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Are You Willing To Break The Rules?

Jason Barrett

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Last week I was introduced to a new television program. The show is called “Startup U” and it features a number of students and young entrepreneurs who spend 7-weeks at a place in the Silicon Valley called Draper University. Each person introduces an idea for their own business, and is then tasked with developing their product and skills, working with instructors on ways to pitch themselves and their company, and enduring the wrath of many highly successful business leaders. At the end of the season, each person pitches their idea to billionaire venture capitalist Tim Draper, who chooses one person to invest in and help launch their product.

blankSimilar to every other reality show, the cast are put through various challenges, forced to live together, and with each passing week you see the best and worst in people emerge. What made this show different though was that many of the ideas, strategies, reactions and coaching techniques were very similar to what I’ve endured during my career in radio. Even the final goal (winning Draper’s confidence and money) is no different than what broadcasters and radio companies must do each day (win over listeners and advertisers).

One particular challenge got the juices in my brain flowing. Two teams were asked to take part in a game of Volleyball, except Draper wanted them to change the game and make it better. Many involved in the game immediately questioned the purpose of the challenge, and others seemed unsure what to do because the concept of the original game had been permanently planted inside their heads. When new ideas were introduced, they included serving with both hands, serving multiple balls at once, and serving with your head.

While certain ideas were better than others, it got me to thinking “isn’t this the same exact challenge we face with radio“? I quickly recalled driving across the country in June from California to New York, and each time I reached another major city and flipped on a sports station, I heard a lot of the same things. Break times nearly identical. Voice talent, imaging and sports updates in sync with the companies who were running the format. Callers and Guests filling up each hour around a Host’s opinion on the local teams in the market. In a nutshell, there wasn’t much different between one station and the next, besides the personalities.

changeDraper challenged the people involved in the volleyball game that day to “break the rules, and make things better” and it got me thinking about whether or not enough of us in radio today care to do the same. There seems to be a lot of “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” thinking and that’s the type of mindset that eventually gets you caught. You can’t operate a winning brand with a narrow view of the present. If you’re not willing to embrace new ideas, take calculated risks and introduce new voices, styles, and concepts into your presentation, eventually it becomes stale, and when the audience tires of it, and drifts away, good luck getting them back.

I look around and I see an entire industry worrying about earning credit from a PPM meter, more than focusing on the importance of creating killer content that can’t be missed. I know, I’ve been guilty of it myself. But what about the world that awaits us? Are you prepared for the challenge that awaits from podcasting platforms? What about when digital dashboards overtake cars and many of the transplants in your market start listening to their favorite stations back home? How about when the age of your audience changes, and you find that today’s youth between the ages of 12-24 care about brands like YouTube, Spotify, Instagram, SnapChat, and Twitter and don’t even listen to radio?

Sure we have to keep our eyes on the current marketplace too and not be irresponsible, but those who develop great brands and hire talented people, can afford to break the rules, think different and challenge themselves to do things better. If you’ve earned the audience’s trust, they will stand by you while you introduce a few new ideas. If we’ve learned anything over the course of history it’s that people like new things.

I started racking my brain about the numerous things I hear on sports radio today, and what crazy ideas I would’ve come up with if Tim Draper had issued that challenge to me about improving sports radio instead of a game of volleyball. While I can’t say they’d all generate ratings, make more money, or even make sense, I know I wouldn’t have to be asked twice to break the rules to try and make things better. And after all, isn’t that why we do this job in the first place?

Here are some crazy things to think about. We can agree or disagree on their viability, but if you’re not thinking about what you’re going to do to make your product better and challenging yourself to do it, don’t be surprised when the day comes when your employer is looking for someone who does.

Commercial Breaks:

commercialsScan any sports station and you’re going to find the majority of them running 3 or 4 breaks per hour and the commercial inventory usually between 12 and 20 minutes per hour. That doesn’t include sports updates, traffic reports, weather reports, station promos, or recorded liners that lead a show in and out of a break. This is done because stations want to spread out the amount of minutes in a commercial break to not overload the audience, and because they’re trying to gain as much content time inside of a quarter hour to try and gain credit for listening from Nielsen.

