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Stealing a Page From The Donald Trump Playbook

Jason Barrett

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Over the past few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to relax, reconnect with friends and family in NY and simply enjoy broadcasting without dealing with the pressures of operating a brand each day. While the competitor in me enjoys the intensity of this business after nineteen years of day to day battles, a mental break was necessary.

While getting reacclimated in NY, I’ve had the benefit to simply sit back, watch/listen and allow myself to be entertained. When you work in this industry and live and breathe the job 24/7, it sometimes becomes difficult to appreciate the content being created each day and the people who are delivering it.

blankUnless you’ve been asleep for the past thirty days, chances are the name “Donald Trump” has appeared either on your television, radio dial, social media page or your mobile screen. It seems impossible for the news media to go a full day without reporting something the man has said or done.

As I’ve watched the latest news events unfold, I’ve become more and more fascinated with what I’ve seen take place and I’m not talking about political stances, debates or voting records. I’m talking about the brilliance of creating public interest.

Say what you will about Donald Trump and his arrogance, no holds barred opinions and bad haircut but he has simply created demand and curiosity and in doing so, there’s something to be learned from it.

blankFirst of all, he put himself out there by taking a strong position on illegal immigration. The second he announced he was running for President of the United States, he came out swinging by stating that Mexico was a mess and if he’s elected he would build a wall and have Mexico pay for it so illegal immigration changes could begin.

Some found the remarks offensive and some found them refreshing but everyone knew they had been said. In a time when other politicians were delivering white noise and talking generalities about making the country better, Trump came out and said “this is what I will do if elected“.

Then the firestorm began. Looking to seize the opportunity of burying the man and gaining some attention for their respective businesses, Nascar, Macy’s, NBC and Univision all pulled their associations with him. Heck, even Emmitt Smith announced he was departing as a judge for Trump’s Miss America pageant.

blankAnd here’s where things got really interesting – those who share his views on the country and believe in the freedom of speech, increased their support for him. As polling numbers rolled in, Trump’s went up!

Rather than tuck his tail between his legs at the first sign of trouble, Trump stood up and faced the heat from a large number of corporations and promised he’d not back down. Instead of being crushed by media soundbites and personal agendas, the people responded and asked for him to keep fighting. And he hasn’t stopped since.

What does this matter to sports radio you ask? Well it’s actually really simple – the best personalities in this format, locally and nationally, usually are known for speaking their minds and taking strong positions. When you stand for something and speak with passion and conviction, you cut through. You’re going to have your fair share of outspoken critics and public enemies but they’re all coming to the arena to see you perform because they know you matter.

blankSomewhere though over the past 10 years, since social media became a major force in our lives, it’s become harder to be yourself and share your views without being immediately taken to task. The second an uncomfortable opinion is spoken, the social media police are out, sales people are running scared out of fear of losing business and executives at the highest levels are quick to react rather than support. I know, I’ve had many sleepless nights over it myself.

Take a look around the world today and it’s becoming a case of everyone thinking their opinion should change the law, the way a company operates or the way we should all live. Whether it’s the reaction after a public shooting, the response to gay marriage being approved or a baseball player getting busted using steroids, the second a story is reported, the vocal minority are out there demanding change.

Now don’t get me wrong, there’s absolutely a difference between saying something uncomfortable and saying something offensive and irresponsible. You can’t go on the air and curse or deliver racially divise commentaries and expect to be supported. That’s poor judgement on the part of a personality. Case in point what Hulk Hogan was caught on tape saying last week was reprehensible and he deserved to be terminated for it.

blankBut most of the time, the great personalities who stand out in this format usually are brash, honest, controversial and unafraid. We ask our hosts to deliver compelling content and get audiences to listen for long periods of time but then want them to tone it down when it creates public chatter. If you didn’t see this story about ESPN asking Keith Olbermann to dial down his commentary, read it. It’s the type of situation I’m referring to.

What I find hypocritical is when a company hires a provocative personality but then terminates the relationship because they were bothered by the host’s uncomfortable positions. Why would you hire a controversial talent who lives on the edge and then ask them to not be who they are? If you signed up to put someone on your air who you knew would make a ton of noise and ruffle some feathers, and by the way grow your audience, then why are you surprised when they do?

Look around the world today at who’s standing out from the crowd – personal interests aside, there’s no doubt that Colin Cowherd, Bill Simmons and Keith Olbermann all make noise and create a reaction. Yet they’re all soon to be gone from ESPN. Two others at the four letter network who make noise and fit the description are Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless yet First Take is probably the most criticized show on the planet.

romebarkleyTake it beyond ESPN and you’ll remember the opinions of Jim Rome, Mike Francesa and Charles Barkley. There’s a reason, they’re colorful, candid, confident and uncompromising. That’s an art and it should be applauded because they have the guts to speak honestly rather than worry about the potential consequences they may face as a result of taking a firm position.

