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In The Media Jungle, Katie Nolan Outlasts Dan O’Toole

Jason Barrett

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Inside a jungle, anything can happen. You can die from getting bit by a mosquito carrying malaria, drinking bacteria infested water, or eating a poisonous plant. Heavy rainfall and monsoon like winds can make jungle weather unforgiving, also leading to your demise. And if those options don’t do the trick, there’s always the possibility of being devoured by a wild animal.

To survive, one must know how to build a shelter, locate water and food, and avoid potential dangers. Assuming you can do that, then you’ve got to have the endurance to hike, escape the rugged terrain, and give yourself a chance to be rescued.

Sounds dangerous doesn’t it?

Well, I have no grand plans to pursue that type of journey, as interesting as it may sound. But, when I think about the jungle, I see similarities to many layers of the media business. The side order of death aside.

In the world of sports media, your success or failure is a result of the effort you give and the strategy you create to fulfill your personal destiny. From developing your natural born talent to your work ethic to embracing new roles to relocating to pursuing high profile opportunities that make others uncomfortable, it’s a dog eat dog business. If you can’t handle the heat, stay out of the kitchen.

nflmediaThe media industry is ultra competitive. Many want to do this line of work. Some will do it for less than you might be willing to accept. If stepping on a few people in the process is what’s required to reach the top of the ladder, some won’t hesitate to put on their best shit kicking boots and walk all over you. That may sound harsh but it’s a cold hard fact.

To become a high profile talent or high ranking executive, you’ve got to have thick skin, and understand that there will always be someone who wants what you have. And there’s nothing wrong with them wanting it either. Remember, you were once in that position yourself. I used to tell my peers, the day that my employer believes they can get equal or better performance out of my position for a fraction of the cost, will be the day when I’m packing up my office and someone else is moving in. Luckily I never ran into that situation.

For many of us, we’re driven by desire. We push ourselves because we’re eager to prove that we can achieve personal goals and ascend to heights that few believed we were capable of. As we grow older and wiser in this business, we become more appreciative and humble. We place a greater importance on delivering results for our employers because we understand that despite talking about subjects that many receive joy from, we are still part of a business. That’s not a strong area of focus for most twenty-something media professionals.

During the journey we hope to earn respect, trust, and love from our colleagues, and the audience, to signify that we’ve made a difference. If all of the boxes have been checked, we put our faith in our employer to acknowledge our performance, and demonstrate their appreciation by supplying a lucrative financial reward that satisfies our expectations.

katienolanAs I read Mike McCarthy’s interview last week with Katie Nolan of Fox Sports, I found myself wrestling with a number of different feelings. I was impressed by Nolan but for a different reason than usual. She is known for being witty, creative, and smart on camera, but she’s also unafraid off of it. In the interview, she acknowledged that she wanted a larger stage and was determined to work towards achieving that goal. She told McCarthy she hoped to host a late-night program on Fox Sports 1, and the ideal time for the show would be 11pm or 11:30pm.

If you’ve followed Nolan’s ascension in this business, you’re aware that one of the reasons why she cuts through the clutter is because she shoots from the hip. She’s willing to laugh at herself, speak out on controversial issues, and even take her own employer to task if it’s warranted.

Give FOX Sports some credit too. Rather than seeking to silence or edit their rising star, they’ve thrown their full support behind her. She’s rewarded their faith by making a huge splash in the digital world, including winning a sports emmy for outstanding social TV experience. FOX officials say that her clips generate more than 500,000 views across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, FoxSports.com, and FOX Sports GO.

Where the story gets murky is when Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole enter the picture. The two hosts presently occupy late nights on Fox Sports 1, hosting the show “Fox Sports Live”. Their program airs weeknights 11-11:30pm ET.

Upon hearing of Nolan’s comments, O’Toole took to Twitter and let the host of “Garbage Time” know that he wasn’t too happy with her.

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After O’Toole’s tweet went viral, many speculated that he was kidding around. Others suggested that the show believes Nolan is overhyped. When a listener challenged Dan on his show’s ratings being low, and a reason why FOX Sports executives would consider moving Nolan into their time slot in the future, he responded by adding that “Fox Sports Live” has better ratings than Nolan.

To be fair, Nolan’s television audience is thin. Her program is watched by a mere 49,000 people and has yet to make a significant difference. But, when a show airs weekly, and during a time when audiences watch less television, to expect a big return is foolish.

fslFor Onrait and O’Toole, they can’t complain about a lack of consistency. They hit the airwaves every night at the same time and are given an opportunity to present a different type of show than the one sports fans receive on ESPN courtesy of SportsCenter. Their program may be laid out differently than the one they initially signed on to host upon joining FS1, but this format is supposed to be looser, and give them the freedom to showcase their personalities more.