However, Nielsen also recommends that stations take as few breaks as possible, as disruptions can often lead to tune outs which don’t return. So what would happen if a station ran one break during an hour during the quarter hour that produced the least amount of listening? For example, if listening was less between :45-:00, is a station better served trying to win the first 45 minutes of the hour and concede the final quarter hour or stick with it’s current formula?

What if the station went with two breaks per hour? Maybe 15 minutes of spots in a row is insane, but what if it’s 7 minutes instead? Is there much of a difference to the audience between a 5 minute break and a 7 minute break? Are you better served with 2 long breaks or 3 semi-long breaks?

If you’re not a fan of long breaks, what about shorter ones? Is it more beneficial to hit the audience over the head with 3 breaks that are 4 minutes long apiece, or give them 6 breaks that are each 2 minutes long? You can also argue, is your talent better delivering focused content for 6 segments which are shorter in length, or 3 which are a lot longer.

I recognize that radio stations want to sell all the commercials they can, but reducing the total amount of minutes per hour and charging premium dollars for ads is where the world is going. I’m sure doing that would lead to a short-term loss in revenue, and no operator or company wants to hear that, but I can watch a YouTube video or listen to a few songs on Spotify with only a :15-:30 second distraction. I can listen to a podcast with a few verbal plugs in content and no disruptions, and I can watch a show on HBO without commercials because I pay for the channel (SiriusXM). You can only force the audience to stomach long commercial breaks for so long. Once they go, then what are you going to tell your advertisers?

Not to mention, if people are coming to you for sports, why are you bombarding them with weather reports, stock reports and traffic reports? Are those items sports related? When was the last time you put on SportsCenter, NFL Live, Baseball Tonight or any other sports show and said “damn, I really want to know the weather”? If it’s strictly about attaching a client to a benchmark, create something different – maybe a team related report, a host commentary, a :60 debate between two personalities, or attach them to your products through social media or website. Your air time is precious and shouldn’t be cluttered.

Imaging Voices and Presentations:

I love Jim Cutler and Paul Turner, and think they are the very best voice talents in our industry today. What I wish we had though were more Jim Cutler’s and Paul Turner’s. Too many stations sound the same, and that’s because a lot of us do what others do, and we seek out those who we already know. If the format looked for on-air talent that way, we’d all be screwed.

I hired Steve Stone to be my voice guy in San Francisco, and I think the work he’s done in making 95.7 The Game sound unique is excellent. I also know how incredible Dawn Cutler is and I wonder “why aren’t more stations utilizing her full-time“?

tvIt raises the question about creating unique brand identities. What I love about television is how so many brands are different. I can turn on ESPN, Fox Sports 1, CBS, NBC or my local sports channels and I won’t hear the same thing. I can watch HBO, FX, TNT, USA and Showtime and the graphics, writing, imaging and voice talent will all be original. If it can be done on that level, then why can’t it be that way in radio?

Must every ESPN sports station and CBS sports station have the same uniformed sound and layout beyond the personalities? And it’s not just the voices, the bells and whistles with much of the imaging are laid out similarly too. I understand the reasons why certain brands do it, but I can equally call into question how it makes them predictable, and we can debate all day about whether or not it generates ratings.

Maybe I’m naive, but I believe there are some outstanding imaging directors and program directors out there who have the ability to make their brands sound distinctive. Each market and group of people are different, yet the same company formula exists. If a connection is made with the audience, and the brand name isn’t compromised, then does it matter if the people on the front lines take a different approach? Why must hundreds of sports stations have the same look, feel and sound, and stifle creativity?

Sports Updates:

While they were important to the audience 10-15 years ago, today many of them are filled with the same stories you hear the talent talking about. They also are often behind the pace of social media, which is where sports fans are seeking out their content first. I’ve always enjoyed them for one reason, it introduces another voice into the show, which provides room for extra creativity, but the update itself has become white noise in many cases.

scOnce again, if you turn on an ESPN or CBS sports station though, you’ll hear the same exact approach. ESPN brands will give you SportsCenter updates 2-3x per hour, and CBS brands provide 20/20 Sports Flashes 3x per hour. Does the listening audience really seek out this content and value it?

