One of the real pleasures of running Barrett Sports Media is that it allows me the opportunity to listen to stations and personalities in many different markets and connect with hundreds of members of the sports radio fraternity. Through networking and forming relationships, I’ve been able to gain a deeper understanding of how many people think and operate in different places, and if you’re receptive to soaking up knowledge and testing out new ideas, it can help you improve.
One person who I’ve interacted with who does an excellent job on the airwaves of 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland is Nick Wilson. Last year the night slot at The Fan became available when evening host Ken Carman shifted to morning drive. It would’ve been easy for Program Director Andy Roth to bring in a proven commodity for the position. Instead, he placed his faith in an unproven yet talented and hungry local guy from Akron. One year later, it’s paying great dividends for the radio station.
I could ramble on about Nick’s talent, passion, and future, but I’d rather give him the floor to introduce himself, share some of his experiences, and pass along some advice to those of you out there who are working your way up the ladder or are currently knocking on the door and hoping for someone to answer. Without further delay, here’s Nick Wilson’s story.
Musings From a Doddering Young Fool by Nick Wilson
We open on 3 Cleveland area natives, ranging in ages 24-30 screaming, and bro-hugging in a side room at a radio station in Downtown Cleveland. LeBron James has just collapsed in tears on the Oracle Arena floor seconds after ending Cleveland’s 52-year title drought and purported curse.
Seconds later I bolted out the station doors, ran through the Halle Building and onto the streets of Cleveland. From 100-150 yards away, the rest of Cleveland called to me. I jogged towards the roar coming from a block away only to meet a few hundred thousand of my closest compadres. Everyone was hugging & high fiving. Some shouted, “I can’t @#*#&$^! believe it!” But we all knew this was the night generations had waited for.
Fast forward 2 1/2 hours, the Nick Wilson Experiment aired at a special time. From 2am-6am, there was laughter, tears, “We Are The Champions” played on loop, and talk about this brave new championship world that Cleveland found itself in.
Of the first 24 hours after Cleveland won a championship, my show occupied 9 hours of airtime. 540 minutes of opportunity to grow my show & form an honest bond with our listeners.
I slept 3 of the 48 hours from Sunday morning to Tuesday night and ate like absolute garbage. It was everything I had dreamed of when the Nick Wilson Experiment became a weeknight fixture on Cleveland radio. One kid from Akron brought a title to Cleveland while a different, slightly portlier kid from Akron brought 9 hours of sports talk to a deserving city.
A similar opportunity awaits you, future sports media professional and fellow millennial. The following lessons learned & wisdom gained are from someone who was in your position in the not too distant past.
- It Won’t Be Easy – Many will tell you this and you will think you understand. You won’t until you get your first big break and have gone through the rigors yourself. A key to early success and advancement is stepping up to any task you’re asked to perform. (Yes, even if you had a great college radio show at a prestigious broadcasting school or university)
Assisting in promotions, running a board or answering phones are not the most glamorous jobs in radio but doing them can help you better learn this business. Every second you spend around skilled professionals is an opportunity to learn your craft and put yourself into position to gain more opportunities.
- There Is No Opportunity Too Small – I didn’t grow up with a desire to be the next Adam Schefter. But when the opportunity to report for the station arose, I jumped at it. (It was the Rite Aid Marathon after all.) Maybe 7 people read my story on the men’s marathon winner from Kenya. It was hours of work outside on a chilly day. I caught a cold and bought stock in Vicks Chemical.
None of that mattered. By taking that assignment it led to others, and that allowed me to broaden my skillset and showcase my versatility and attitude. Besides, no boss ever told a worker they were too versatile or diverse in knowledge.
Another important reminder is that you never know how an unrelated task can shape you for your dream job. Reporting improved my prep process and made me realize the importance of patience versus just getting the job done.
- Become Friends With “No” – Whether you’re just getting into sports media or trying to move up the ladder, how you respond to the many “no’s” you hear determines how much you achieve. I’ve seen people get turned down for a promotion and let that affect their current work. That only exacerbates the lack of promotions. Within months they are on their way to a rewarding career in insurance sales.
Before I got the nightshift, I heard “no” on a fairly consistent basis. I lost out on opportunities to other talent, some that I felt I had comparable skillsets with. That sort of rejection can be brutal on the psyche.
With each new “no”, I learned it wasn’t personal. With each new “no”, I learned to ask why it wasn’t a “yes”. With each new “no”, I worked even harder to round the rough edges and work my way towards a “yes”.
In every job search I lost internally, I called the person who beat me out for the gig to congratulate them. It hurt like hell but it wasn’t their fault I lost the gig. Putting your relationships with your coworkers above your feelings is important in this business.