Switch formats to news and you’re usually talking about Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and Michael Savage. What are they known for? Creating a stir, making you think and evoking emotion. Yet anytime there’s a demand for someone to be ousted from a news network, those names are usually in the conversation.

Can you imagine if social media was around when Howard Stern began his reign of terror on terrestrial radio? Do you think CBS would’ve supported him the same way? Maybe they would have but given the way the world has changed the past few years, it’s very debatable.

freespeechSo to bring this back full circle, look at the impact Donald Trump has had in less than a month. It’s undeniable that he’s become a daily conversation in most parts of the country and that my friends is due to his being willing to stand out from the crowd. People want to hear what a personality thinks and whether they agree or disagree is not the point – it’s that they’re listening, consuming and being emotionally moved by the message.

Think about this for a second. If Donald Trump was a radio personality, would he be supported for the comments he’s made over the past month or would the industry turn on him like Macy’s did at the first sign of controversy? I’d like to say that we’d stand by his right to an opinion but I’m not sure that’d be the case. Yet who’d be at fault – Trump for being outspoken or the operator who hired him?

Remember folks, we pay people in this business to give strong opinions. Those who do so are going to have loyal fans and dedicated critics. I like SportsCenter as much as the next guy but I can’t recall the last time an opinion was shared on the program that got people talking. Yet, the second a personality like Bill Simmons speaks out about Roger Goodell, it is being discussed everywhere.

blankWhen you’re managing a brand, you want people to listen as much as possible but you also have to be true to yourself and stand up for your brand, beliefs and people. I’d rather tell a listener “I’m sorry we don’t have the type of product you’re looking for, have you tried some other options” than ask my people to create content that isn’t representative of who they are.

Everyone wants to be liked and receive positive feedback but it’s impossible to please every individual. Everyone today wants to feel empowered and believe they have the power to change what a brand or personality does and while I want the audience to have a voice and share in the creation of our content, I also believe that personalities, programmers and producers are hired because they know how to do a job and it’s important to give them the support and freedom to be creative, honest and comfortable. Former Utah Jazz Head Coach Jerry Sloan once said “I love the fans but the second you start listening to them for advice, you’ll soon be sitting with them“.

There’s this thing called a radio dial in every person’s car and if someone doesn’t like what they’re hearing, they have the right to change it. Most of the time they’re also paying zero to listen and we’re not only in the business of satisfaction, we’re in the business of creating compelling sports talk radio to drive listening occasions and ratings which will help us sell higher ad rates.

blankIf nobody listens, personalities and operators will receive the message and make adjustments. This is a business and without ratings, there’s less advertiser interest, and with less interest comes less revenue, which means the likelihood of a contract extension and salary bump for a personality also becomes less.

I saw a line last night that really stuck with me and it was by professional wrestler Jeff Jarrett. He said “To a critic, no explanation will do. To a fan, no explanation is needed“. That’s a really good line and it makes me wonder, if we’re not standing by the people we hire through challenging times, are we really fans of them in the first place”?

I know this, regardless of which side of the fence you’re on, you likely have an opinion of Donald Trump and you’re going to pay attention the next time he says something. That’s called cutting through and the Trump factor will be the reason why Fox News delivers record ratings next Thursday night for it’s Republic Presidential debate. That’s something we need more of in sports radio.

blankAnyone can fill air time and relay information, scores, facts and stories and if you have a strong guest booker, they can load you up with 6 guests to fill a show. But it’s those who paint pictures and share their true convictions, sometimes in a way that makes people cringe, that truly stand out. One line I like to use is “Say something worth stealing“. If you present yourself that way on-air each day, you’ll have the audience eating out of your hand, even when they’re not hungry.

At the end of your show you should be able to recall 2-3 positions that you took that made the audience react and think. Here’s a good way to get a read on it – ask your producer to write down three headline opinions in the show that create promo worthy material. If they can’t, and they’re sitting in a room across from you for 2-3 hours, then maybe it’s time to re-evaluate your content presentation or the producer.

You don’t have to listen long to Donald Trump to find 3 promos. It’s amazing what can be created and accomplished when just one personality believes in something and is willing to say it! And whether you agree or disagree with it doesn’t matter – it’s that you’re listening to it!

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BSM’s Black Friday SALE on BSM Summit Tickets is Underway!

