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Why Total Reach Matters More Than Ratings!

Jason Barrett

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One of the real benefits of being removed from the inside of a radio station, is that you can analyze things about the industry without having your judgment skewed as a result of being too close to certain situations.

During the past 10 years, I’ve programmed four radio stations, and during that time I’ve always looked forward to ratings day. Usually once per month on a Monday at 12pm, my station’s would receive their report, and get a better understanding of how the audience was connecting with the product, where the strengths of the brand were, and what challenges needed to be addressed.

moneyFor some air talent, this was an important day because a strong performance meant a ratings bonus. For sales people it mattered because a good story could help them in their quest to gain larger investments from clients. And for some like myself, it was an opportunity to learn if the vision and execution for the brand was working.

Having had a chance now to step back, and remove myself from the daily rigors of running a station, I don’t miss that part at all. I thought I would but I don’t.

I know what you’re thinking “you’ve always loved ratings, and you’re not in a building, so that’s why it’s not as big of a deal”. Honestly, my opinion is based on a bigger reason – in its current state, the performance of a personality, brand, and talk show, can’t be measured accurately or receive its fair market value!

I could spend all day railing on the ineffective PPM ratings system, but that’s not my focus. The issue I have is with the mindset of our industry, those who buy and sell advertising, and those who have a chance to influence change but accept the status quo.

One of radio’s biggest problems, is that it’s reactionary. Rather than lead the charge to innovate, and introduce new brands, sounds, and people, the business lives in the past, and present.

How many markets can you think of where a personality who has failed or underperformed in the ratings, gets hired by 3-4 different stations? Rather than take the more difficult road, and introduce something new which will have short-term setbacks, but pay long-term dividends, we default to what we are comfortable with. Someone else’s trash becomes our treasure.

That’s not only an on-air problem, it’s a behind the scenes issue too. Sales people rotate back and forth between various stations in each city, because the talent pool is thin, and scouting, recruiting, and developing people is hard. It doesn’t matter if someone has not made budget multiple times for 2-3 other brands, if they join our team, we’ll get them on track.

That sounds good until the leopard shows their spots and delivers the same exact results as they had before.

I’m not here to single out anyone, but I do want to draw attention to what I believe is the future of impact, and it’s something that should be keeping every single Owner, Corporate Executive, General Manager, Sales Manager, Program Director and Advertising Agency Buyer awake at night.

I’m talking about the power of reach!

There is too much confusion in our business right now about what matters when measuring the performance of a station and/or personality. There’s also a poor understanding of the worth of our products across multiple platforms. More sales people look at the sum total of what they’ve asked a client for, and judge the transaction as a win or loss based on if they get the sale, rather than analyze the entire worth of the package.

Let me give you an example.

mks If you are in New York, Michael Kay is a pretty big deal. He’s the voice of the New York Yankees, and hosts afternoon drive on 98.7 ESPN New York. His program is simulcast on the YES Network, and can also be heard on SiriusXM, the station’s website and mobile app, as well as through TuneIn and Slacker.

For those who can’t hear it LIVE, audio and video of the program can also be enjoyed via a podcast on the station’s website, Apple iTunes, Player.FM, and on YesNetwork.com. Michael is also on Twitter and has 146,000 followers.

This is what a major brand looks like.

The only question is, does the program receive its full value from advertisers who have their products and messages delivered to listeners on all of these platforms? I want to believe that they do, but I’m not convinced.

Why do I say that? Because in running stations in multiple markets for the past 10 years, sales people are more focused on hitting their number, rather than looking at what the value is of their brand and controllable assets. Advertisers, and ad agencies also have this belief that if they’re going to give you one hundred thousand dollars for three months of advertising, then you better give them as much bang for their buck as possible.

In many cases the sales person will offer “added value” sponsorships before a client even asks for them. Many reps also lack confidence, and a keen understanding of digital and social media advertising, therefore generating large dollars on them becomes nearly impossible.

Now listen, there’s nothing wrong with super serving a client, and hitting the budgeted goal that was set for the sales rep based on traditional radio advertising. But it’s foolish to think we’re going to drastically increase rates and get our worth from advertisers, when our entire history shows we undervalue our brands, and cause our own pricing problems.

975thefanaticThis past week in Philadelphia, WIP and 97.5 The Fanatic were engaged in a tight ratings race. WIP won the PPM battle which based on today’s standards means they were the #1 rated brand. However, the Fanatic’s streaming numbers were outstanding, which when combined with the over the air measurement, forced a dead heat between the two stations.

For both brands, they had a story to work with. Based on the existing model our industry works with, WIP is winning. Delivering radio ratings is what the talent are expected to do, and selling those ratings is what their reps are charged with. Except there’s one big problem – if these are the only two areas to concentrate on, how can the industry grow?

Do we really believe that advertisers are only going to care in the future about the way a station performs in PPM? Are sales reps going to only be measured based on how they sell traditional advertising?