I believe the update is beneficial if it’s going to feature audio in it from other points of the broadcast day to try and engage the listener and give them reasons to listen more, or seek out the content later on the station’s website. I also believe it has value to advertisers since they can get a :10 tag included in them, and when done multiple times per hour, that can lead to numerous messages for the client. But what about the listener?

If we really value the audience, I’m not sure this content is vital. I’d rather see a radio station take their update anchor and put them into a position where they’re writing more content for the website, producing videos on the website, engaging more thru the station and their own personal social media pages, and sending them out to appearances and games to help the station gain something of larger value. I believe the anchor who has the ability to interact with a talk show host and take on more of a personality role in a show is a great thing, but I don’t believe that 3-6 minutes per hour of content time rehashing scores, game times, injury updates, and other lesser news, has great importance to the audience.

Show Lengths:

Based on economics, companies today will usually put a personality on the air for 3-4 hours per day. Hosts like it because they get to talk a lot and try out a number of things, and overall the approach makes sense because there are only so many hours in a day and you can’t employ 40 personalities per day or expect a host to be sharp doing a 6-8 hour daily show.

The one problem though is when it comes to judging its effectiveness. How many personalities really evaluate each of their hours, their content selections, their interview performances, the gains/decreases in caller activity, and whether or not they were better skilled at providing a 1-2 hour show versus a 3-4 hour show?

Most of sports radio today functions with people doing what they think and feel, and there’s no reason for them not to do that. But that’s because there’s not a lot of analysis being done on what does and doesn’t work. We usually give a personality their ratings, tell them if they gained or decreased month to month, and give them a pat on the back and tell them to keep moving forward. Rarely is the focus placed on “why” the numbers grew or dipped, or how to best take advantage of each hour of broadcasting time.

fallonIf you look at the best televison programs that deliver massive audiences, they usually involve a large cast, and are either 30 or 60 minutes in length. They maximize every single second of those programs with incredible content, and put hours upon hours into the presentation, including a lot of writing. For example, Jimmy Fallon delivers a 1-hour nightly show, yet he and his writing team will spend all day and night, making sure the product is crisp before it hits the air.

If radio employed Jimmy Fallon, it would expect him to deliver the same quality bits, interviews, punchlines and storytelling, yet throw him on the air for 4 hours per day with minimal preparation time, let alone surround him with a cast of 1 to 2 people. When the performance suffers, the blame shifts on the individual, the audience or the meters, not the process or support towards producing dynamic content.

I’m not sure it makes financial sense for radio stations to deliver 30-minute shows or 1-hour shows versus 3-4 hour shows but podcasters are doing this and growing larger and larger because they provide content which is often polished and shorter in length. People don’t have 3-4 hours of time to give to us, and they’d rather hear 1 great hour, instead of 3-4 good ones.

Show Styles:

routineLook at the rundown for most sports shows across the country and you’ll see the following hourly layout: 2-3 topics discussed, 1 guest, calls and tweets from the audience. Even when personalities promote their shows, it’s usually the same way – “Can’t wait to discuss last night’s game + guest A at ___ time and guest B at ____ time.”

If the show is built around the personality tweeting out the promotional message, shouldn’t it start with what they care about? If it’s a big guest I get that (EX: Podcast One last week had an exclusive sitdown with Shaq and Kobe – that you promote all day and night), but if you don’t provide some suspense in what you’re going to discuss, and just rely on the appointment times of a guest, you’re not leading the show.

That said, there are better ways to lay out a show too. If a host is great at taking calls but bad at interviews, why book guests on their show in the first place? If the situation is reversed, maybe it’s better to feature 6-7 guests and keep the host away from engaging with callers. The key is concentrating on their strengths and keeping each day interesting, not formulaic.

Have you ever considered making one day of your week only a football day? Only a baseball day? Only a day where interactions come from Facebook, Twitter, Email, Text or Calls? Maybe you create a day where you’re offering a series of 1-hour in-studio panels on themed subjects (EX: hour 1 = the host and 2 guests talking non-stop NFL, hour 2  the host and 2 guests talking non-stop baseball, etc.).

Some of this may work, some of it may not. Much of that depends on the host, producer, program director, and audience habits, but the point is that different things can be done, if you’re willing to open your mind to them. Not every day needs to feature the same layout, with the only difference being your topics.