Jason Barrett

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Each year I’m asked if there are ways to save money on tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit. I always answer yes but not everyone takes advantage of it. For those interested in doing so, here’s your shot.

For TODAY ONLY, individual tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit are reduced by $50.00. Two ticket and four ticket packages are also lowered at $50 per ticket. To secure your seat at a discounted price, just log on to BSMSummit.com. This sale ends tonight at 11:59pm ET.

If you’re flying to Los Angeles for the event, be sure to reserve your hotel room. Our hotel partner this year is the USC Hotel. It’s walking distance of our venue. Full details on hotel rooms can also be found via the conference website.

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Barrett Blogs

Mina Kimes, Bruce Gilbert, Mitch Rosen, and Stacey Kauffman Join the 2023 BSM Summit

“By the time we get to March, we should have somewhere between 40-60 participants involved in the conference.”

Jason Barrett

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The 2023 BSM Summit is returning to Los Angeles on March 21-22, 2023, live from the Founders Club at the Galen Center at the campus of the University of Southern California. Information on tickets and hotel rooms can be found at BSMSummit.com.

We’ve previously announced sixteen participants for our upcoming show, and I’m excited today to confirm the additions of four more more smart, successful professionals to be part of the event. Before I do that, I’d like to thank The Volume for signing on as our Badge sponsor, the Motor Racing Network for securing the gift bag sponsorship, and Bonneville International for coming on board as a Session sponsor. We do have some opportunities available but things are moving fast this year, so if you’re interested in being involved, email Stephanie Eads at Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com.

Now let’s talk about a few of the speaker additions for the show.

First, I am thrilled to welcome ESPN’s Mina Kimes to the Summit for her first appearance. Mina and I had the pleasure recently of connecting on a podcast (go listen to it) and I’ve been a fan of her work for years. Her intellect, wit, football acumen, and likeability have served her well on television, podcasts, and in print. She’s excelled as an analyst on NFL Live and Rams preseason football games, as a former host of the ESPN Daily podcast, and her appearances on Around The Horn and previously on Highly Questionable and the Dan Le Batard Show were always entertaining. I’m looking forward to having Mina join FS1’s Joy Taylor and ESPN LA 710 PD Amanda Brown for an insightful conversation about the industry.

Next is another newcomer. I’m looking forward to having Audacy San Francisco and Sacramento Regional Vice President Stacey Kauffman in the building for our 2023 show. In addition to overseeing a number of music brands, Stacey also oversees a dominant news/talk outlet, and two sports radio brands. Among them are my former station 95.7 The Game in San Francisco, and ESPN 1320 in Sacramento. I’m looking forward to having her participate in our GM panel with Good Karma’s Sam Pines, iHeart’s Don Martin, and led by Bonneville’s Executive Vice President Scott Sutherland.

From there, it’s time to welcome back two of the sharpest sports radio minds in the business. Bruce Gilbert is the SVP of Sports for Westwood One and Cumulus Media. He’s seen and done it all on the local and national level and anytime he’s in the room to share his programming knowledge with attendees, everyone leaves the room smarter. I’m anticipating another great conversation on the state of sports radio, which FOX Sports Radio VP of programming Scott Shapiro will be a part of.

Another student of the game and one of the top programmers in the format today is 670 The Score in Chicago PD, Mitch Rosen. The former Mark Chernoff Award recipient and recently appointed VP of the BetQL Network juggles managing a top 3 market sports brand while being charged with moving an emerging sports betting network forward. Count on Mr. Rosen to offer his insights and opinions during another of our branding and programming discussions.

By the time we get to March, we should have somewhere between 40-60 participants involved in the conference. My focus now is on finalizing our business and digital sessions, research, tech and sports betting panels, securing our locations and sponsorships for the After Party and Kickoff Party, plus working out the details for a few high-profile executive appearances and a couple of surprises.

For those looking to attend and save a few dollars on tickets, we’ll be holding a special Black Friday Sale this Friday November 25th. Just log on to BSMSummit.com that day to save $50 on individual tickets. In addition, thanks to the generosity of voice talent extraordinaire Steve Kamer, we’ll be giving away 10 tickets leading up to the conference. Stay tuned for details on the giveaway in the months ahead.

Still to come is an announcement about our special ticket rate for college students looking to attend the show and learn. We also do an annual contest for college kids to attend the event for free which I’m hoping to have ready in the next few weeks. It’s also likely we’ll give away a few tickets to industry professionals leading up to Christmas, so keep an eye out.

If you work in the sports media industry and value making connections, celebrating those who create an impact, and learning about the business from folks who have experienced success, failure, and everything in between, the Summit is worth your time. I’m excited to have Mina, Bruce, Mitch and Stacey join us for the show, and look forward to spending a few days with the industry’s best and brightest this March! Hope to see you there.

