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Satisfying The Appetite For Sports Information

Jason Barrett

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Two weeks ago I read a column by Jason Whitlock and it got my wheels spinning. The outspoken columnist who recently left ESPN and returned to Fox Sports stated that we were witnessing the decay of journalism in sports media, and numerous media companies were guilty of allowing it to happen.

Much like any written piece, there were areas that could be disputed, but in general, I felt he raised a number of valid points. There’s no question that the public has a big appetite for sports information. Social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook have increased the interest, speed, and accountability for quality reporting, and most of the content produced on sports radio, television, and websites, is built from it.

rosenthalBut for every major network who commits large resources to employing skilled reporters, the local end of the business does face a different reality. The commitment to developing young people has become a much bigger challenge for many media companies.

Today, people are often thrust into roles they’re not ready for or they’re asked to perform multiple jobs inside of an organization because of limited budgets. That makes it harder to gain deeper penetration on a local beat, and become your very best.

Newspaper readership and advertising dollars have declined, and the radio and television industries have experienced similar difficulties. Those issues unfortunately have caused groups to reduce or eliminate these positions and limit the amount invested in them. For someone who is young, hungry, and looking to create a career as a reporter, it can be disheartening.

Over the years I’ve conducted numerous research projects, and I’ve learned that audiences prefer truth over entertainment. There is a need for both presentations but without experienced reporters investing time in developing sources, and working tirelessly to investigate stories so our demand for accurate information is satisfied, the need for sports content becomes less important.

schefter2The sports media business benefits greatly from having highly trained reporters in the field who can cut through white noise to provide a detailed account for what’s taking place. The access to information, and ability to provide it fairly, and in a timely fashion, makes our sports experience more fulfilling. It can be argued that a top notch reporter at a high profile sports network is its most valuable asset next to live play-by-play. With social media playing a dominant role in each individual’s daily routine, the demand for a reporter’s content exists 24/7.

There will always be a fraction of the audience who just want to be entertained, and don’t care to know the truth and will accept certain issues being swept under the rug (MLB Steroids scandal). Most though who watch, listen, and read about sports, want to believe that the results being achieved are honest, and we put our trust in reporters to make sure they are. Nobody has more to gain or lose, than the reporter who’s right in the middle of each story.

If there’s another growing concern, it’s that in many cases, professional sports leagues, agents, and teams have made a reporter’s job even more difficult. For example, the Redskins are notorious for trying to cover up information and present details which can only be viewed through rose-colored glasses. The Packers also recently tried to intimidate a reporter who had published an article about a player with a checkered past.

And those aren’t the only two. There are many others who operate the same way. That unfortunately makes it even tougher to trust those who do conduct themselves properly.

socialgrowthDespite those challenges, reporting is a necessity for our business. Digital and social media audiences are soaring, and sports consumers are investing large chunks of their time to learn everything they can about their teams and the individuals who are a part of them.

While a reporter may not have their name on the marquee of the show you tune into, many times it’s their information and content that dominates the majority of the programming.

The real question facing media groups is “how can the increased demand for breaking sports news across multiple platforms be utilized to generate even larger profits, pageviews and ratings“? Measuring the impact is becoming much more difficult for media operators, but there’s certainly no shortage of interest in the information.

I was curious about the benefits and challenges of reporting, and what it takes to succeed in the field, and figured that if I’m going to write a piece on one of the most important roles in our industry, I might as well ask the best.

In addition to each of these gentlemen being great at what they do, they’re also quality people, who love their profession, and have no issues sharing feedback that will help others inside the industry. If reporting is an area of interest to you, I encourage you to follow each of them on social media, and heed their advice.

Q: What do you enjoy the most and least about reporting?

Rosenthal: Being the first to tell fans something they want to know is what I enjoy most. NOT being the first is the thing I enjoy least!

Schefter: There’s nothing like the adrenaline of a big, breaking news story. I love big stories, and would think all journalists do. It’s the equivalent of a big game. Do athletes feel the adrenaline and anxiety of a playoff matchup or championship game? Absolutely. It’s the same thing in journalism. There’s nothing like a big story. As for the least appealing part of the job, you never want to get beat on one of those big stories.

blankBucher: What I enjoy most is discovering what inspired a person to become who they are, or what inspired a certain move or decision. Basically, unearthing the back story to an event or entity that everyone may know on the surface. What I enjoy least are people who don’t respond to my queries. Saying no or refusing to be interviewed isn’t ideal, but at least I know where I stand. Not knowing if the message ever reached them is the most aggravating aspect.