- Network – Networking is crucial in any position in sports media. Some assume it’s all about finding a job but that isn’t true. Building meaningful relationships can help you gain valuable feedback on your development, information which can help advance your career, and a better understanding of your business. Your career will not flourish if you do not network.
- Attitude Is Everything – Too many times I’ve heard guys proclaim their passion about this business, only to hear them complain with their next breath. The task at hand. The hours. The pay. Opportunities lost. You can’t focus on the many negatives regardless of their validity. They will get you nowhere.
Focus on your passion for this business and your plan to grow within it. Want to know how to succeed in this business? Watch Craig Sager’s speech from the ESPY’s. THAT is passion.
Sports media is an amazing business, ripe with opportunity. But it can be brutal too. Demoralizing things can happen in any business which can sidetrack your career if you let it. Your choices determine how you handle the brutal and whether you succeed.
- Ask For Your Opportunities – I’m fortunate to have a boss that allows open dialogue about my future. If I have a goal I want to pursue, he verbalizes a path and helps me realize that goal. If I get too far ahead of myself, he lets me know. It’s important to hear that too. A healthy discussion about your career goals and how to attain them is crucial to career development.
Whether your boss offers that dialogue or not is secondary to the point of asking for your opportunity. There is nothing wrong with asking your boss or the universe for the chance. Realize the worst thing you can hear is “no” and most of the time that “no” just means “not right now.”
- Embrace Criticism – I’ve had good bosses, bad bosses and in-between. Each boss gave me some lesson I’ve used to further my career. It might be how to do something or it might be the opposite. It might have been sugary and filled with love. It might have been direct & filled with expletives. You may not enjoy the feedback, but find the core truth of what is said (not HOW it is said), and use it to further yourself.
- Listen/Watch/Read Others In Your Business – I consistently listen to hosts I respect & admire. Guys like Anthony Lima, Adam The Bull & Chris Fedor on my station; Damon Amendolara, Dan Le Batard & Nick Wright on a national level; These are hosts I use to push myself. My opinion of their opinions is immaterial with the importance of delivery and development of content.
- Don’t Half Effort Your Decisions – Adulting is tough, I know this to be true. Gather as much data as possible and great advice and then execute your career decision with conviction. You are going to fail or succeed but most of the time the difference between those two paths is tied to conviction. Don’t be afraid to fail. Be afraid of playing it safe.
Ok guys. I am coming down off my soapbox now; You don’t have to get off my lawn. I hope you take these truths I’ve learned and use them in your path towards your next career break. When you discover your own truths, pass them on. Incestuous business and all that.
I started out as a god awful board operator that turned into a passable 20-20 anchor that was molded into a talk show host by my experiences and help from other talented people along the way. This business takes passion, perspective and grit. But if you have those things, you’ll never work a day in your life, which I mean in the best possible way.
Until I got the night show, I worked 2 jobs and 55-80 hours a week to support my family for roughly 5 years. I slept on office floors on a swing shift, worked holidays and missed more moments with my first born daughter than I care to admit.
I did all of this in the pursuit of a great opportunity. When given that opportunity I ran with it and now I live my dream job every day.
I host the Nick Wilson Experiment weeknights in the 31st largest radio market in America at the age of 30. Not too bad for a fat kid from Akron, Ohio.
John Skipper To Speak At The 2022 BSM Summit
“In January 2021, Skipper’s plate became even more full when he reunited with Dan Le Batard to create Meadowlark Media. Since joining forces, the group has raised millions of dollars in funding, lured key talent to join the brand, and in April, Meadowlark closed a deal with DraftKings for a reported fifty million dollars over three years. Not too shabby for year #1.
Putting on a two-day industry conference comes with a fair share of challenges. Months are spent building sessions, selling sponsorships, and talking to so many people that by the time the event rolls around, all I can think about is reaching the finish line and avoiding major issues.
But then the event happens, and there are moments where I’m able to block out the noise for 30-40 minutes and just be present in conversation. It’s what I enjoy most. Being able to sit across from an industry leader who’s been successful in business, and pick their brain on the past, present and future of our industry is both personally and professionally fulfilling. Not only does it provide me with an education, but it helps everyone in attendance too. That’s my motivation for running this conference.
When we return to New York City on March 2-3, 2022, I’m thrilled to share that I’ll have a chance to do that once again with someone I’ve professionally respected and admired for a long time. It is an honor to announce that Meadowlark Media CEO John Skipper will join us for a special on stage conversation at the 2022 BSM Summit.
