BNM Top 20 of 2022. This will include voting participation from news media programmers and executives, with the goal being to showcase the best national radio shows and podcasts, and the top local stations, shows, and PD’s from both the major and mid markets.

It will be a giant undertaking but it’s long overdue for our brand. Though I’m sure the process will be exhausting, I’m looking forward to sharing the results and shining a brighter light on the news/talk media business. When I’m ready to announce the dates and schedule for the series, we’ll reveal it here on the site and across our BNM social media channels. Stay tuned.


As I bring this column to an end, I’ll end by sharing a few things that have surprised me over the years. First, I’m seeing less interest the past 3 years from younger people becoming programmers than I did between 2015-2019. Is that because of the pandemic? The rise of sports gambling? A lack of confidence in the radio industry? As someone who’s helped 15-20 brands find and hire brand leaders, and talks to more people than most, that’s concerning.

I think sports radio also needs to do a better job of grooming people for these roles and showing them a path to long-term success. PD’s should be more actively championing their people for growth too than they do. If you value someone and want to see him or her reap the rewards for their hard work, you have to look beyond how it’ll affect your day to day duties. Focus on the big picture, not just what makes your life easier.

What should concern executives is the fact that in the past five years, sports radio has lost Armen Williams, Jeremiah Crowe, Joe Zarbano, Adam Delevitt, Tony DiGiacomo, Terry Foxx, Brad Willis, Chris Baker, Tom Parker, Jay Taylor, Kyle Engelhart, Hoss Neupert, and John Hanson. I’m sure I’m missing a few too. That’s a lot of programming experience out the door including some with decades left to give to the industry. Maybe some weren’t built for the job long-term or others were kicking down the door and ready to lead but in most businesses, if you saw that type of change in key management roles, you’d be questioning if it’s an industry you want to be a part of. If the veterans don’t stay or become too expensive, and the leaders of tomorrow aren’t sticking around, where does that leave us?

From the talent end, how are you helping yourself when there isn’t a job to chase? If the only time you contact a PD is to ask about a gig, don’t be surprised when your calls go straight to voicemail. Relationships are a two-way street. Build them when there’s nothing to be gained and you’ll be amazed at how it pays off later. By the way, that goes for me too. I get asked by a lot of people to find time when there’s trouble in paradise but when life is good, crickets. Those who keep in touch and support BSM/BNM whether that’s through a monthly membership or buying a Summit ticket have more success getting a hold of me. I’m not trying to be a hard ass but I’m not an agent, so building your career isn’t my priority. Taking care of my family and business partners is. However, I do help people and make time for many, but it’s got to work both ways. My members and clients know they can ask for something and receive an answer. Others I’ve built and maintained relationships with receive the same. But if you’re counting on me to help you find work and gossip about the business with you, I’m not your guy.

If there’s been a winner the past 7 years it’s been the growth of sports betting. As other categories have produced less, sports betting has emerged as an important growth driver for the sports format. And this has happened with most of the country not even legal yet. As more states give the green light to legalize sports gambling, revenues and content opportunities should follow. We will likely reach a point where consolidation comes into play and certain brands and companies overload their content in a way that makes them insufferable to listen to but for every few setbacks there are far greater reasons to be optimistic. In the past 7 years we’ve seen Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and YouTube become big players in sports television. Might FanDuel, DraftKings, BetRivers, Fanatics, Barstool and others do the same in the sports media space? That’s going to be an interesting follow for sure.

Knowing how everything can change in an instant, I take nothing for granted with BSM and BNM. This could all end tomorrow, and if it did, I’d look back on it as the best days of my professional life. I want to keep growing as a professional, while remaining an asset to my current partners, and finding ways to work with new brands and companies in both sports and news media. I’m also enjoying hosting a podcast again, and if you haven’t checked out The Jason Barrett Podcast, the latest episode with Colin Cowherd is a good one to start with.