Clayton: The challenge of getting the information and getting the information correctly reported. Social media has made the pace of information increase, which is good. The more information the better. What this is leading to is being able to analyze the information and put it in perspective quickly.

Q: How difficult is it to establish yourself on a local level, and how did you build your brand and earn trust locally when you didn’t have a national outlet behind you?

Schefter: That’s not really how I thought about it then, or now. I just tried to do my job as well as I could ever day, treat people as fairly as I could every day, work as hard as I could every day, and wherever that went, it went. If you do those things — act professionally, report responsibly, treat people fairly — that’s how you earn trust and build your brand. They are simple things, but they are harder to follow through and carry out.

blankClayton: It just takes time. You have to be patient. You can’t rush stories when they aren’t ready. You earn trust with the way you handle the tougher stories. Not every story is going to be positive. If you handle the negative stories correct, the team or the players involved learn to respect your professionalism. That is how you gain sources. You have to build trust.

Rosenthal: I had a different job at the local level for many years – I was a general sports columnist for the Baltimore Sun. I did a lot of baseball, though, and my initial contacts when I went to the national level were mostly people who had worked for the Orioles.

Bucher: I don’t think it matters who you’re attached to. It depends on the strength of your relationships. Are you fair? Are you thorough? Do you do your homework? And, finally, do you have knowledge or insight that might be useful to the people from whom you’re seeking knowledge or insight? Working for a big enterprise might get your calls returned, or returned faster, but what they’re willing to tell you, and whether or not they’re simply using you because of your platform — and perhaps not giving you the most accurate assessment of what’s going on — still depends on how much they trust and respect you and your work.

Q: When your sport is at its peak level of activity, what does a day’s work include? How many hours are put in, and how do you balance sleep and family commitments with the job?

Bucher: I never can be sure when my sport is going to peak, because I never know when I might stumble upon something that then requires my complete focus. Or perhaps I have a project to complete and therefore need to shut out everything else; that happens, too. But let’s say we’re talking about the traditional peak activity, which is at the trade deadline, the week before the draft and the start of free agency. Generally, everything gets put on the back burner or has the potential to be put on hold for several days during those periods. The key, though, is doing your work early — knowing what potentially could be brewing weeks or months in advance and staying on top of those situations as the witching hour approaches.

When I was in full-reporter mode, everything came second. I am fortunate that I now get to spend a good part of my energy creating unique content or seeking certain stories to report out, as opposed to being subject to chasing down whatever may be going on in the league at any given moment. When that was the case, I was either making calls or thinking about who I needed to reach, and when the ideal time to contact them would be.

reporter-rosenthalRosenthal: My job never stops – and that’s year-round. Sleep is an issue, especially during the postseason, and during the off-season when I wake up at 6 a.m. to do the MLB Network morning show. As for family commitments, I’m fortunate my kids are older (two out of college, one in). I could not have done this job when they were younger. I’m also lucky that my wife is extremely patient – and I mean extremely.

Clayton: The job is pretty much a 12-to-15 hour marathon. You start by making a to-do list at around 5 or 6 in the morning. You work until dinner if not later. The longer you work, the better it is. Because of that, it is difficult on family commitments and sleep. I am lucky because I have an understanding wife. That is important.

Schefter: Every day is different in this job. The regular season — September through January — has a certain rhythm to it, predictability. I can tell you what any Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday or Saturday will be like, and the things I have to get done. It’s the other parts of the year that are more unpredictable and challenging, because you never know when news will be coming. It could happen any time, any day, with any team or player.

There are certain times of the year that truly are peak news periods, where the work never really stops. The few weeks after the regular season ends, when teams are firing and hiring coaches while the NFL playoffs are kicking off; that’s really busy. The week leading up to and then the first couple of weeks of free agency also are non-stop, with calls coming in and going out, and news constantly happening. The two weeks leading up to the draft and the week of the draft also are heavy phone call times, with lots of speculation and questions.

Q: How hard is it to decipher between a real piece of information that has legs, and when an individual or organization are trying to utilize you and your platform to further their own agenda?

Clayton: You enter every interview knowing you’re being used. No one would be talking to you if that person wasn’t trying to present a story from their perspective. There is nothing wrong with that. You just have to recognize what angle that person is coming from.

scheftySchefter: I don’t really think about that often. If you do this job long enough, you create long-standing relationships. People you trust and who trust you are not going to do that to you; it’s unethical and wrong. People think this sort of thing goes on all the time, but if there is enough trust built up, it doesn’t happen nearly as often as you think. And it’s also the reporter’s responsibility to decipher what is real and what is not, what sounds plausible and what is not.