If you’ve worked in this industry or aspire to, then you’re likely aware of what John has accomplished. He’s seen the business from many different points of view and remains very much involved in helping shape its future. But before we discuss his present involvement, let’s revisit the past.
During his tenure with ESPN, John spent five years serving as company president where he secured a series of long-term, multiplatform agreements with key rightsholders such as the NBA, NFL, MLB, Major College Conferences, US Open Tennis, FIFA, the Masters Tournament and British Open, the College Football Playoff, and the Rose, Sugar and Orange Bowls. He also oversaw the evolution of several brands including The Undefeated, Grantland, five thirty eight, and espnW among others.
Prior to becoming company president, John held the position as EVP of Content, which he earned after helping create and introduce one of the most successful magazine launches of the 1990’s with ESPN The Magazine. His understanding and belief in digital helped ESPN move ESPN. com forward in 2000, adding a paid section, ESPN Insider, and delivering a revamped site approach to generate more advertising. His foresight also spurred the launch of ESPN3, a television network producing more than 4,000 live events on the web and through mobile devices. If that wasn’t enough, John also supported the creation of the Watch ESPN app, played a key role in elevating the careers of many of the industry’s top sports media stars today, and oversaw the growth of ESPN Films, ESPN Radio, and many of ESPN’s key television programs.
After exiting the worldwide leader, John signed on as the Executive Chairman of DAZN. In January 2021, Skipper’s plate became even more full when he reunited with Dan Le Batard to create Meadowlark Media. Since joining forces, the group has raised millions of dollars in funding, lured a number of key talent to become part of the brand, and established a strong presence in podcasting and on YouTube. In April, Meadowlark closed a deal with DraftKings for a reported fifty million dollars over three years. Not too shabby for year #1.
What I’ve appreciated about John is that he’s never been afraid to roll the dice and take risks. Some of his moves have worked out, others haven’t. The wins have been recognized across the industry, but so too have the losses. He’s had to lead a company thru high profile talent controversies, cord cutting challenges, understand the world of video, audio, print, digital, advertising, subscriptions, talent, and rights deals both domestic and internationally, all while keeping his finger on the pulse of the present state of the media business while turning an eye towards the future and knowing which areas the company should make significant investments in.
John has been thru all of it as a media executive, and he’s still doing it while building the Meadowlark brand. A recent story in Bloomberg captured some of his views on growing the Le Batard empire and navigating various parts of the industry. I highly recommend taking time to read it. You can do that by clicking here.
We have five and a half months until we’re inside the Anne Bernstein Theater in New York City, so who knows where the industry will shift during that time. One thing is for certain, John Skipper will be ready for whatever lands on his doorstep. I’m eager to spend time with him in New York treating industry professionals to his insights, opinions and leadership lessons. I’m confident those in attendance will gain value from hearing his perspectives on the industry.
I invite you to join us either in person or virtually for the 2022 BSM Summit. Tickets to the event can be purchased by clicking here. For information on sponsorship opportunities, email JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.
2022 BSM Summit Adds Pablo Torre, Joe Fortenbaugh, Kazeem Famuyide & John Jastremski
“By the time March’s conference rolls around, we’ll have somewhere between 50-60 people announced to participate at the two day Summit.”
The announcements continue for the 2022 BSM Summit. After recently sharing the news that former ESPN Radio executive Traug Keller would join us in the big apple to accept the Jeff Smulyan Award, and previously revealing the first fourteen participants scheduled to appear, it’s time to inform you of a few key talent who will participate in sessions at March’s show.
I’m thrilled to welcome ESPN’s Pablo Torre to the 2022 BSM Summit. Pablo’s been with the worldwide leader since 2012. During that time he’s served as a senior writer for ESPN.com, the host of the ESPN Daily podcast, and has appeared on shows such as Around The Horn, Highly Questionable, and The Dan Le Batard Show. He also previously co-hosted High Noon with Bomani Jones. Prior to joining ESPN he spent five years writing for Sports Illustrated. Having worked with a mixture of talent from various backgrounds, I’m looking forward to having him share his insight and opinions on the value of it at the show.
Pablo isn’t the only ESPN personality joining us in New York for the conference. I’m excited to welcome back a great friend and one of the smartest sports betting analysts on television, Joe Fortenbaugh. Joe is regularly featured on ESPN’s sports betting program Daily Wager. He also appears on other ESPN programs and segments on television, radio and digital platforms. Prior to joining the network he hosted 95.7 The Game’s morning show in San Francisco, and hosted “The Sharp 600″ sports betting podcast. He’ll moderate a conversation with sports betting executives at the show.