The future for sports and news media may change but both will remain viable and important. I love that we’ve been able to be a small part of this business each day for the past 7 years, and I hope to make the next 7 years as fulfilling as the past 7. If I’m able to do that, it’ll mean the 20 years I spent in studios were needed to make a nationwide impact from a home office.

So on behalf of our entire team, past and present, thank you for reading the twenty thousand pieces of content we’ve produced since 2015. None of this is possible without an army of BSM/BNM supporters. I hope to see you in Los Angeles this March for the 2023 BSM Summit.

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The Podcast Movement Conference Made a Mistake Rejecting Ben Shapiro

“If this is a conference about podcasting, and you have someone in attendance who excels at it, has a massive following, and their company is supporting your event as a sponsor, why are you treating them like a disease?”

Jason Barrett




I’ve had the pleasure of attending multiple Podcast Movement Conferences over the years. Those involved in putting the event together do a fantastic job creating an action packed agenda full of accomplished speakers, and the visual displays and access to different brands and industry professionals have always been nothing but positive. It’s why I was disappointed this year when my schedule didn’t allow for me to make the trip to Dallas.

So imagine my surprise late last week when I learned the conference took a stance against Westwood One radio host and co-founder of The Daily Wire, Ben Shapiro

Shapiro’s company was a sponsor of this year’s show, and according to reports, the well known podcaster and radio host wasn’t registered for the event. He made a brief appearance at his company’s booth, shaking hands and taking photos with fans who stopped by to say hi, and his mere presence at the show led to some protesting his involvement on social media.

After learning Shapiro had stopped by, the Podcast Movement Conference posted a series of tweets which said “Hi folks, we owe you an apology before sessions kick off for the day. Yesterday afternoon, Ben Shapiro briefly visited the PM22 expo area near The Daily Wire booth. Though he was not registered or expected, we take full responsibility for the harm done by his presence.”

The conference added, “Those of you who called this “unacceptable” are right. In 9 wonderful years growing and celebrating this medium, PM has made mistakes. The pain caused by this one will always stick with us. We promise that sponsors will be more carefully considered moving forward. No TDW representatives were scheduled to appear on panels, and Shapiro remained in the common space and did not have a badge. If you have questions, we’re here to talk. Thank you for reading, and we hope you’ll continue to join us from here on out.”

A quick search shows that Shapiro has one of the top performing podcasts on the charts. According to Westwood One, it is downloaded over fifteen million times per month. In addition, his radio program is carried on hundreds of radio stations, he has 13 million followers combined between Facebook and Twitter, and his company, The Daily Wire, adds another 5.5 million supporters to the mix. They also showed they were supportive of the conference by making a financial commitment to sponsor a booth.

Having explained all of that I was stunned that the Podcast Movement Conference took this position. Let me be clear, it was a mistake. Their stance has led to a flood of negative attention over the past 72 hours, and it all could’ve easily been avoided. Though their next event is still a year away, given how much attention this story has received, it could have a carry over effect on future sponsorships and attendance. Only time will tell.

As someone who runs an annual conference, albeit much smaller, I know how hard it is to put an event together. What the Podcast Movement organizers put together each year requires a herculean effort, which is why I’m baffled that they picked sides in this situation. The media industry is large and full of people, brands and companies with different views and approaches to business and everyday life. The second you start judging and making decisions based on personal beliefs and/or social media activity, you’re in trouble.

I’ve long maintained that if someone works in the sports media industry and wishes to learn and share information to help improve the business, they’re welcome at our BSM Summit. We make changes to our schedule each year based on what we feel is topical for the attendees but we don’t discriminate, support one brand over another or allow personal views to dictate if someone can or can’t be present.

Case in point, at our March conference, I had a few people privately upset that I asked Craig Carton to speak. Craig’s prior arrest and time served in jail is well documented. First, I have a ton of respect for what Craig has accomplished, and I believe in second chances, but personal views aside, he’s the afternoon host in the nation’s largest market working for WFAN, a top rated sports radio brand. History has shown that he’s damn good and successful, and more than qualified to speak on the subjects we cover at our event. When a few folks expressed their displeasure with my decision I told them ‘If you’re not a fan of Craig, don’t attend that session. If it bothers you beyond that, I understand if you can’t attend the show.’

