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Finding Stability In An Unstable Media Industry

Jason Barrett

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The world I grew up in was one where people stayed at the same job for a lengthy period of time. My father dedicated nearly twenty years of his life to being a member of the New York police department. Many of his partners did the same. School teachers spent decades inside the same classrooms. Your postal worker was someone who spent years stuffing your mailbox and getting to know you on a first name basis.

In media circles, the story was similar. Newspaper writers covered the same teams in the same locker rooms, and had their stories featured in the same section of the same newspaper for decades. Broadcasters talked to the same audiences on the same radio dials in the same timeslots. The relationship between employers and employees were favorable and built to last.

But then something changed.

The internet took off, causing a ripple effect on the way we consume media today. The FCC allowed big banks and corporations to buy up local radio stations, creating consolidation, and the elimination of hundreds to thousands of jobs. Radio groups started focusing on the growth of their stock prices and shareholder satisfaction, rather than the quality of their programming and the connection formed with their communities.

As a result, trust began to erode. Companies became less interested in paying top dollar for the best talent. Instead, they sought people who would do the work for less, even if it meant sacrificing quality in the process. Being profitable was more important.

Those weren’t the only reasons that change began in the radio business, but that mentality certainly caused a large number of people to reevaluate their situations. Suddenly untouchable commodities who had enjoyed large levels of success were open for business, and the radio industry as we knew it was different.

And it wasn’t just in radio either. The same was becoming a bigger issue in society. People became less patient and developed a win-now mentality, and as distractions increased, further changes were necessary. Whether it was switching cars, houses, friends, or marriages, the thought of sticking with one thing became less appealing.

I started thinking about a number of the media stories that have hit the newswire over the last few weeks, and it made me realize that loyalty is not what it once was in this industry. Every company and individual now strikes while the iron is hot or when they have an advantage to better their own situation. Becoming attached is less common, and people are now willing to say goodbye to what they’ve previously known if it helps them enjoy a better tomorrow.

Companies do the same exact thing. If money can be saved, and ratings can be increased, change is going to happen. Whether you’re a good employee or not isn’t as important as the way you impact the bottom line.

In less than one year, Mike Tirico and Heather Cox have left ESPN. They spent more than twenty years with the network. Colin Cowherd, Skip Bayless, Robert Smith and Chris Spielman all left Bristol University after more than a decade there. Even local personalities like Roger Wyland in Albany, NY, who was a fixture on Fox Sports 980 for the past fifteen years, agreed to join the competition.

When I analyze the current climate for sports media, any situation that lasts longer than five years is considered a success. If you’re accepting a position and expecting to be in it long-term, I’d encourage you to have Plan B in your pocket. The goal may be to establish a long-term relationship with your employer. You might even find yourself signing multiple contracts with the company. But understand that the odds of it happening are unlikely.

The more you’re willing to test the waters, relocate, and adapt to different situations, the better your chances are of making a better income, earning bigger opportunities, and extending your career. Your paycheck and ability to influence decisions may increase, but with those advantages comes instability. You may have to rent an apartment rather than buy a house. Driving down the road to see your family could be replaced by catching flights to visit. Even friendships and working relationships that you consider positive parts of your life, may need to be terminated or altered every couple of years.

I don’t blame any individual who leaves a place of employment for greener grass and brighter sunshine. In most cases, they’re just doing what many American’s do – accepting a position that pays more, provides a better opportunity, and offers a stronger commitment. I also don’t blame an employer from moving on if an individual isn’t meeting expectations or has an unrealistic view of the way the business world works.

But what does cross my mind, is why situations fall apart when both sides are enjoying success. If an individual commits their lives to your organization, does exceptional work, builds an audience, satisfies clients, and conducts themselves with class, shouldn’t they be worth going to bat for? If a company pays you well, treats you great, and gives you a big platform to perform on, shouldn’t that matter?

Budgets do come into play, but any smart corporate executive can figure out how to play with numbers to assure that a brand’s best talent remains in place. A talent should also be willing to get creative and work with their boss to find a suitable middle ground for both sides.

If a person leaves because the dollar value and position being offered elsewhere is impossible to replicate, that’s a different story. But in some cases, I’ve seen people leave for different opportunities over a few thousand dollars. A couple of companies not only demanded that some of their best people accept deals that were below market value, but they also wanted a long-term commitment to go with it. Most broadcasters are not going to accept those terms. It’s that type of disrespect that leads top talent to shut down negotiations and move on.

A signed agreement is the result of a strong relationship between the media company and the individual. There is no winner and loser in the deal making process. Each situation may present its own unique challenges, but if you enter into a negotiation with the mindset that you’ve got to beat your employee or employer, it’s not only going to fracture your relationship, but it’s probably not going to work.

If a few thousand dollars is going to stand between retaining your best people or watching them walk, don’t be foolish. That type of short sighted thinking has a way of coming back to haunt you in the future. That said, sports programming is not cheap. If an employer is willing to extend to make a deal happen, the employee should be appreciative and offer to help the company find solutions to offset the additional expense. That shows that you care about the company and aren’t only focused on your own personal gain.

Equally important for the company to be conscious of, is that everything that gets created through the speakers is the result of human effort, passion, and creativity. Those who deliver compelling and entertaining radio content on a daily basis, provide more of an experience for an audience than any other form of media.

Let that sink in for a second.

Writers don’t provide ten daily columns. Television shows usually run thirty to sixty minutes in length. Even podcasts, videos, and social media activity doesn’t fill up three to four hours per day for five days per week. Besides, the radio host invests themselves in those areas too. Too often talk show hosts get taken for granted, but the great ones are hard to replace. If you have a good one under your umbrella, make sure they don’t get rained on.

The biggest area of weakness for many sports media talent when it comes to this subject is that they’re insecure. Receiving a contract makes them feel safe, important, and untouchable, but in reality, most companies have the flexibility to get out of the agreements that they sign. It may calm your nerves, but the feeling you get when you sign on the dotted line is not the same one you’ll experience in the future if you’re locked into a long-term deal and being dealt a bad hand inside your workplace. In those cases, you’ll start to feel trapped.

This is why it sometimes pays not to be under contract. Sure there’s the risk of the company having the ability to drop you like a bad habit anytime they wish to. But if they do, you’ll likely be collecting unemployment while chasing your next opportunity.

The good news is, if you find a new position, you can usually get started immediately. Some situations are different and include a non-compete. Most of them though involve some form of compensation which is always positive when you’ve been let go from a job.

In the end, a contract is a piece of paper. It outlines the terms, prevents both sides from hurting each other professionally, and can be enforced inside a courtroom. But the one thing you won’t find inside of it, is a promise to care. If either party has an emotional disconnect from the other, you’ll be headed down the road to ruin. It won’t matter if you’ve been together for two years or twenty at that point.

To create an environment that everyone wishes to remain in takes hard work and clear communication. If respect is given, expectations are met, and each side wishes to extend the relationship, there’s a good chance that it’ll come together. Just remember though, the odds are not in your favor. A signed agreement won’t change that.

When the book on your career is finally written, unexpected opportunities will pop up, offers will be made that you never expected, and you’ll have multiple home addresses and business cards to show for it. Finding stability in an unstable media industry is expecting too much. But, if you’re willing to roll with the punches, and keep moving forward, you just might find yourself enjoying a great career, and looking back one day with one heck of a story to share. Just don’t expect it all to happen inside the same location.

Barrett Blogs

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

Jason Barrett

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

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

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

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Barrett Blogs

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

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

Jason Barrett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Barrett Blogs

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

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

Jason Barrett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it worked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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