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Barrett Media is Making Changes To Better Serve Our Sports and News Media Readers

“We had the right plan of attack in 2020, but poor timing. So we’re learning from the past and adjusting for the future.”

Jason Barrett

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When I launched this website all I wanted to do was share news, insight and stories about broadcasters and brands. My love, passion and respect for this business is strong, and I know many of you reading this feel similar. I spent two great decades in radio watching how little attention was paid to those who played a big part in their audiences lives. The occasional clickbait story and contract drama would find their way into the newspapers but rarely did you learn about the twists and turns of a broadcaster’s career, their approach to content or the tactics and strategies needed to succeed in the industry. When personal reasons led me home to NY in 2015, I decided I was going to try my best to change that.

Since launching this brand, we’ve done a good job informing and entertaining media industry professionals, while also helping consulting clients and advertising partners improve their businesses. We’ve earned respect from the industry’s top stars, programming minds and mainstream media outlets, growing traffic from 50K per month to 500K and monthly social impressions from a few thousand to a few million. Along the way we’ve added conferences, rankings, podcasts, a member directory, and as I’ve said before, this is the best and most important work I’ve ever done, and I’m not interested in doing anything else.

If I’ve learned anything over seven years of operating a digital content company it’s that you need skill, strategy, passion, differentiating content, and good people to create impact. You also need luck, support, curiosity and an understanding of when to double down, cut bait or pivot. It’s why I added Stephanie Eads as our Director of Sales and hired additional editors, columnists and features reporters earlier this year. To run a brand like ours properly, time and investment are needed. We’ve consistently grown and continue to invest in our future, and it’s my hope that more groups will recognize the value we provide, and give greater consideration to marketing with us in the future.

But with growth comes challenges. Sometimes you can have the right idea but bad timing. I learned that when we launched Barrett News Media.

We introduced BNM in September 2020, two months before the election when emotions were high and COVID was a daily discussion. I wasn’t comfortable then of blending BNM and BSM content because I knew we’d built a trusted sports media resource, and I didn’t want to shrink one audience while trying to grow another. Given how personal the election and COVID became for folks, I knew the content mix would look and feel awkward on our site.

So we made the decision to start BNM with its own website. We ran the two brands independently and had the right plan of attack, but discovered that our timing wasn’t great.

The first nine months readership was light, which I expected since we were new and trying to build an audience from scratch. I believed in the long-term mission, which was why I stuck with it through all of the growing pains, but I also felt a responsibility to make sure our BNM writing team and the advertising partners we forged relationships with were being seen by as many people as possible. We continued with the original plan until May 2021 when after a number of back and forth debates, I finally agreed to merge the two sites. I figured if WFAN could thrive with Imus in the Morning and Mike and the Mad Dog in the afternoon, and the NY Times, LA Times, KOA, KMOX and numerous other newspaper and radio brands could find a way to blend sports and news/talk, then so could we.

And it worked.

We dove in and started to showcase both formats, building social channels and groups for each, growing newsletter databases, and with the addition of a few top notch writers, BNM began making bigger strides. Now featured under the BSM roof, the site looked bigger, the supply of daily content became massive, and our people were enjoying the increased attention.

Except now we had other issues. Too many stories meant many weren’t being read and more mistakes were slipping through the cracks. None of our crew strive to misspell a word or write a sloppy headline but when the staff and workload doubles and you’re trying to focus on two different formats, things can get missed. Hey, we’re all human.

Then a few other things happened that forced a larger discussion with my editors.

First, I thought about how much original material we were creating for BSM from our podcast network, Summit, Countdown to Coverage series, Meet the Market Managers, BSM Top 20, and began to ask myself ‘if we’re doing all of this for sports readers, what does that tell folks who read us for news?’ We then ran a survey to learn what people valued about our brand and though most of the feedback was excellent, I saw how strong the response was to our sports content, and how news had grown but felt second fiddle to those offering feedback.

Then, Andy Bloom wrote an interesting column explaining why radio hosts would be wise to stop talking about Donald Trump. It was the type of piece that should’ve been front and center on a news site all day but with 3 featured slots on the site and 7 original columns coming in that day, they couldn’t all be highlighted the way they sometimes should be. We’re actually going through that again today. That said, Andy’s column cut through. A few sports media folks didn’t like seeing it on the site, which wasn’t a surprise since Trump is a polarizing personality, but the content resonated well with the news/talk crowd.