Quieting the noise gets easier when you focus strictly on the business. Making everyone happy is impossible when you organize an event, but if you allow multiple viewpoints to be present in the room, you end up in a decent place more times than not.

You also have to remember that social media can make things appear worse than they are. Is the issue you’re dealing with being raised by conference partners and supporters who attend the event each year or from someone who’s not in the building and thrives on creating a social media firestorm for the causes they oppose and fight against?

Some may recall that I dealt with a few headaches in 2019 prior to our LA Summit after folks involved with groups that had no interest or desire to attend our show started trying to create a controversy out of nothing. Though it was frustrating playing defense on Christmas night when individuals from the New York Times, Deadspin and WNBA teams started poking holes in our conference’s flyer, I learned an important lesson. As long as you do the right thing and have the support and trust of your friends, family, attendees, and partners, who cares what others think or say who don’t know you and aren’t in the room for your event.

That’s what I don’t understand here. Is Shapiro not one of the most successful podcasters out there? Was his company not a paying partner of the event? If this is a conference about podcasting, and you have someone in attendance who excels at it, has a massive following, and their company is supporting your event as a sponsor, why are you treating them like a disease? Most would roll out a red carpet for someone with Shapiro’s track record of success not publicly condemn them for showing up and sponsoring the show. I know I would. I’d also do the same for someone who’s equally successful and views the world the exact opposite way.

I can’t help but wonder how folks at Westwood One feel about this incident. Don’t they promote and support this conference and include their people in the event? Think they might object to one of their top personalities being treated this way? Furthermore, how about the talk radio format? It’s no secret that most of the programming on news/talk radio stations leans right. A number of top performing podcasts follow a similar path. It’s safe to say that most in the format are going to support Shapiro, and I don’t think that helps the conference with attracting future business and participation.

To be clear, I don’t listen to Ben Shapiro’s podcast or radio show, and I don’t read The Daily Wire. I only point that out because I don’t want anyone to assume that I’m supporting him because of personal interests or a professional relationship. We’ve never spoke or crossed paths. My opinion is based solely on the facts surrounding this situation, nothing else.

That said, I understand Ben has shared opinions that some take offense to and I don’t blame those folks for not wanting to be around him. But there’s a simple solution, don’t go near him or his booth. It’s the same thing I tell people who don’t like a particular radio station’s hosts or a piece of content on our website; if you don’t like it, don’t read or listen to it. The Podcast Movement Conference takes place in a large convention center. There’s more than enough room to keep everyone separated and happy. Last time I checked, there were attendees in the room who stopped by to meet Ben at his booth. Do they not count?

Look, you don’t have to agree with Shapiro, but this is a podcasting business conference, and it’s something he’s done at a higher level than most. That qualifies him to be there. You can’t get in the middle and start determining who is and isn’t allowed in based on personal beliefs or trying to please agenda driven people on social media. Would Podcast Movement tell Joe Rogan, one of the most successful podcasters out there, that he couldn’t attend if people who didn’t like his views on Covid-19 protested? What’s next, not giving out industry awards to stations and individuals who we don’t like or agree with? When does the insanity end?

Here’s the reality, there are likely other sponsors and attendees in the room who have views that some may consider offensive. Our content and advertisers aren’t just supported by good, honest people. There are thousands, if not millions, who listen and support us who are shady, sick, and morally bankrupt. That’s beyond our control. Our job is to inform and entertain, and make people care enough to come back regularly. If we do that well, sponsors will follow. Keep those things happening, and everyone remains satisfied.

Moving forward, the Podcast Movement Conference has to decide if it wants to be open to all or only to some. I root for the conference to do well. I’ve enjoyed attending previous shows and hope to attend future ones. But if they expect to maintain support and enjoy future growth, learning from this situation is important. There’s much more money in staying neutral than alienating one side of the room.

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