Despite the change in style and presentation, “Fox Sports Live” continues to underperform. The show as of last check was being watched by 57,000 viewers per night. That’s only 8,000 more than Nolan’s weekly program.

Which is why O’Toole should immediately thank Katie Nolan.

Two weeks ago, nobody was talking about “Fox Sports Live”. Based on the numbers, they weren’t watching either. That’s not a jab at Jay and Dan, that’s a simple fact.

By being brought up in conversation by Nolan, the show has gained additional headlines. For Onrait and O’Toole’s sake any publicity is good publicity. Assuming people tune in to find out what all the fuss is about, it’ll be up to Jay and Dan to convert them into casual fans. If they can do that, they might have a chance of building up their audience.

The second reason why O’Toole needs to thank Nolan is because she’s put them on notice, and done so publicly.

Here’s a little truth about the media industry. Most people who are gunning for an individual’s job, treat them with a smile to their face, and then twist the knife into their back the second they aren’t paying attention. It’s a kill or be killed business, and the competition is always intense.

nolanSay what you will about Nolan, but she makes no bones about wanting to expand her show and compete against the best on late-night television. Given that FOX recently put up a billboard of her in Times Square, and her popularity has led to appearances on Seth Meyers and Jimmy Kimmel’s shows, the network has every reason to believe they have a star in the making inside their company.

If Jay and Dan think they’re going to win a battle by calling out the network’s top prospect they’re clearly not in tune with reality. It’s the equivalent of a veteran baseball player who’s not pulling his weight calling out the future face of the franchise. You have every right to do it, but the organization also reserves the right to trade or release you.

In this instance, Nolan told them both “I’m coming”. They should respect the fact that she had the guts to communicate it publicly and welcome the challenge. She might have intended for her message to be aimed at ESPN, but if you were in Jay and Dan’s shoes you’d recognize the threat as well.

Friendly competition is supposed to bring out the best in performers. It’s a way of life in professional sports. Coaches like Bill Parcells and Jim Harbaugh were notorious for creating battles that involved every member of their team’s 53-man rosters. Players on the other hand, don’t take their ball and head home the second they face adversity or lose a starting spot. They dig down deeper to find out what they’re made of, get back on the field, and push themselves harder to reclaim what they once had.

fsl2If Jay and Dan focused more on putting on a great show, building an audience, growing their ratings, and less on social media complaining, they’d be in position to deal with any challenge in front of them. But because O’Toole reacted like a fifth grade child, it sent the message that he has very thin skin, doesn’t respond well to pressure, and is already looking over his shoulder.

Ask yourself this, if you were running FOX Sports, and that was the mindset of one of your best on-air talents, would you trust them to compete against the best late-night programs on television? Forget about Katie Nolan for a second. How are you going to handle the pressure of performing against SportsCenter, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, and every other quality show on TV if you’re that easily distracted and shaken?

Whether Dan O’Toole likes it or not, every day someone in the media business is going to seek out Jamie Horowitz and explain why they’d be a better fit to handle late-nights on FS1. That interest will never subside and that pressure will never go away.

jamieThe only difference in this instance is that Katie Nolan had the decency to express her desires to occupy their time slot publicly rather than behind closed doors in a private meeting with Horowitz. For that reason alone Jay and Dan should respect her.

If you’re working in this business and looking over your shoulder, it’s only a matter of time until the person behind you is running past you. You control your work ethic, focus, content, creativity, and results. If all it takes to get you off your game is someone expressing an interest in taking what you have, then you’re beaten before the fight even begins. In sports they say the game is 90% mental. In sports media, it’s no different.

I don’t know Jay and Dan at all. I’ve watched their television show a few times, listened to a couple of their podcasts, and am well aware of the strong impression they made while working on television in Canada. They’re professionals, and don’t need a sermon from me or anyone else, but since I’m in a giving mood, I’m going to offer them a piece of advice that they can enjoy free of charge.

Rather than bitching and moaning about the possibility of being replaced, go out and kick some ass tonight on television. Do that again tomorrow. Then the next day, the next week, the next month, and every single time you get in front of that camera. Make it so painfully obvious to everyone in your company that removing you from the picture would be a catastrophic business decision. Force FOX executives to take notice of the difference your show is making, and alter the plans they had laid out for Ms. Nolan. You control the outcome of the situation more than anyone else.

If by chance you fail, and Katie Nolan ends up in your time slot, don’t blame her. She understood what was required to survive in the jungle. She took the advice, kicked ass, and put herself in position to make a bigger impact. While you were distracted and letting the whole world know how easily rattled you could be, she was focused on reaching the top, and not worrying about who she had to step on to get there. Whether you like it or not, that’s business. At least you can’t say you never saw it coming!

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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