We don’t seriously believe that listening through our websites, mobile apps, on-demand, and through other audio providers who we partner with doesn’t count do we? If a PPM meter picks up the audio signal then the listening counts, but if it doesn’t then the listener never really listened to our programming?

I’ve got a better chance of growing a full head of hair than listeners and buyers accepting that nonsense.

partyThis goes back to radio being reactionary, rather than out in front. Who’s fault is it that we have poor measurement? Ours! Who decided to make programming available in all of these other locations yet accepted a system where those listening numbers don’t count towards our proof of performance? We did.

How can we on one hand place our content across multiple platforms, and reward the user, yet on the other hand limit our own ability to demand larger dollars from clients? The system they use to determine whether or not our product performs, doesn’t take into account the total amount of listening in all of these other locations.

You can make a case that the listening being done on all of these other platforms is more reliable than the number you receive in your monthly ratings report. We can tell which days and times a listener clicks on a button and streams the radio station, and which content appeals most to them. Meanwhile, we can’t be sure if we have 100,000 listeners sampling the station on a radio, because that number is determined by 20-30 people carrying a meter.

We also don’t know if those who carry meters have left the device near the radio and walked out of the room, or if they really listen. We have little information about what their content preferences are, and if one meter breaks routine and is unavailable to listen due to a business meeting, vacation, or other distraction, it has a drastic impact on that month’s ratings for the radio station.

How crazy is this, an individual could have their device on, walk into a grocery store which has the radio station playing over the speakers, and if the meter picks up the audio signal for five minutes, that station will get credit for listening. It doesn’t matter that the person with the meter was only exposed to the audio, and not interested in it.

Is this really the best we can do for ourselves, our advertisers and our listeners?

I believe total audience reach and brand association should be priority number one for clients and operators. You can have a great ratings report, and that’ll be part of your story, but as I showcased above with Michael Kay, advertisers are smart enough to recognize when a brand has power to connect their product with a big audience. If you want to reach the largest sum of people, you invest in partnerships with people who have the ability to pull in customers from numerous locations.

mk3If Michael’s TV and radio ratings for the show were low, yet his streaming, podcast, mobile sessions, and audio partnerships were producing giant numbers, then he still has a big audience to offer to an advertiser. Sure it’s better if you have the ratings to go along with it, but listening is more splintered than ever, and the grand total of audience carries much more value than a monthly ratings report.

Think about this, if Michael sent out a tweet to his 146K followers promoting a company, and a bunch of people take his advice and buy the product, don’t you think that satisfies the client? Do they care where the lead came from? No! They simply want more customers, so they can make more money. If they associate with Michael, and their business grows, you better believe they’re going to continue investing in him, and his radio station, even as the rates increase.

If I was spending my money, I’d want to know that my company is reaching the largest audience possible, and providing a return on my investment. I don’t care what report you show me, I want to know that my message has been consumed, and it’s leading to results. However you accomplish it, and on which platform you do it, that’s irrelevant – just help me grow my business!

Voltair has already exposed PPM for having major flaws, and although Nielsen is taking steps to improve their measurement, industry leaders now question whether or not they are reliable. How are you supposed to change a perception when the reality is that the service isn’t 100% accurate? I’m not sure you can.

The most important lesson we’ve learned though, is that it’s the user who has changed the game. People want what they want, when they want it, on the platforms they consume content on, and it’s the company’s issue to figure out how to gain credit for the product consumption, and how to monetize it.

Case in point, look at Katie Nolan of Fox Sports.

katieIn Katie’s case, her reach is way more powerful than her television program. I’ve watched a bunch of her material and I enjoy it immensely, but I have only watched her on television once! I’ve watched her videos on YouTube numerous times, and I’ve clicked links that she’s promoted on Twitter and Facebook. I don’t set an appointment to watch her on television, but I do seek out her content.

Does that mean my viewing doesn’t count or matter? Of course not. It’s Fox Sports’ issue to figure out how to monetize the audience who consume her work in multiple locations, and it’s Katie’s job to simply produce outstanding content that keeps the audiences coming back, and expanding.

If an advertiser is smart, they’ll invest with Katie and Fox, because they recognize they have an ability to reach people. In the end, it’s about brand exposure, influence, and sales. If Katie can put eyeballs and ears on a product, then it shouldn’t matter where it originates from. It’s even more likely to work if that advertiser utilizes her for a personal endorsement. When a talent passionately gets behind a product, the results are often much higher.

There’s another side to this story, and it applies to the advertisers and ad agencies. They need to be part of this solution too. Radio groups have lived and died with Arbitron and Nielsen because it was the system that agencies believed best reflected the interest of the audience in the station’s programming.

Does it have some benefits? Yes. Should it continue to be utilized? Sure. Does counting streaming and mobile help? Yes. But if you’re an advertiser, and you’re utilizing an agency to place your advertising, you should want to see more specifics, results, and total cume across all media platforms, not just a radio and/or television ratings report.