Given that this two-day sports media conference is taking place in the heart of New York City, it’d be silly to not include someone who’s passion, energy, sound, and content embody what New York is all about. The Ringer’s John Jastremski will make his BSM Summit debut in 2022. The ‘New York, New York’ host is known to many for his years of contributions on WFAN. It’ll be fun picking JJ’s brain on the differences between performing on a traditional platform and the digital stage.
Jastremski isn’t the only one with a connection to The Ringer who will participate at our 2022 event. My next guest is someone who I’ve followed on YouTube and Twitter for years, has infectious energy and likeability, and has taken his life experiences and sports passions and turned them into opportunities with MSG Network, SNY, The Ringer, Bleacher Report, WWE, The Source and various other outlets. Kazeem Famuyide will join us to shed light on his journey and offer his perspective on the value of traditional vs. non-traditional paths.
By the time March’s conference rolls around, we’ll have somewhere between 50-60 people announced to participate at the two day event. I’ll be announcing the addition of a very special executive in mid-October, as well as a few high profile speakers and awards recipients in the weeks and months ahead. I’m appreciative of so many expressing interest in speaking at the conference, and as much as I’d like to include everyone on stage, I can’t. Keeping the Summit informative, fresh and focused on the right issues is important, and to do that, I’ve got to introduce different people, perspectives and subjects so our attendees gain value to further improve the industry.
A reminder, the 2022 BSM Summit is strictly for members of the sports media industry and college students aspiring to work in the business. It brings together people from more than thirty different media companies and focuses on issues of relevance and importance to media industry professionals. The show takes place March 2-3, 2022 in New York at the Anne Bernstein Theater on West 50th Street. Tickets and hotel rooms can be secured by visiting BSMSummit.com. For those unable to attend in person, the Summit will also be available to view online. Virtual tickets can be purchased by clicking here. Hope you’ll join us!
Traug Keller Named 2022 Recipient of the Jeff Smulyan Award
“Former SVP of ESPN Audio and President of ABC Networks Traug Keller has been chosen as our 2022 recipient of the Jeff Smulyan Award.”
Sometimes decisions are difficult. Other times they’re not. This was one of the easiest ones I’ve made since launching the BSM Summit in 2018.
If you haven’t attended the Summit before, one of the cool parts of the conference each year is that we take time to honor people who have left a permanent mark on the industry we love. Awards ceremonies are held both days to recognize difference makers who have made positive contributions to the sports radio business. At our 2022 BSM Summit, I am pleased to share that a great man will be celebrated for his life’s work.
It is my honor to announce that former SVP of ESPN Audio and President of ABC Networks Traug Keller has been chosen as our 2022 recipient of the Jeff Smulyan Award. Keller becomes the third industry executive to earn the honor. Kraig Kitchin and Dan Mason were the first two to be recognized at the 2019 and 2020 BSM Summit’s.
Upon learning that Traug had been selected as the next Jeff Smulyan Award winner, Emmis Communications CEO Jeff Smulyan said, “Traug Keller has left an indelible imprint on not only sports radio, but on all of broadcasting through his remarkable career. I’m proud to call him my friend, but I’m just one of the legions of people who have loved every minute of their time with him. He’s a broadcaster’s broadcaster, but more than that he’s one of the best people I’ve ever known.”
“I am humbled for sure but thrilled to be receiving an award with the name of my good friend on it, Jeff Smulyan,” added Traug Keller, now the EVP and COO of American Media. “Jeff did what all too few leaders in business do, he took risk and action against all kinds of headwinds and the rest of us in the great business of Sports Audio were the beneficiaries of it. Thanks to BSM for this great honor and I look forward to seeing a bunch of old friends in March!”
Anyone who has crossed paths with Traug over the past three decades knows how important he was to the success of ESPN Radio. He’s been a friend to many, a great partner to hundreds of radio affiliates, and a champion for talent. His support for BSM has also meant a lot.
Perhaps even more impressive was Traug’s ability to connect with his affiliates, clients and colleagues, offering steady leadership and on-air stability for ESPN Radio. No executive leaves with a perfect record, but Keller had a knack for landing on the right side of many decisions. None as impressive though as retiring from sports radio in February 2020, one month before the sports world came to a screeching halt and a global pandemic rocked the entire advertising industry. Talk about timing Traug, haha.
In all seriousness, having Traug and Jeff together on the same stage in front of the industry to give folks an opportunity to show their appreciation for their accomplishments is a real treat. So many enjoy professional success today due to bold and smart decisions made by each of these men, and I couldn’t be happier to spend time with both in New York City this March.
For tickets, hotel and additional details regarding the 2022 BSM Summit visit BSMSummit.com.