Bucher: I’m not the first to say it, but I wholeheartedly believe it: any reporter worth their salt has a hair-trigger bullshit detector and is a bit of a cynic when it comes to sources and news. That said, sometimes you can’t tell right away if something is on the level or not. Sometimes you can go pretty far down the road and discover that the hot item you had really isn’t that hot. What is disturbing in today’s world of reporting is that finding out an item isn’t as solid as it initially appeared to be doesn’t seem to be a deterrent to putting it out there anyway as “news.” Or maybe it’s that the vetting process, the digging further to see if this juicy item truly is both juicy and an item, just isn’t a de facto part of the process anymore.

Rosenthal: It’s not always easy, but part of our job is to figure out when we’re being used.

Q: What was the one story you got burned on that still stings? What did you learn from it?

Clayton: There isn’t one that comes directly to mind. You learn from every story you do.

Rosenthal: There are too many to mention! And I’m not kidding. I remember the failures more than the successes. Just my nature, I guess.

reporter-bucherBucher: There are two stories that I mishandled that probably will always haunt me. The first concerns Kobe Bryant and his desire to be traded to the Bulls in 2007. I was careful to report only what I knew to be undeniably true, which was that he wanted Jerry West or another addition to Lakers management or he intended to force a trade.

On SportsCenter shortly before training camp opened, I reported what I knew and at the end was asked by Neil Everett, if I thought Kobe would show up for camp. I had been told by an unimpeachable source that he did not intend to show up. So I said, “I don’t think he’s showing up“. Now, that was my opinion, not something I considered on the level of reporting because even if I had been told that, there was no way I could certifiably KNOW that. But that’s how I viewed it, not necessarily how viewers heard it. So, of course, he shows up and I get killed for reporting that he wouldn’t. If I had it to do over again, I would’ve told Neil, “I don’t know what he’s going to do.”

The other one involves a colossal game of catfish, in which someone got the phone of an NBA executive and texted me from it about a trade that could be going down between the Raptors and the Heat involving Kyle Lowry and Chris Bosh. My bullshit detector was buzzing, but I spent three days texting back and forth with the alleged executive, asking questions, trying to poke holes in what they were telling me. Finally, my secret texter said the deal was about to pop and I should be good to go with it. I can’t recall ever reporting a story having talked to only one source, but this executive surely would’ve had a direct line to the information and we had spent three days going back and forth. I didn’t want to expose my source by calling someone else in the organization to ask about the deal — or so I told myself — and finally sent the story.

As soon as I did, the thought hit me — our conversation had only been by text. We’d never spoken. What if? It only took minutes before I received a call from one of the GMs involved who I knew well and who promptly told me the deal was bogus. I felt as if someone had shotgunned my guts. The same evil being then texted me again offering me the Jason-Kidd-forcing-out-John-Hammond story to “make it up to me.” That’s one sick individual.

What would I have done different? What I do now — I never report anything strictly off one source. It’s how I long operated but I’m once more committed to it fully.

Schefter: Sometimes you’re awaiting one final confirmation from a source when a story breaks. That’s never enjoyable. But it’s one of the issues of today. You need to be as fast as possible, yet you better make sure your reporting is right first. That’s the most important thing. But that’s the pressure that every reporter deals with on his or her beat. Be fast. But more important, be right.

Q: What advice would you pass along to someone who is pursuing the path of a reporter, or has just started on the local level and is trying to make inroads?

Rosenthal: Work hard, read a lot, be respectful – and be patient.

reporter-schefty2Schefter: Be consistent. Be reliable. Be steady. Be productive. Be honest. Be fair. Be professional. Be diligent. Be open-minded. Be curious. Be brave. Be bold. Be patient. Be considerate. Be compassionate. And then you can be whatever you want.

Clayton: Start as young as you can. I was credentialed to cover the Steelers when I was 17. The jobs of the future aren’t yet created. You have to create the jobs, but there are plenty of opportunities. You have newspapers, magazines, radio, television, internet and blogs. If you work hard and are accurate, you should be fine.

Bucher: Be honest. Do your homework. Cover a subject or beat as you would want to be covered. If you want your subjects to confide in you, then you have to let them get to know who you are and how you work. Don’t worry about how big the beat is or the size of the stories you’re assigned; you never know when a small story is going to become a big one. In the meantime, you get to practice on reporting out small stories so when a big one does come along you’re more apt to handle it correctly.

Spend as much time talking with the notebook closed and the tape recorder off as you do with them open and on. I still believe most people will accept the truth being told. They may not like it, they may prefer it be kept quiet, but if it does come to light and it is presented fairly they ultimately will come to understand that it needed to be told.

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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