Wouldn’t you want to see what an impact looks like for your brand if you associate your product with a station or personality’s Facebook and Twitter accounts? Wouldn’t you like to know how your brand benefits by being associated with the station’s podcast, and YouTube page?

Maybe your sponsorship includes an association to the brand through TuneIn, Slacker and iTunes. If a show is on radio and television, are you being featured in both locations, and how do you explain it if the advertising is working on the show in one location but not the other?

worthAfter all of that has been considered (and there’s many more ways to extend a sponsorship too), then you have to decide, which percentage of your buying should be higher on certain platforms, and lower on others. You also need to decide if you’re willing to invest more in reaching more people. For some clients, that’s not possible.

Is it a lot of extra work with enormous challenges for radio people and buyers? Yes. But we’re not living in a world anymore where television viewing takes place between channels 2 and 13, and radio listening happens only inside of an automobile. We owe it to ourselves, our clients, and our listeners, to do better in showcasing our brand’s true story.

The final piece to this puzzle, comes from the talent side. And this is an area that is going to give some operators and executives indigestion.

Talent today are paid to perform a radio program, which can also be featured on the station’s website, mobile app, and through other audio partnerships. If the program they perform delivers a strong PPM ratings performance, most groups reward them with a quarterly bonus.

Talent are also asked to endorse products in exchange for additional compensation, and most employers require that they contribute to their companies digital efforts either through creating additional written or video content.

But what happens when they start losing out on bonuses because the product is being consumed in other places where it impacts their credit?

What if a program delivers massive streaming numbers or podcasting numbers, but it’s not showing up on the ratings report? Shouldn’t the talent be incentivized for that? If they get behind the strategy, promote it effectively, and the station delivers record numbers on these platforms, which leads to increased interest and business from clients, shouldn’t the talent share in the success? Will bonuses change in the future and include performance incentives across all audio platforms?

digitalI hear radio companies today talk a lot about the importance of being stronger in the digital space, and users have already demonstrated that they will reward those efforts if the content available is good, and presented by personalities they enjoy reading or listening to. However, what I don’t see being discussed is how the talent shares in this space.

If you’re a personality, and you’re hired to host a radio program, deliver ratings, and help advertisers sell their products, and you check all of those boxes, you’ve done your job. However, if you’re willing to add on writing and creating video for the brand’s digital platforms, that’s even better. It shows you’re willing to do whatever it takes to connect with your audience, and support your employer.

But when that added work starts to register, and becomes profitable to the place of business, employers shouldn’t be surprised when a talent is back inside the office with their hands out asking for more. If you want to grow your digital performance you need great performers, and the talent will do the work, but eventually it will cost something.

In your place of business, do you have a bonus system in place for a talent if they deliver a certain number of podcast downloads? Do you have a rate card established for talent who endorse a client’s products on their Twitter account? Is there an incentive strategy for them if they produce written or video content and deliver an agreed upon number of clicks?

I’m not talking about “added value”, “we’ll get you some trade” or “we’ll throw a few bucks your way”. If we can create a radio ratings bonus structure to keep talent pushing to perform, then there should be other systems in place to reward them for taking on additional projects to help the company grow its digital footprint.

The mentality too often in our industry is to demand our people to do more, and fail to reward them for it. When we do that it usually results in them doing what was requested, but not emotionally getting behind it. It’s equivalent to reading a LIVE mention, and delivering a personal endorsement. One pays you, one doesn’t. Coincidentally the talent invest themselves in the LIVE spot, and breeze past the mentions.

This may require bigger conversations with multiple leaders, and different companies, but as the media landscape continues to evolve, this will become a bigger focus, and if we don’t start thinking about it and planning for it now, it could become a bigger problem.

choice2The last thing I’ll leave you with is this. Today, we place the content of our shows into multiple locations, which leads to splintered listening, yet we fail to build a complete strategy to capitalize on all of it. You can offer great content in ten different places, but the user is still only going to consume it in one. If you’re going to do that, and potentially impact your own performance on a platform which may be more important, shouldn’t you be sure that it makes financial sense to do so?

There’s a world out there that craves our content, but likes to choose when and where they get it. It’s our job to figure out how to capitalize on that interest, and promote our effectiveness across ALL channels, not just one measurement system.

To succeed there needs to be additional training, new ideas, and new people. You can’t expect everyone to grasp every new concept, and what they’re preparing for today, may not even be what’s important to your business’ bottom line in 2-3 years.

There is though one thing I firmly believe. If you want to command larger dollars in the present and future, you better have reach on your side. Total audience has more staying power, and long-term revenue potential than any other measurement.

My advice, be everywhere you can, and have a game plan for how you’ll present your data to those who are considering doing business with you. No client is going to reject doing business with you if you have a large audience to offer. Even if it’s built through multiple platforms. You can stick with what you know, and do what radio is notorious for doing, which is waiting for it to become a bigger deal. The only question I have is, can you really afford it?

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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