Promos:

A good friend of mine Scott Masteller refers to promos as “content advancers“. While the word “promo” is seen as a commercial given to the station’s programming team to tout messages of their brand’s greatness, “content advancers” portray a message that the best content will be highlighted and discussed throughout the broadcast day. That makes sense to me.

However, if you listen to a lot of CBS sports stations, they put less stock in promos. While you can question why they wouldn’t use their time to promote things more, I recall attending a sports radio conference and hearing Jim Cutler say it best “A promo to the listener is a commercial disruption“. If the goal is to stay in content and eliminate interruptions, you can make the case that promos aren’t necessary.

sbIf they’re going to be utilized, then shouldn’t the writing, imaging, and frequency of them be analyzed? Some stations try to promote 10-15 things during a given week rather than concentrating on 3-4. Think about this, if you were running CBS Television during the week of the Super Bowl, you’d promote the game again and again. Sure you may have other shows on the air, and they’ll be promoted through other channels (social media, email, newsletter, website, text clubs, etc.) but priority #1 on the air would be the promotion of the Super Bowl.

Look at your radio station and ask yourself “which of my brand items is my Super Bowl“? Do you have 3-4 of them? If you’re not creating promos that stand out, offer something of value, and sound big, then ask yourself if they really need to occupy :30 seconds of air time.

Additionally, do you need 1 promo per hour? 2 per hour? 10 per hour? If a message is pushed enough and carries with it something of substance, it can be branded into the listener’s brain. The question is, how much is enough?

Often station programmers implement clocks and in them come set times for promos, usually a few times per hour. The only problem with that is predictability. While it may be a pain in the ass, mixing it up isn’t a bad thing. If you have higher audiences during two hours of morning and afternoon drive, you may want to push the messaging hard, and not run anything during the lighter times. It’s all about getting the most value, and utilizing your time wisely.

Liners:

linersI hear some stations go in and out of breaks with music beds. Some do it without any music or production. Others meanwhile have produced liners voiced by the station’s voice talent or a local athlete, which identify the name of the show, station, a slogan, etc.

There’s no right or wrong, but if you look at it from the standpoint of “is this worth airing 3-4x per hour, and taking up :30-:60 seconds of my broadcast time” then you should have a better grasp of whether or not it’s valuable. If you’re not going to use the liner to reinforce your brand position or offer something creative or memorable, get it off the air. They’re denying your best asset (your on-air talent) more content time, which could make a stronger impact with the audience. If you can’t put some time into the writing and imaging, and use them effectively, then save yourself the extra minute. It will only hurt you if it’s not done well.

The only question I have here is whether or not they serve a purpose even when they are done well. I can watch a show without liners leading into segments and it never takes away from my experience of enjoying it. Secondly, does a station need to have them in place every segment? Can you use them 1x per hour leading in or 1x per hour bumping out? Why must it be “always leading into segments“, “always bumping out of segments” or “not at all“. Once again, unpredictability keeps an audience engaged, and maximizing our seconds is necessary for having success.

Conclusion:

There are a number of things about sports radio that could easily be better. The most important one in my opinion is eliminating its predictability. The point of this article wasn’t to suggest that everything we’re doing needs an overhaul because that’s not the case at all. However, we should be thinking about whether or not we’re taking advantage of everything we have at our disposal, and if we’re testing ourselves as best we can. If we’re doing things because they’re simple and it’s how they’ve always been done, then that’s a bad reason to do it. Especially when the future depends on our ability to adapt and create.

suWhen I watched “Startup U”, I found myself thinking of the sports radio format, where it ranks, how it operates, what challenges it faces from other media platforms, and whether or not we have enough operators with the skill necessary to reinvent and make the format cooler. If our industry’s future was on the line, and we had to deliver a winning pitch to a room full of investors, how do you think we’d do? I’d like to believe we’d emerge victorious, but I’m not so sure we would. I guess that answer was predictable though.

 

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

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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 BSMSummit.com.

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 Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com.

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 www.FOXSportsRadio.comwww.FOXSports.com 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 CBSSports.com. 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

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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.

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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 BSMSummit.com.

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 Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com.

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 JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.

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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.

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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

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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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