National talk radio host Mike Gallagher was among the folks to see Andy’s piece, and he spent time on his show talking about the column. Mike’s segment was excellent, and when he referenced the article, he did the professional thing and credited our website – Barrett SPORTS Media. I was appreciative of Mike spending time on his program discussing our content but it was a reminder that we had news living under a sports roof and it deserved better than that.

I then read some of Pete Mundo, Doug Pucci and Rick Schultz’s columns and Jim Cryns’ features on Chris Ruddy, Phil Boyce, and David Santrella, and knew we were doing a lot of quality work but each time we produced stories, folks were reminded that it lived on a SPORTS site. I met a few folks who valued the site, recognized the increased focus we put on our news/talk coverage, and hoped we had plans to do more. Jim also received feedback along the lines of “good to see you guys finally in the news space, hope there’s more to come.”

Wanting to better understand our opportunities and challenges, I reviewed our workflow, looked at which content was hitting and missing the mark, thought about the increased relationships we’d worked hard to develop, and the short-term and long-term goals for BNM. I knew it was time to choose a path. Did I want to think short-term and keep everything under one roof to protect our current traffic and avoid disrupting people or was it smarter to look at the big picture and create a destination where news/talk media content could be prioritized rather than treated as BSM’s step-child?

Though I spent most of my career in sports media and established BSM first, it’s important to me to serve the news/talk media industry our very best. I want every news/talk executive, host, programmer, market manager, agent, producer, seller and advertiser to know this format matters to us. Hopefully you’ve seen that in the content we’ve created over the past two years. My goal is to deliver for news media professionals what we have for sports media folks and though that may be a tall order, we’re going to bust our asses to make it happen. To prove that this isn’t just lip service, here’s what we’re going to do.

Starting next Monday November 28th, we are relaunching BarrettNewsMedia.com. ALL new content produced by the BNM writing team will be available daily under that URL. For the first 70-days we will display news media columns from our BNM writers on both sites and support them with promotion across both of our brands social channels. The goal is to have the two sites running independent of each other by February 6, 2023.

Also starting on Monday November 28th, we will begin distributing the BNM Rundown newsletter 5 days per week. We’ve been sending out the Rundown every M-W-F since October 2021, but the time has come for us to send it out daily. With increased distribution comes two small adjustments. We will reduce our daily story count from 10 to 8 and make it a goal to deliver it to your inbox each day by 3pm ET. If you haven’t signed up to receive the Rundown, please do. You can click here to register. Be sure to scroll down past the 8@8 area.

Additionally, Barrett News Media is going to release its first edition of the BNM Top 20 of 2022. This will come out December 12-16 and 19-20. The category winners will be decided by more than 50 news/talk radio program directors and executives. Among the categories to be featured will be best Major/Mid Market Local morning, midday, and afternoon show, best Local News/Talk PD, best Local News/Talk Station, best National Talk Radio Show, and best Original Digital Show. The voting process with format decision makers begins today and will continue for two weeks. I’ve already got a number of people involved but if you work in an executive or programming role in the news/talk format and wish to be part of it, send an email to me at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.

We have one other big thing coming to Barrett News Media in 2023, which I will announce right after the BNM Top 20 on Wednesday December 21st. I’m sure news/talk professionals will like what we have planned but for now, it’ll have to be a month long tease. I promise though to pay it off.

Additionally, I’m always looking for industry folks who know and love the business and enjoy writing about it. If you’ve programmed, hosted, sold or reported in the news/talk world and have something to offer, email me. Also, if you’re a host, producer, programmer, executive, promotions or PR person and think something from your brand warrants coverage on our site, send it along. Most of what we write comes from listening to stations and digging across the web and social media. Receiving your press releases and getting a heads up on things you’re doing always helps.

If you’re a fan of BSM, this won’t affect you much. The only difference you’ll notice in the coming months is a gradual reduction of news media content on the BSM website and our social accounts sharing a little about both formats over the next two months until we’re officially split in February. We are also going to dabble a little more in marketing, research and tech content that serves both formats. If you’re a reader who enjoys both forms of our content, you’ll soon have BarrettSportsMedia.com for sports, and BarrettNewsMedia.com for news.

Our first two years in the news/talk space have been very productive but we’ve only scratched the surface. Starting November 28th, news takes center stage on BarrettNewsMedia.com and sports gets less crowded on BarrettSportsMedia.com. We had the right plan of attack in 2020, but poor timing. So we’re learning from the past and adjusting for the future. If we can count on you to remember two URL’s (add them to your bookmarks) and sign up for our newsletters, then you can count on us to continue delivering exceptional coverage of the industry you love. As always, thanks for the continued support. It makes everything we do worthwhile.

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